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  • Twins Must End Revolving Door At Shortstop

    The Twins' shortstops woes continue.
    In recent seasons, it has seemed like a revolving door at some key positions for the Twins. One of the most problematic areas has been their search for a shortstop. This search continues and it's hard to see an end in sight.

    In the last decade, the Twins have used eight different Opening Day starters at shortstop. The only men to make the list twice in the last decade were Cristian Guzman and Jason Bartlett. What's more, in four of the last five seasons, the man to earn the job for Opening Day has failed to start the most games at shortstop over the course of the season.

    The revolving door of Twins shortstops over the past decade.


    When the Twins traded away Bartlett and Matt Garza to get Delmon Young and Brendan Harris, it ended a nice run of consistency at shortstop. For the early part of the 2000s, the Twins had Guzman consistently leading the team at the shortstop position. Bartlett was there to take over after the team parted ways with Guzman. Since that point, it has been a hodgepodge of players at one of the most important positions on the field.

    The only year in recent memory with a semblance of consistency at shortstop was in 2010 after the Twins traded for JJ Hardy. He was the Opening Day starter and he led the team in games played at the position. There were still injury concerns with Hardy as he only played in 101 games but it was still more consistent than the last two years.

    But in 2011, the Twins put a lot of stock into Tsuyoshi Nishioka - and this plan failed miserably. He didn't work out at second base and he was even more of a disaster when they moved him to shortstop. After spending almost all of last season being less than mediocre at Triple-A, he went back to Japan. One of the biggest regrets (besides Nishioka being horrible) might be that the team parted ways with Hardy to make room for their Japanese import.

    Last season, the Twins started the year with newly signed free agent Jamey Carroll at shortstop. Brian Dozier was coming off a very good season in the minor leagues after being named the team's minor league player of the year. Carroll didn't exactly hit the cover off the ball so the Twins handed the reigns to Dozier. It wasn't pretty for Dozier either and he ended the year in the minor leagues.

    The future doesn't look any better. Pedro Florimon has the upper hand as the Opening Day starter in 2013 but there is still plenty of time before the Twins face the Tigers. Carroll, Dozier, and others might be in the mix for the starting role but the long-term solution doesn't seem like it will be in camp when the Twins head to Fort Myers.

    As far as prospects go, Daniel Santana is the next best potential shortstop in the organization. He spent all of last season at High-A with the Fort Myers Miracle. He put together the best season of his professional career by batting .286/.329/.410 with 38 extra-base hits. Levi Michael, the 2011 1st round draft pick, split time at both middle infield positions for Fort Myers. Baseball America also named him the best defensive infielder in the Twins system.

    If Santana or Michael is the long-term solution at shortstop, they are still multiple levels away from cracking the line-up for the Twins. There is always a chance the Twins could get a shortstop back in a trade this offseason, but starting pitching is most likely the priority. At this point, any hope for 2013 looks a little bleak.

    Revolving doors have their uses, but eventually one needs to leave get out or one becomes nauseous. Similarly, the Twins revolving door at shortstop needs to stop or the rest of Twins Territory is going to continue to have a sick feeling in their stomach.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins must end revolving door at shortstop started by Cody Christie
    Comments 82 Comments
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      That's pretty incredible to have 7 different guys in the last 7 years starting at SS Opening Day. It's pretty likely the Twins will next season too.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      What may be the main problem for the Twins is that in this key position in the middle of the infield, the Twins don't realize that you can't get a decent SS for less than $5-$7M (not good or great, but decent). They have a knack for drafting decent to great CF'ers, so they've had a good pipeline of those since Puckett. They can't draft a SS to save their lives, and when they get a decent one like Hardy, they trade him because he's too expensive. As much as I hate the Yankees, they invested in Jeter and built around him, and because of that they have nearly constantly been in the playoffs during his tenure. The Twins need to make SS a cornerstone position - which they never have in over 50 years of existence.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      I haven't given up on Dozier, by the way. In the minors Jeter had a year with over 50 errors, but they let him work through it. Jeter doesn't have great range, but his instincts are great because of his experience. If the Twins let him, that could be Dozier as well. They just have no patience, in this case it's on Gardy (and I'm a Gardy backer). Having no experienced infielders on the coaching staff doesn't help.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I also feel like Dozier still could be the answer (well, medium term answer anyway) at shortstop. Certainly, Bartlett struggled in his first opportunity with the Twins and it wasn't like they had rushed him. There seems like there maybe an answer to the shortstop question in the minors, but since none of the possible answers have played above A ball, it would be nice to settle on somebody for the next few years.

