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  • Competition for Plouffe?

    Throughout the offseason, Terry Ryan has continued to say that he is looking for a third baseman to provide competition for Trevor Plouffe. He says that Plouffe will go into spring training as the Twins starting third baseman. However, as the Twins media contingent in Nashville last night met with the Twins GM, it became clear that he will bring in a quality third baseman, and maybe even this week.

    As Nick wrote yesterday, when Terry Ryan says something over and over, it generally is true. Initial response by Twins fans (myself included) was that, with all of the Twins pitching needs and maybe needs in the middle infield, why would third base be such a focal point?


    Plouffe’s 24 home runs in 2012 was the most by a Twins third baseman since Corey Koskie hit 25 homers in 2004, his final season with the team. It is also hard for Twins fans to forget how Plouffe hit in June and July. In 26 games in June, he hit .327/.391/.735 (1.126) with seven doubles and 11 home runs. In 16 games in July, he hit .302/.343/.476 (.819) with three more homers.

    It was at that point, in mid-July that Plouffe hurt his thumb, and although initial reports said he would be day-to-day, he missed a month, and when he returned, he hit like he did in April and May. That’s the part that we might forget. In April, Plouffe hit .121/.274/.242 (.517). In May, he hit .185/.254/.400 (.654). In August, he hit .161/.232/.226 (.458). In September, he hit .218/.269/.416 (.684), although he did add four home runs.

    At the end of the day, er… season, Trevor Plouffe hit .235/.301/.455 (.756) in 119 games. Combined in 2010 and 2011 (103 games), he had hit .226/.286/.382 (.668).

    Plouffe has been willing to play all over the field. He went to spring training, and started the season, as an outfielder. However, when the Twins DFAd Luke Hughes in April and then optioned Danny Valencia to Rochester in May, Plouffe took over at third base. Initially, he looked quite good at the position. However, in 95 games at the position, he made 14 errors and had a .935 fielding percentage. However, after his return from injury, it appeared that his range, particularly to his right, decreased. If you like UZR, he posted a -6.8 UZR at third base.

    For all of the struggles, that hot stretch in June and July is encouraging and exciting. Still just 26 years old, Plouffe still has a chance to improve.

    With so much of Plouffe’s 2012 offensive success coming in about a six week time frame, and struggles with the bat most of the other four months, it’s understandable that Ryan and all of the Twins decision-makers would not be sure what to make of Plouffe’s season or his long-term potential.

    Ryan has also commented that he isn’t just looking for any third baseman. He wants a third baseman who could be a starter. So, who are the options? Kevin Youklis would seem to be too high-priced to be competition and a backup. Scott Rolen could retire or would stay close to the Reds. Eric Chavez wants t keep playing, but we have to assume he’ll want to play on a contender. Here are some possibilities:

    Placido Polanco
    – His numbers have steadily declined the last couple of seasons with the Phillies. He also has not been able to stay on the field consistently. He could play third base while at the same time being a backup option at second base.

    Brandon Inge
    – Ron Gardenhire gushed about Inge when the Tigers released him last year during the middle of the season. Solid defensively at third base, he has shown power in the past. When he signed with the A’s, he had some big hits right away, and then was hurt again. Inge could also play some second base and in a pinch, I guess he could go behind the plate.

    Chone Figgins
    – He got the big contract from the Mariners three years ago, and has gone from big free agent acquisition, to bust, to utility, to hardly-plays-at all, to the Mariners paying him a lot of money in 2013 NOT to play with them. However, he can play third base, second base and likely some in the outfield. He still has speed. I’m sure he would like an opportunity to get into a nice role and show teams he still has something left.

    Jack Hannahan
    – The former Gophers infielder will turn 33 years old in March. Cleveland non-tendered him last week, making him a free agent. He has played 110 and 105 games for the Tribe the past two seasons. Combined, he hit .247/.323/.366 (.688) with 32 doubles, 12 homers and 69 RBI. Certainly not great numbers, but decent for a backup. In 451 games as a big league third baseman in his career, he has a .968 fielding percentage. Last year, that number dropped to .949 (although it was .983 in 2011). In 2011, his UZR was 8.7. In 2012, his UZR was -3.9.

