Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Brian Dozier and Justin Morneau hit home runs Wednesday night and the other side of the infield, Trevor Plouffe and Pedro Florimon, didn't do anything to hurt their team as the Twins beat the last-place White Sox for a second straight game. The home team will go for a sweep today.
It was an interesting game for an infield that's in flux.
All four of Wednesday's starters, which is pretty much the regular cast, are playing for their futures right now -- not bad drama when you don't have standings to watch with any seriousness.
At third base, Plouffe is contending with the shadow on super-prospect Miguel Sano in the long term and Rochester third baseman Deibinson Romero if things blow up (or he doesn't stay healthy) in the short run. When he's been healthy this season, Plouffe has put up numbers that should allow him to fend off short-term challenges. His statistics with runners in scoring position are .295 average/.353 on-base percentage/.432 on base-plus-slugging, compared with .206/.298/.327 in those situations in 2012.
At second base, Dozier simply hasn't put together acceptable offensive numbers, mostly because of an inability to hit right-handed pitchers.
Florimon has provided enough at shortstop to be considered the regular -- for now. But if the infield of the future includes Sano at third base and Eddie Rosario, another top prospect, at second, Florimon will have to grow into becoming their leader. An argument can be made that Terry Ryan should already be looking into the future a year or two for the kind of veteran who will be available to provide that leadership.
The Morneau situation is the diciest -- and probably beyond the Twins control. We were talking about Morneau at Target Field the other night -- the night when the mother-in-law ended up with a Joe Mauer foul ball that found its way to Section 219 -- and these things are clear.
*Morneau is not a $14 million player at this stage of his career. His power has gone missing and his overall offensive numbers are barely above average -- not even close to his prime years from 2006 until his concussion in 2010.
*Morneau has to decide whether he wants to do a Torii Hunter, and make his priority finding a team that considered a serious World Series contender. That's inexact science (See: Hamilton, Josh, among others.) Does Morneau want to be a DH and back-up first baseman for the Yankees, for example. Does he want to play in Canada, where Toronto's first base situation isn't very settled? Will those teams want him?
*There will be free-agent options if the Twins decide to go another direction. Here's the current list of guys who will be free agents after this season. Combine that with Joe Mauer gradually playing more games at first base and you have a murky situation that, right now, probably doesn't bode well for the kind of contract that Morneau will hope to get. And if Plouffe succeeds on offense, is he a candidate for a first baseman/DH role down the road?
Much of this, of course, is subject to change if Morneau goes on a power surge in the next few weeks. That could make him a bigger trade-deadline target for a contender, or change his value for 2014 and beyond -- for the Twins or another team. But it appears clear that Morneau has already gotten the best contract he'll ever sign, with the debate being about his worth over the next year or three.
Whatever the case, if you're a big booster of a Twins infielder or two, it would be wise to watch 'em now.
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