When the Twins sent Tsuyoshi Nishioka down, they admitted that they might need to replace him with a guy from another team’s roster. They’re right. Looking at the guys that remain in camp, there isn’t another really good option, at least not one that can play shortstop.
Fortunately, this is the right time to find just such a player. At the end of spring training, teams make all kinds of guys available: players without options, Rule 5 draft picks or just guys that are dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for someone else.
In fact, the Twins took advantage of that just two years ago. They were faced with a similar problem – they didn’t have a great option to be the backup center fielder. Towards the end of spring training, the Dodgers released Jason Repko. A week later, the Twins signed him and he played here for the last two years.
So let’s get a jump start on some names that you might see on the Twins roster in a couple of weeks, even if they’re with other teams now. All have their warts – we are talking about utility players after all - but some intriguing traits, too.
Wilson Valdez – He’s the kind of guy you might expect the Twins to seek for this position. He’s old (33), has a good defensive rep, is on the Reds (who the Twins love to scavenge) and is full of veteran nougaty goodness. He’s also out of options, but is a long shot to be available. On the one hand, the Reds traded for him just a couple of months ago. On the other, it looks like they could have some similar, slightly younger options. If he is available, I gotta imagine the Twins will swoop in.
Emmanuel Burriss – He’s just 27, he’s a switch-hitter and he has stolen as many as 68 bases in a year in the minors. He’s also out of options and batting for a bench spot with the Giants. However, he’s struggled to get on base in the majors with just a .311 OBP. More unfortunately, he’s having a fantastic spring and probably winning that last bench spot.
Chris Nelson – This 26-year-old has struggled to find playing time with the Rockies and hasn’t done much (.254 BA/.284 OBP) when he has. However, he’s torn up AAA to the tune of .321/.371/.518 in 608 plate appearances. He’s out of options, and had only a mediocre spring so far, but a recent neck injury to Casey Blake might mean the Rockies will have room for him on the roster. Stay tuned.
Donnie Murphy – He’s 29 years old (which is relatively old) and has only hit .202 in limited time over six years with three different teams. He also was hurt part of last year. Finally, he’s having a miserable spring with the Marlins and is out of options. He’ll likely be available.
He’s intriguing because he represents a rarity – a middle infielder with some pop. His right-handed bat hit double-digit home runs in several minor league stops, and he has a .500+ slugging percentage at AAA.
This is just a few of the guys, obviously, but they probably represent some of the more likely options. If you’ve got any other ideas, I’d love to hear them below or at TwinsDaily
And Territory Train has a new baseball road trip scheduled this year for Twins fans – the prospect tour