• 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. rickyriolo's Avatar
      rickyriolo -
      i think this statement is mostly true. Gardy loves tinkering with his lineup, whether it is needed or not.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by rickyriolo View Post
      i think this statement is mostly true. Gardy loves tinkering with his lineup, whether it is needed or not.
      What was it last year, 18, 19 different lineups in the first 20 games of the season?
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      I'm completely sold on signing Youkilis and moving Plouffe (again).
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by rickyriolo View Post
      i think this statement is mostly true. Gardy loves tinkering with his lineup, whether it is needed or not.
      What was it last year, 18, 19 different lineups in the first 20 games of the season?
      Not sure. He may have gotten the perfect 20 for 20.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Ryan is on record that an "infielder will have to fall in our lap", so I don't expect anybody but "a pulse" to compete with Plouffe. They might as well run him out there at 3B and hope that he hits enough to overcome his fielding limitations. Perhaps with another year (or two) of ~25 HRs he could be traded for quality pitching--even one of those "high ceiling Class A guys".
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Other than Hanahan/Chavez....who will now go back to NYY....who else is there? They wont spend on Youk/Reynolds as Gardy isnt an OBP guy but rather an old school BAve guy.
      Ryan also said Tue that our 4 current middle infielders are the ones that Mn will go to spring training with. arghhhhh!!!!
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      We have no infielders (3B, SS, 2Bs) on our roster that have proven they are capable major league starters. That includes Carroll, the best of the bunch, who I like but is more suited to super utility.

      Can any other team in baseball say that?
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Other than Hanahan/Chavez....who will now go back to NYY....who else is there? They wont spend on Youk/Reynolds as Gardy isnt an OBP guy but rather an old school BAve guy.
      Ryan also said Tue that our 4 current middle infielders are the ones that Mn will go to spring training with. arghhhhh!!!!
      What does Gardy have to do with anything? You think he would turn down having Youk on this team?
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      It would be a huge mistake to bring someone in someone that they would honestly consider playing in front of Plouffe. I have no problem if they tell him it's his spot for a single year, but there's no reason not to give him that chance.
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      I bet it's gonna be Hannahan. Can he play 2B?
      But a .238 career hitter (.316 OBP)....28 HR in his career...no thanks.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      You guys don't honestly think Ryan is going to give a MLB deal to a guy who otherwise will have to wait to get a minor league contract with a ST invite by the other 29 clubs? Hannahan has a whopping .17 better OPS vs. righties than Plouffe does; being a left-handed hitter from MN doesn't mean he's useful. Stay away.

      Reports are that Jeff Keppinger is looking at $8M over two years. Why is this guy getting so much less attention than Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew and Jed Lowrie? The Twins just gave Jamey Carroll 2 years for $6.75M, what the hell.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Other than Hanahan/Chavez....who will now go back to NYY....who else is there? They wont spend on Youk/Reynolds as Gardy isnt an OBP guy but rather an old school BAve guy.
      Ryan also said Tue that our 4 current middle infielders are the ones that Mn will go to spring training with. arghhhhh!!!!
      What does Gardy have to do with anything? You think he would turn down having Youk on this team?
      An over the hill player , who will require to much money ? Thank you no
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post

      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)
      +10. It doesn't cost Ryan anything to send a message to Plouffe that he's still closer to a Danny Valencia than a Gary Gaetti in the eyes of the organization at the moment. He's finally shown signs of living up to the potential they saw when they used a first round pick on him waaaayyyy back in 2004, and Ryan doesn't want it going to his head.

      On the other hand, it wouldn't be terribly strange to bring in a guy like Hannahan. Like most managers today, Gardy doesn't care much for platooning, especially in the infield. But 250 AB's from JH to spell Plouffe, especially against tough righties, wouldn't be a bad thing. He can also fill in at first and either outfield corner, and can even play second in a pinch. And the Twins have historically loved to bring back local boys in the twilight of their careers, especially in down years.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post

      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)
      +10. It doesn't cost Ryan anything to send a message to Plouffe that he's still closer to a Danny Valencia than a Gary Gaetti in the eyes of the organization at the moment. He's finally shown signs of living up to the potential they saw when they used a first round pick on him waaaayyyy back in 2004, and Ryan doesn't want it going to his head.

