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  • Centerfield Trade Bait

    [Originally published at Twins Fan From Afar]

    The Twins certainly don't have a surplus of major league ready talent at most positions, such as catcher, third base, middle infield, starting pitching, and the bullpen. -- just to name a few areas of concern. But if there is one position where there is a good amount of talent, both on the major league club and in the minor league system, it probably is centerfield.

    Is this a make-or-break year for Aaron Hicks?

    Denard Span
    is an above average defender, and has matured into a good leadoff hitter. He was having one of his best seasons in 2011 before a concussion deralied him, but we hope he'll bounce back in 2012. He just turned 28, and is under contract for $3 million in 2012, $4.75 million in 2013, $6.5 million in 2014, and there is a $9 million team option in 2015 (with a $500,000 buyout). If Span is healthy and continues to perform, it seems like a reasonable contract. If Span plays in 2012 like he did the first few months of 2011, and shows that he is completely recovered from the concussion, it's also a contract that the Twins could move.

    Ben Revere, who will turn 24 in May, is speedy and can track down almost anything hit to center field, but lacks an arm (not physically lacks an arm, but it's almost that bad); he is at best a good contact hitter who can wreak havoc on the basepaths, and at worst a player that will only get on base 30 percent of the time. Importantly, he is still under team control for the near future.

    Joe Benson, also 24 this season, has the most potential for power among the centerfield group. He also is reportedly just a shade slower than Revere, which is impressive. He didn't look quite ready for the big leagues in his September call-up last season, with a .239/.270/.352 slash line, but he is still a very good outfield prospect.

    Finally, there is Aaron Hicks, age 22, the Twins' first round (14th overall) draft pick from 2008. It's not an understatement to say that Hicks' star has fallen. Baseball America rated him the 19th best prospect pre-2010, the 45th best prospect pre-2011, and the 72nd best prospect pre-2012. That's not the direction Twins fans would like to see Hicks moving on the prospect charts. In 2012, he also vanished from Baseball America's top 10 outfield prospect list, which is not a good sign. All that being said, he is one of the Twins' top prospects, and he is expected to see a promotion to AA New Britain this year (at least according to Bill Smith).

    My point in outlining these players is that, even if none ever become stars, the center field position is perhaps the deepest in terms of talent for the Twins. And interestingly, three of the four players listed are within roughly two years of age. Aside from Span, the veteran, we're talking about 22-24 year old prospects. Finally, Hicks is the only one without a day of major league service time, so to an extent (a small extent for Benson), they have been MLB-tested.

    It's tough to imagine all four players being in the Twins organization two years from now. By that time, Benson will be 26 and will either be playing centerfield, which would be the best use of his speed and arm, or a corner outfield position. I have no doubt he's next in line for a promotion. Who knows where Revere will be? I still believe he can be a good (but not great) major league outfielder, but he will need to show major plate discipline this season, as well as the ability to bunt successfully. Hicks needs to have a solid and consistent season in order to regain his status as a Twins top prospect. And Span needs to stay healthy.

    There are two things that excite me about this group of players. First is the prospect of having Span and Benson in the same outfield. I think it could be great defensively and offensively. The second thing is the prospect of trading one of these guys for something the Twins desperately need, such as pitching. It would be great if the Twins could make a "sell high" trade, if they come the realization that there are not enough outfield positions for the number of established major league outfielders, and legitimate major league outfield prospects, currently in the organization. Of course, we'd have to avoid a Wilson Ramos-type trade, but given these 4 players, the odds of that kind of an error in judgment don't seem quite as high.

    I'm curious to hear your thoughts. If Benson is good at AAA Rochester this season, how long can we keep him there -- and whose place does he take in Minnesota? Could we get anything on the trade market for Revere? And if Hicks has a great season between A and AA in 2012, what do we do if he suddenly re-emerges as our #1 outfield prospect?
    This article was originally published in blog: Centerfield Trade Bait started by Twins Fan From Afar
    Comments 38 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Does Angel Morales fit into this conversation at all?
      He should, but after an injury-filled 2011, he probably has to play well in 2012 to be back in the discussion. He's a terrific athlete, good outfielder, very good speed, strong arm... although he hasn't hit a lot of home runs since E-Town, most belive he's got the power and the swing to hit HR. People forget that he is younger than Aaron Hicks, even though he was drafted a year earlier.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      Ummmmm.....Morneau ISN'T healthy and/or productive. That's the whole point. Until those things are established(which is no sure thing), he has pretty much zero trade value.
      All indications are the he is healthy, he just hasn't got his timing back yet.