      We should see how the Twins feel about Florimon/Dozier by spring. If they don't bring in a real shortstop, likely through trade, they probably feel like one of the above 2 can handle the job for awhile.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ScottyB View Post
      What may be the main problem for the Twins is that in this key position in the middle of the infield, the Twins don't realize that you can't get a decent SS for less than $5-$7M (not good or great, but decent). They have a knack for drafting decent to great CF'ers, so they've had a good pipeline of those since Puckett. They can't draft a SS to save their lives, and when they get a decent one like Hardy, they trade him because he's too expensive. As much as I hate the Yankees, they invested in Jeter and built around him, and because of that they have nearly constantly been in the playoffs during his tenure. The Twins need to make SS a cornerstone position - which they never have in over 50 years of existence.
      The Yankees had 10 different SS on opening day between Dent and Jeter. Any team would have built around a guy like Jeter, for as long as they could afford to, it wasn't something particularly shrewd of the Yankees, they just finally got the right player.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      The revolving started with Smith as GM.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      I'm not ready to give up on Dozier, but I think he's more suited to second base. He's at least got somewhat of a track record of hitting.

      Did you know that Juan Castro was a better hitter in the minor leagues than Pedro Florimon?
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      I think you are using the metaphor "revolving door" incorrectly as that suggests they are using the same few guys in a rotation.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      I think you are using the metaphor "revolving door" incorrectly as that suggests they are using the same few guys in a rotation.
      Good point. It seems more like a conga line.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      with the way Gardy works his roster, it's not hard to understand why we haven't had a guy stick at shortstop or 2B. No one gets a chance to really get comfortable there. 'Guess that lineup' isn't conducive to position stability. We finally had a shortstop in Hardy, and Gardy wanted him gone. Smith traded him due to Gardy's wishes. Heck Gardy said even if Hardy stays, CASILLA would compete with Hardy for shortstop cause Casilla has speed and he liked his athleticism.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      The revolving started with Smith as GM.
      Umm, no. It started when Guzman declared free agency and recieved an offer (much) higher than the Twins were willing to pay. There was a guy fron the Jays (Castro) who started in '05, and maybe early '06, eventually Bartlett (after his promotion). The beat proceeded when Bartlett was traded, and continues today. Ryan was the GM when Guzman left, and money was the main issue.
    1. Ex-Iowegian's Avatar
      Ex-Iowegian -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Heck Gardy said even if Hardy stays, CASILLA would compete with Hardy for shortstop cause Casilla has speed and he liked his athleticism.
      Casilla, during that time, was showing a lot of promise to become a competent middle infielder. That has since changed, but I think many people thought that Casilla had a huge upside before Hardy left. And there always was the injury cloud that seemed to follow JJ arround. That combined with the desire for speed probably tipped the scales, at least in my mind.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ex-Iowegian View Post
      Casilla, during that time, was showing a lot of promise to become a competent middle infielder. That has since changed, but I think many people thought that Casilla had a huge upside before Hardy left. .
      When did he show the promise...especially at shortstop? Who thought he had huge upside (besides Gardy)? I'm sorry, I don't buy that at all...

      ...and as far a injury risk? Casilla isn't the model of injury-free
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      with the way Gardy works his roster, it's not hard to understand why we haven't had a guy stick at shortstop or 2B. No one gets a chance to really get comfortable there. 'Guess that lineup' isn't conducive to position stability. We finally had a shortstop in Hardy, and Gardy wanted him gone. Smith traded him due to Gardy's wishes. Heck Gardy said even if Hardy stays, CASILLA would compete with Hardy for shortstop cause Casilla has speed and he liked his athleticism.
      Gardy's never satisfied with the shortstop position. He had two quality shortstops in the last decade and asked (or let) the front office to trade them without a viable replacement because he didn't like them: Bartlett, because he was quiet and moody in the clubhouse; Hardy because he's slow. Gardy never accepts his starting shortstop if he's not perfect. If he were a head football coach, there'd be a perpetual quarterback controversy.