      On the other hand, it wouldn't be terribly strange to bring in a guy like Hannahan. Like most managers today, Gardy doesn't care much for platooning, especially in the infield. But 250 AB's from JH to spell Plouffe, especially against tough righties, wouldn't be a bad thing. He can also fill in at first and either outfield corner, and can even play second in a pinch. And the Twins have historically loved to bring back local boys in the twilight of their careers, especially in down years.
      'Like most managers today, Gardy doesn't care much for platooning, especially in the infield?'

      He constantly moves his players all over the diamond...which, I guess, isn't actually a platoon...more like pick the position you'll be playing today out of a hat...
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      'Like most managers today, Gardy doesn't care much for platooning, especially in the infield?'

      He constantly moves his players all over the diamond...which, I guess, isn't actually a platoon...more like pick the position you'll be playing today out of a hat...
      Yes, I was speaking strictly in the sense of a traditional left/right platoon. Gardenhire's desire for everyday lineup coherence in the infield is exceeded only by his desire to play the guys whose defense he feels least likely to give him a coronary on any given day.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      On the other hand, it wouldn't be terribly strange to bring in a guy like Hannahan.[/QUOTE]

      But why waste a roster spot in December on the guy who automatically becomes the team's first DFA candidate? If the Twins want him, they can offer him a minor league invite in February, he's most likely not going to get an MLB offer from another team, he's that bad of a hitter.
    1. E. Andrew's Avatar
      E. Andrew -
      I would like Inge or Hannahan, though I'm not sure what Inge would cost. I don't see any reason to bring in Youkilis unless we got an INCREDIBLE deal.

      I think it's good to keep Plouffe on his toes, we don't want another Valencia situation where the guy thinks he owns it. But this is a weird situation. You aren't going to have any of those possibilities being sent to the minors to wait, and why take playing time away from a guy who has promise, in a year that should be average at best? We've seen some poor management of playing time for prospects in recent years... I don't see a reason to platoon much in the infield either. Why pigeon-hole a guy this early in his career, and risk eroding his confidence? If we are going to play 5+ AAA players every night, let them play. If they are going to be platooned, let them play every night in Rochester instead.

      If Ryan is just letting this get out in the media, smart I suppose. But Plouffe would have to be pretty dumb to think the spot is his already.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      But why waste a roster spot in December on the guy who automatically becomes the team's first DFA candidate? If the Twins want him, they can offer him a minor league invite in February, he's most likely not going to get an MLB offer from another team, he's that bad of a hitter.
      Fine by me, but he's the kind of guy the Twins have historically valued more than most other teams do. Reputation for good defense, local, and a 'good guy', but not a good hitter. Kind of surprised he's not a Twin already...
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      But why waste a roster spot in December on the guy who automatically becomes the team's first DFA candidate? If the Twins want him, they can offer him a minor league invite in February, he's most likely not going to get an MLB offer from another team, he's that bad of a hitter.
      Fine by me, but he's the kind of guy the Twins have historically valued more than most other teams do. Reputation for good defense, local, and a 'good guy', but not a good hitter. Kind of surprised he's not a Twin already...
      Too true, but I hope those kind of moves went out the window when everyone's job security became tenuous.
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      Jack Hannahan can't be considered even as a backup middle infielder – he's played one game in five years at 2B and 9 at SS. He's played 39 at 1B and 451 at 3B.

      The bottom line is, he's a 3B. Other than maybe 1B, you really cannot consider him at any other position.

      That said, for the right price, he might be OK, but I'd like someone who can actually play more positions. I don't see him as a DH, and we already have lots of people who can play 1B (Morneau, Mauer, Doumit, Parmelee among others). If Hannahan is just backing up Plouffe, and is not able to handle any other position, he'll mainly be riding the bench. Like Gardenhire, I'd just as soon have someone who is more versatile, unless he's our starter.

      Daniel Santana hit .286 last year at Fort Meyers (Advanced A). He's on the 40-man roster as a SS. I suspect he'll be at AA in 2013. Let's hope he progresses quickly.
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