      And the season hasn't started yet either.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      All this talk about moving an outfielder to make room for Benson and eventually Hicks demonstrates that signing Willingham to a three year deal when the club is rebuilding was perhaps an unwise decision. The knee jerk reaction to replace Cuddyer with a comparable not only blocked younger player's development, but took away $8 million for the next 3 years that could have been better spent on pitching. Don't forget, this team is also looking for playing time for Trevor Plouffe also. Hopefully Willingham has a very nice first half and his 3 year deal looks like a bargain to a contender at the trade deadline. Any of the outfielders should be available for a quality young arm, but Willingham should be shopped as soon as Benson shows he's ready at Rochester.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      All this talk about moving an outfielder to make room for Benson and eventually Hicks demonstrates that signing Willingham to a three year deal when the club is rebuilding was perhaps an unwise decision. The knee jerk reaction to replace Cuddyer with a comparable not only blocked younger player's development, but took away $8 million for the next 3 years that could have been better spent on pitching. Don't forget, this team is also looking for playing time for Trevor Plouffe also. Hopefully Willingham has a very nice first half and his 3 year deal looks like a bargain to a contender at the trade deadline. Any of the outfielders should be available for a quality young arm, but Willingham should be shopped as soon as Benson shows he's ready at Rochester.
      Not really. Benson should be ready in 2013 but the rest won't be until mid-2014 or 2015 (End of Willingham's contract).
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I agree with Seth's post here. Span in LF, Benson in CF and Hicks in RF.

      For those of you are talking about Span being traded . . . who's your leadoff hitter?
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by shanewahl View Post
      I agree with Seth's post here. Span in LF, Benson in CF and Hicks in RF.

      For those of you are talking about Span being traded . . . who's your leadoff hitter?
      If Span is traded this year, Carroll would slide into the leadoff role.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Absolutely!



      I like that OF, but I would go with Span in LF, Benson in CF and Hicks in RF. Span is just solid. Benson is the fastest of that group and has a rocket for an arm. Hicks is also fast but his arm is the strongest of the group. Honestly, you could flip-flop Benson and Hicks, but all three are CF, great athletes and that would, potentially, be a great defensive outfield!
      True that all three are CF's, but I've seen Span in person in RF. He was incredible. Played like he was born there. I'm assuming Hicks has more range than Benson, and his arm should be like a young Torii Hunter. Benson I put in LF because he throws right. Verily you could swap them any which way and get good defense. The only real questions for the newbies are, can they hit?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      If the Twins are not in the race by the end of July, I see Span traded for a young up and coming SP. If the Twins are in the race by the deadline, I see someone like Hicks get traded for an established SP. I don't think that Marquis will last the season either way
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      An All-star? That's just a little bit of a stretch, wouldn't you say?


      I would like the Twins to make a forward-thinking trade.... for once. I have my doubts though..
      I have seen a lot of comparisons to Torii Hunter. Personally, I see Benson as eventually being better than Hunter. A step faster, same football mentality in the outfield, top defender, a lot of power, and yes, he will continue to strike out a bit too often. All-Star, yes!
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      If the Twins are not in the race by the end of July, I see Span traded for a young up and coming SP. If the Twins are in the race by the deadline, I see someone like Hicks get traded for an established SP. I don't think that Marquis will last the season either way
      I'm not sure about Span and Hicks, but I think you're right about Marquis.
      In all seriousness, though, a healthy Span, with his reasonable contract, somewhat young age, and demonstrated ability in the field and at the plate, would fetch the best return, I suppose.
    1. Pitz's Avatar
      Pitz -
      I understand the thinking in terms of trading one of these guys, but I feel the expectations for what the Twins could get in return are a bit unrealistic. It seems to me that teams aren't very willing to trade pitching prospects. I think the best they could get for Span would be someone who projects as a #3 starter. Maybe that would still be valuable for a Twins system that needs pitching, but I'm not sure it would be worth trading a quality leadoff hitter to get.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pitz View Post
      I understand the thinking in terms of trading one of these guys, but I feel the expectations for what the Twins could get in return are a bit unrealistic. It seems to me that teams aren't very willing to trade pitching prospects. I think the best they could get for Span would be someone who projects as a #3 starter. Maybe that would still be valuable for a Twins system that needs pitching, but I'm not sure it would be worth trading a quality leadoff hitter to get.
      Exactly. Not that lineup order is vitally important other than general OBP, but a leadoff guy is important. Jamey Carroll in that role might be tolerable to some, I suppose.