    Ryan hinted to reporters that the Twins could sign someone for the position this week in Nashville. A case could be made for each of these players, although the assumption (by me) is that Hannahan just makes the most sense. Another local guy who, other than last year, has provided really solid defense at the hot corner. As a left-handed hitter, he could platoon (in theory) with Plouffe if it came to that. He could be an everyday player for a period of time if necessary. And, frankly, he should be available on a minor league deal at around $1 million if he makes the team.

    A year ago, a 23-year-old Eduardo Escobar was the White Sox opening day utility infielder. He would come in to play third base in late innings. It was more the case later in the season when the Sox acquired Kevin Youklis. They would move Youklis to first base in the late innings and take out Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn (whichever was playing first base). Escobar came to the Twins in the Francisco Liriano deal and can play all three infield positions well. He is very much similar to Twins utility infielders of the past. However, the Twins typically have two backups in the infield, so that may factor in as well.

    So, what do you think? How much value do you put into Trevor Plouffe’s six-week power binge as it relates to his future? Can he be an .800+ OPS third baseman? Can he make the necessary defensive plays at the hot corner? Do the Twins need to bring in someone as competition who will all but be ensured a big league job? Should third base be getting this much attention when pitching remains a black hole for the Twins?
    This article was originally published in blog: Competition for Plouffe? started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 51 Comments
    1. whosafraidofluigirussolo's Avatar
      whosafraidofluigirussolo -
      For all of the struggles, that hot stretch in June and July is encouraging and exciting. Still just 26 years old, Plouffe still has a chance to improve.

      This is the key. There's no reason for a team that's going to lose a lot of games anyway to not give a player like Plouffe a chance - keep coaching him on his defense and give him a chance to build on those flashes of hot hitting when he's healthy and rested. Having a backup is fine, but the backup shouldn't be taking development time away from Plouffe.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      I like Hannahan. There's a chance his true platoon split is greater than his career averages would indicate. At worst, he's about league average vs. RHP and should be a better glove over there.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Seth,

      I know you disagree with me but infielder Jack Hannahan is a very under-rated, not appreciated (In Cleveland, Seattle, Oakland) player. Being from St. Paul, MN it would be a great thing. Not sure if it will happen or not.
    1. spideyo's Avatar
      spideyo -
      I like hannahan, but if we only sign one infielder, I'd rather get someone who can also play SS. Escobar and Florimon seem to be our best two options there and that scares the hell out of me. A really solid SS would help cover for a middling 3b too
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      Not saying Plouffe is the be all end all at 3b, but on a team going nowhere in 2013, give the dude 600 at bats and see what happens.
    1. Craig in MN's Avatar
      Craig in MN -
      If it's a minor league deal, then it's fine. I wouldn't mind having him on the team if the need arose. But he's not really a short term solution to anything or a long term solution to anything.

      Looking at his stats, I'm a little surprised that he's never made even an emergency appearance as a corner outfielder. He doesn't have the bat to play there in reality, but he profiles a bench player and having him as an option as plausible 5th OF would give him some extra marketability for some teams.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      I don't get the Hannahan love. Other then him being from Minnesota I don't see any real reason to bring him to the club. The guy is a career .671 hitter (.234 avg .314 OBP) at what should be an offensive position.

      If you are signing him to just be a "depth" defensive replacement guy I guess you could toss him a minimum deal, but if you truly want "competition" for Plouffe at third base, Hannahan isn't the answer.

      Give me a guy like Jed Lowrie, Ty Wigginton, Eric Chavez or Keppinger over Hannahan.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by whosafraidofluigirussolo View Post
      For all of the struggles, that hot stretch in June and July is encouraging and exciting. Still just 26 years old, Plouffe still has a chance to improve.

      This is the key. There's no reason for a team that's going to lose a lot of games anyway to not give a player like Plouffe a chance - keep coaching him on his defense and give him a chance to build on those flashes of hot hitting when he's healthy and rested. Having a backup is fine, but the backup shouldn't be taking development time away from Plouffe.
      This is my opinion too. I'm hoping the Twins can win 75 or so games in 2013, and with all the pitching needs, and some reason for hope with Plouffe, it would not be a priority for me at all... Which is kind of what makes Ryan's insistence upon a quality backup kind of surprising.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by whosafraidofluigirussolo View Post
      For all of the struggles, that hot stretch in June and July is encouraging and exciting. Still just 26 years old, Plouffe still has a chance to improve.

