In the TwinsCentric interview with Terry Ryan last week, (the 9-page entirety of which you can find in the 2013 Offseason Handbook), we asked about his confidence in Trevor Plouffe. He expressed concerns about his defense, and while he has is penciled in for the job, Ryan wants other options, too.
TR: [Plouffe is] coming in as the third baseman. Yes, he will. I need to create some competition over there though. And we will. And he’s aware of that. Nothing wrong with competition.
JB: Does that competition include Joe Mauer?
TR: Nope. I’m going to create some competition, but I didn’t say anything about Joe Mauer.
JB: I’m just asking. Have you thought about or talked about Joe Mauer moving to third base?
TR: No, I haven’t. Some fans have, but I haven’t.
So the good news for Plouffe is that he is expected to have the job at the hot corner. The bad news is that the Twins are going to be hedging their bets this offseason.
If the Twins are looking for competition, they had one such candidate this year, but Sean Burroughs became a free agent. Burroughs was an interesting option because he hit left-handed, and the right-handed hitting Plouffe still has a big split (911 OPS vs LHs/ 691 OPS vs RHs) against the more plentiful side of the rubber.
Looking at the Offseason Handbook, there are a few other fairly inexpensive options that might make sense. Eric Chavez put up very good numbers for the Yankees, but the left-handed hitting 34-year-old only had 33 at-bats against southpaws. It’s not clear how affordable he could be, but if he can’t get a job as a platoon player, a spot backing up an unproven guy like Plouffe could be a very nice option.
Most of the other names one would recognize bat right-handed, but each has some other interesting traits. For instance, Brandon Inge used to play catcher. So instead of carrying Drew Butera as a 3rd catcher, Inge could fill in udring an emergency. He had shoulder surgery at the end of the season, but is expected to be recovered by spring training.
Placido Polanco struggled this year, but he was also dealing with a back injury. In the past, the Twins have been rumored to be interested in him and the 37-year-old might be able to occasionally fill in at a middle infield spot. Meanwhile, another 37-year-old is rumored to be retiring, but the always intense Scott Rolen might be an interesting veteran to add to a clubhouse filled with kids.
These aren’t going to be moves that transform the Twins, nor should any of them be used as an excuse to overlook bigger issues. But this might be something to watch late in the offseason, when leftover free agents are searching around, or whenever news of a six-year minor league free agents signing trickles out.
Whoever the Twins sign will hopefully be nothing more than an insurance policy as Plouffe shows he belongs as a full-time starter. Or, like Sam Deduno and PJ Walters, that obscure signing could play a much bigger role than anyone anticipates this winter.
Over at Twins Daily, Seth takes a look at how Twins prospects are faring in the various winter leagues. One of them, Aaron Hicks, is continuing his ascent, and Cody Christie wonders just how soon the Twins could see him in their lineup. Finally, the rumor of the day - tha the Twins are kicking the tires on Mark Buhrle - was mostly met with concern.