      The only way one is going to get the starter the Twins need is by packaging prospects together. One of these CFs, some top pitching prospect and maybe some second-tier OFs (Tosoni, Bigley, Roberts) might be a package that gets you something.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      thrylos, you see Terry Ryan trading a top prospect for a MLB player? Wow. That would potentially be a sign that 2012 is the end of the world, wouldn't it?
    1. Brandon Warne's Avatar
      Brandon Warne -
      Maybe the Astros? Ha ha.

      Bud Norris for Ben Revere. I'd do that deal today.
    1. twinkiesfan11's Avatar
      twinkiesfan11 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Warne View Post
      Maybe the Astros? Ha ha.

      Bud Norris for Ben Revere. I'd do that deal today.
      I've been thinking the Braves would line up pretty well in a trade. Maybe something centering around Denard Span for any one of Beachy, Minor, Delgado or Jurrjens. The Braves need a long-term centerfielder badly and have a ton of pitching to spare.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      thrylos, you see Terry Ryan trading a top prospect for a MLB player? Wow. That would potentially be a sign that 2012 is the end of the world, wouldn't it?
      They've done it before recently when in contention... Not all top prospects (other than Ramos), but not junk: Pino for Pavano, Hamburger for Guardado, Mulvey for Rauch, Ramos and Testa for Capps, Van Mil for Fuentes. Allegedly, Bill Smith was "running the club". I am sure that Ryan was part of the decision making process...
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pitz View Post
      I understand the thinking in terms of trading one of these guys, but I feel the expectations for what the Twins could get in return are a bit unrealistic. It seems to me that teams aren't very willing to trade pitching prospects. I think the best they could get for Span would be someone who projects as a #3 starter.
      A comparable trade would be that of McLouth from the Pirates to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton before the deadline in 2009. Before the 2009 season, Baseball America ranked Hernandez at the Braves' 4th best prospect (behind Hanson, Heyward and Schafer) and 69th oveall in Baseball, Locke their 6th overall and Morton was very good as well (and already in the majors and like a #3-4 starter for the Pirates already.) And their Braves' system was stocked back then.

      And I think that Span will bring more because he is signed to a very team friendly contract.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      All this talk about moving an outfielder to make room for Benson and eventually Hicks demonstrates that signing Willingham to a three year deal when the club is rebuilding was perhaps an unwise decision. The knee jerk reaction to replace Cuddyer with a comparable not only blocked younger player's development, but took away $8 million for the next 3 years that could have been better spent on pitching. Don't forget, this team is also looking for playing time for Trevor Plouffe also. Hopefully Willingham has a very nice first half and his 3 year deal looks like a bargain to a contender at the trade deadline. Any of the outfielders should be available for a quality young arm, but Willingham should be shopped as soon as Benson shows he's ready at Rochester.
      This is exactly right - Willingham has to go before Span does. Money guaranteed Willingham through 2014: $21M. Money guaranteed Span: $14.75M. Willingham might not return as much, but Span will probably provide more value, and Benson should more than make up for Willingham in all facets of the game.

      Or, if it looks like Hicks isn't going to put things together, hold onto Willingham and move Revere. They could keep Revere as the 4th OF, but he's probably worth more to someone else. I just don't think he's ever going to be as good as Span.

      Benson and Hicks in RF/CF and Span in LF is my dream OF. So much OBP, such good defense. Get it going, Hicks!
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