NASHVILLE – Among the many unanswered questions bouncing around the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is one concerning the Twins.
Are they really going to keep Trevor Plouffe at third base and move Miguel Sano to the outfield?
That question is being asked by Twins fans, too. And manager Paul Molitor, during his media session on Monday at the baseball winter meetings, said his preference is to keep Plouffe where he is.
“I want to see Trevor back,” Molitor said. “I was watching a piece on one of the free agents today, and they were putting up his numbers over the past five years and talking about what kind of value this guy had out on the market. I saw a lot of 22 to 25 homers and 80 to 90 RBI-type seasons, and [Plouffe] had a couple of those back-to-back. You have a reliable defender and a guy who has led our team in RBIs for two years in a row.
“Now, I don’t think [GM] Terry [Ryan] would ever say that we have untradeable people, but he would be a hard guy to just say, OK, we can plug in someone at third and we can trade him and go ahead and do what we can in the outfield.”
According to a report before the winter meetings, the Angels would be interested in Plouffe if he became available. The Twins’ offense struggled at times last season, and the Twins feel they need both Plouffe and Sano. Plus, Plouffe is a capable defensive player, while Sano’s defensive ability is still a question mark.
With free agent Byung Ho Park set to be the designated hitter, Sano has begun taking fly balls during batting practice for his winter league team in the Dominican Republic. He ended the season weighing 270 pounds but wants to lose 20 pounds before spring training to help with the transition.
“This isn’t just something that we’re doing on a whim,” Molitor said. “We have to get him to buy in, take it [as], ‘This is the way for you to get in the lineup. We have Park as a DH and we need to find you a spot on the field.’ ”
Plouffe and Sano combined for 40 home runs and 138 RBI last season — with Sano playing in just 80 games.
“I hope it’s not as problematic as some people are trying to imagine that it could be,” Molitor said. “There’s always a little risk. You put a guy in the outfield, he’s a big guy, he’s a big boy, never done it; it’s what our personnel calls for right now.”
It was just one of many subjects Molitor covered on Monday.
• On what the Twins can achieve in 2016: “I think it’s realistic to think that we can be a playoff team. A lot of things have to happen. There’s a lot of good teams already. There are teams that are on the move. We raised our bar somewhat last year. Granted, the format enabled us to be a part of the playoff picture until the last weekend. But there was a lot of things that were gained, a lot of things we found out about certain people and how they performed in September.”
• On the search for bullpen help: “A couple people that were there, the majority of last year, probably will not be. [Brian] Duensing is a free agent, [Blaine] Boyer is a free agent. We’re going to have to find ways to try to put those pieces together. I think that without counting on it, I think this might be a year you’ll see some of our younger talent as far as bullpen arms surface at some point, but just like we talked about [Byron] Buxton last year, you can’t plan that, you just have to go with what you have and try to make it work.”
• On Buxton’s development: “There will be a question about whether AAA at-bats are needed for him to start the season or will he make an impression that will be so favorable that we will lean to go with him right out of the chute. Either way, he’s going to be an impact player, I believe, for a long time. We’re just going to see when that clock really starts ticking.’’