      This is the key. There's no reason for a team that's going to lose a lot of games anyway to not give a player like Plouffe a chance - keep coaching him on his defense and give him a chance to build on those flashes of hot hitting when he's healthy and rested. Having a backup is fine, but the backup shouldn't be taking development time away from Plouffe.
      This is my opinion too. I'm hoping the Twins can win 75 or so games in 2013, and with all the pitching needs, and some reason for hope with Plouffe, it would not be a priority for me at all... Which is kind of what makes Ryan's insistence upon a quality backup kind of surprising.
      Reading between the lines it seems like Ryan is trying to use this to motivate Plouffe. Trevor has always been that guy in the minors who's production never really lived up to the talent (other then his breakout in AAA), now that he has made it to the majors Ryan and co probably don't want him to get to comfortable and want to make sure he continues to work on his game and improve.

      I think Plouffe has the potential to be a very solid 3B for us and has all the talent in the world to do so. Now it's on him to make the adjustments needed (since the league learned how to pitch to him a bit after his absurd HR run)
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      ' But he has to realize he has to play both sides of the game. I think he's capable."'


      Is it my imagination that the above comment made by Ryan about Plouffe only seems to apply for this team when it's defensive side that's lacking? How many completely worthless offensive players have we thrown out there over the years and given significant time to because they had a good glove? How many players have we held in the minors due to 'defensive issues'?
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      I'm not a Hannahan fan. But I guess the Pagliarulo-Leius platoon worked pretty well in 91, so maybe it would work again.
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      I don't believe they think Plouffe will stick at 3rd. they might want to move him to 2nd. I wouldn't want a single player other than pitcher who can't play the middle. those are more urgent. Even if Plouffe bats .200 he will at least have some power. The other guys in the infield (not Dozier) have very little upside and if they slump at all could bat .160 with no power. Yuck.

      Get pitching and if there is a couple million left, sign a quality bat for SS or 2nd.
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      We DON'T have the luxury to be looking for competition when we have roster spots empty.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I don't understand why the Twins would be seeking a 3B unless it was a splash signing like Youk or Reynolds.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Would texas take justin Morneau and our #7 prospect hHarrison for olt , maybe even throwing in aceldo or hudson boyd?
      My thought is adding a piece to the puzzel or the future,even if is not pitching,with reports on Sano saying he will probally need to move to 1b or become a corner outfielder, why not try and get Olt?
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      Would texas take justin Morneau and our #7 prospect hHarrison for olt , maybe even throwing in aceldo or hudson boyd?
      No.
    1. woody_knows_all's Avatar
      woody_knows_all -
      Plouffe maybe needs a little more playing time to see, but his home run stats are a little inflated in my mind. Wasn't 20 of his 24 homeruns solo shots. And how many of those were home runs after the 7th inning with the Twins behind 7-2.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I can't help but think that Plouffe will be told to bring his 3B glove and an OF glove to spring training.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I can't help but think that Plouffe will be told to bring his 3B glove and an OF glove to spring training.
      I imagine they make sure everyone on the team has multiple gloves available....with Gardy's constant need to move people around all over the diamond. :-)

      I'll share a post by someone else I found funny:

      'Well IMO, keeping Buttera indicates a good chance that Morneau will be traded. Parmalee will be platooned with Mauer at 1B. Mauer will be platooned with Doumit at C. Buttera will be main backup at C. Dozier and Carroll will be platooed at 2B, Florimon, Dozier and Carroll will be platooned at SS. Poofe and Carroll will be platooned at 3B. Willingham, Doumit, and Mauer will be platooned at DH. Willingham and Doumit will be platooed in LF. Revere and Mastroanni will be platooned in CF. Mastroanni and Parmalee will be platooned in RF. Tardy will be so overjoyed that he'll be able to have a different lineup for all 162 games of the season that he'll have the Hap, Hap, Happiest Christmas since Danny Fnnn Kaye!'
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      With Gardenhire (it is so hard for me to capitalize his name) managing, there is always going to be a couple of guys to "back up" Plouffe. Utility utility utility. I sure hope they give him the chance to settle in free of injury. He is getting better and you just can't deny those 6 weeks and not give him a shot on a horrible team to take third and shine.
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