      Bottom line, this wouldn't be a story if Gardy accepted that shortstop is a difficult position to fill; you have to accept imperfection and help the player get better; and the player will not improve if he's continually criticized by his manager in the press and benched on the first sign of trouble. I have no confidence this situation will improve with the current manager.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      with the way Gardy works his roster, it's not hard to understand why we haven't had a guy stick at shortstop or 2B. No one gets a chance to really get comfortable there. 'Guess that lineup' isn't conducive to position stability. We finally had a shortstop in Hardy, and Gardy wanted him gone. Smith traded him due to Gardy's wishes. Heck Gardy said even if Hardy stays, CASILLA would compete with Hardy for shortstop cause Casilla has speed and he liked his athleticism.
      Gardy's never satisfied with the shortstop position. He had two quality shortstops in the last decade and asked (or let) the front office to trade them without a viable replacement because he didn't like them: Bartlett, because he was quiet and moody in the clubhouse; Hardy because he's slow. Gardy never accepts his starting shortstop if he's not perfect. If he were a head football coach, there'd be a perpetual quarterback controversy.

      Bottom line, this wouldn't be a story if Gardy accepted that shortstop is a difficult position to fill; you have to accept imperfection and help the player get better; and the player will not improve if he's continually criticized by his manager in the press and benched on the first sign of trouble. I have no confidence this situation will improve with the current manager.
      That's true...but what is weird about that, is that Hardy has always been one of the best defensive shortstop in the game...even when he was with us. In 2010, his UZR/150 was 12.8. Better than any starting shortstop in baseball that year. His actual UZR was 8.1, which ranked him 5th. (and remember, that's even though he was battling injury).
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      The worst part of the shortstop problem was how bad those two deals really were. Smith was crazy to trade Garza for Delmon straight up, much less throw Bartlett in on the deal. It drives me crazy that bill Smith traded for Hardy full well knowing that he was arbitration eligible the following year and was going to get more money than he was willing to pay. He traded Gomez for a one year rental.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
      The worst part of the shortstop problem was how bad those two deals really were. Smith was crazy to trade Garza for Delmon straight up, much less throw Bartlett in on the deal. It drives me crazy that bill Smith traded for Hardy full well knowing that he was arbitration eligible the following year and was going to get more money than he was willing to pay. He traded Gomez for a one year rental.
      He didn't even get that much more in arbitration...and the Brewers jerked him around just enough to get him that extra year of arbitration to make him a more valuable trade chip...then we give that year away
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
      The worst part of the shortstop problem was how bad those two deals really were. Smith was crazy to trade Garza for Delmon straight up, much less throw Bartlett in on the deal. It drives me crazy that bill Smith traded for Hardy full well knowing that he was arbitration eligible the following year and was going to get more money than he was willing to pay. He traded Gomez for a one year rental.
      Garza for Young wasn't a bad trade on paper. Adding in Bartlett was a big mistake.

      But Smith's real failure was trading Garza the same year as Santana. You simply DO NOT trade both your franchise pitcher and your best young starter in the same offseason and expect positive results. It's madness.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Garza for Young was a bad trade on some people's paper.....but you ate right, the mistake was dealing both in the same year. What we do not know is who really was making what decisions that first year....and how much Gardy influenced them. Young is an RBI tease, the kind of guy old school writers love because of offensive counting stats...
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      IT still could be correct to sign Stephen Drew. This is not likely to happen because TR has commented on the radio that all money available is going to be spent on pitching. Still need players (I wonder what Delmon Young wants, then we could trade Willingham for money pitching, Just Joking))
      We are at least 2 years away from filling this black hole with a quality player, not a journeyman(best case)). Get some help.
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