Souhan “writes” that the Twins’ front office should act now, as rashly as possible in an uncharacteristic fit of short term thinking, to bolster the surprisingly successful roster and make a run at the playoffs despite the fact that this is a rebuilding year.
The first thing I’d like to do is address the setup of his article. Number one, acting rashly is rarely a good idea; isn’t that a main criticism of the New York teams? Number two, surprising? Really? The Twins are 40-36, surging over .500 on the wings of a solid winning streak. They’ve been lurking within a few games of .500 all season. Before the season, they looked a lot like a .500 ballclub with a lot of youth. During the season, they look like a .500 ballclub with a lot of youth. What about this is surprising, exactly? Number three … what exactly can we do to upgrade at the trade deadline? Are there going to be teams unloading a good-hitting major league shortstop? Do we want to empty the entire farm system for the rights to 2 months of a good starting pitcher? What kind of deal is on the market that would clearly help the team this season, and hopefully not destroy our chances for the future? Can Souhan possibly know this?
That brings me to the second thing I’d like to do. Which is go over his recommendations to the Twins’ front office. His sure-fire plan for improving the team. The proven, veteran players that will push this team over the hump and assure a playoff berth. Enough hype, already, let’s get to the plan!
Step one: Somehow cancel the Rays trade, and get Garza and Bartlett back.
Reasons this is stupid: Um, you can’t do that. So … that’s pretty dumb.
Step two: Trade or release Mike Lamb.
Reasons this is stupid: Actually, it isn’t. Lamb should go.
Step three: Bench Delmon Young and call up Denard Span.
Reasons this is stupid: Delmon Young has a lot of talent, despite the fact that he’s not using it. He looks increasingly confused by breaking balls out of the strike zone, as if the pitchers should realize that he can’t hit them and should simply stop throwing them. He doesn’t hustle in the field at all. (Have you noticed that he’s about 100 times faster on the bases than in the field? Is his glove that heavy?) It appears that the only reason he’s willing to wear a glove is as an excuse to throw the ball as far as he can, regardless of game situation … or whether he even has the ball (see Sunday, vs Diamondbacks). The point is, Delmon has the tools and should be given the chance to hone them. Find the key to the toolbox, as it were. The other point is … Denard Span? Sure, he has a 900 OPS in AAA this year, and has recovered admirably from his injury. The game he plays on the field is finally starting to match the game he talks. But Span has never done anything good before, so why are a couple months so impressive? (Of course, it’s possible that he’s turned the corner, as Buscher seems to have done. Come back in a year, and if Span is still hitting like this then we’ve got another outfielder on our hands. If not, then it was a good thing we didn’t act rashly, no?)
I can’t help myself …
Seriously? Denard F’ing Span?
Step four: Get Nick Punto back and bench Brendan Harris at SS.
Reasons this is stupid: Nick Punto is not a starting position player, he’s a utility infielder. If he’s playing regularly, it means your starters are either hurt or not performing. Brendan Harris isn’t a wizard in the field (although neither is Punto, if you want to be honest about it), but he has a strong arm and can turn a double play (anyone who’s seen Punto try to throw the ball knows he’s more comfortable playing with the girls on the 60 foot basepaths). Harris has been mired in a bad stretch at the plate, but shows signs of knowing what he’s doing — and he might be turning it around. He’s clearly better than Nick Punto, though, who I’ve decided to describe offensively as “a lot like Mike Lamb, except with head first slides into first base.” (If Lamb ever slides into first base, I’m quite certain he will morph into Punto and the two of them will dance with glee as the space time continuum explodes.)
Step five: Have Brendan Harris be the utility infielder and part time third baseman, taking at bats away from Brian Buscher.
Reasons this is stupid: Harris should be the starting SS. But if he isn’t, deliberately taking at bats away from the hottest player on the team is pretty boneheaded. Maybe this step of the plan should be “stay the course and be happy that someone finally realized that calling up Buscher and sticking him in the lineup is a good idea.”
Step six … there is no step six. That’s it. This is what the front office should do to put the Twins into the playoffs. Mess with promising young bats (Young and Buscher) by jerking around their playing time. Promote inferior players based on having a hot bat in the minors. Give Nick Punto more playing time.
I’ll give Souhan credit for not saying something truly, monumentally boneheaded like “trade for Griffey” or “trade for Sabathia” or any other hugely overpriced Rent-A-Player. However, demanding that the front office make key moves and then pointing out a few places to clearly downgrade the team doesn’t make any sense — Souhan gets no credit for that. At best. Does negative credit exist?
I will also give Souhan absolutely zero credit for ignoring the pitching staff. Livan has pitched as expected, some of the young guys are stepping up, some are regressing, the bullpen is overtaxed, and we have far more young starters than a team can use. Do we trade some of them away for upgrades? Do we cycle them through the rotation and see who sticks? Do we transition some of them to the bullpen? Is it important to address the pitching situation at all when trying to shoot for the moon? Does Souhan care about pitching, given that it’s not something that Nick Punto “can” do?
Finally … I’ll end with a question. What does this team actually need? Right now, and in the next 2-3 years.
Third base? Maybe … but Buscher sure looks good and Valencia will be able to replace him in a few years. The fact that Buscher is 27 is virtually irrelevant because of Valencia — by the time Buscher hits 30, we just let him go and replace him with promising youngster No. 203995.
Shortstop? Yes. Harris is not the answer, nor is Nick Punto or Adam Everett. Casilla might be, but that leaves a gaping hole at 2B, and if Casilla gets comfortable at 2B he should stay there. This team needs a shortstop … too bad they’re hard to find. Plouffe is the closest thing to a SS in the system, and nobody is really sold on him, as far as I can tell.
Second base? No. Casilla. He’s good, end of story.
First base? Heh, no. Morneau is Hrbek.
Catcher? No. Enough said.
Center field? No. Gomez will be here for a while and will continue to improve. All Star in 2010.
Left field? Probably not, assuming Delmon remembers how to hit a baseball.
Right field? A big fat maybe … but not soon. Cuddyer’s 29, and will be 32 when his contract expires. I really like the guy, and I think he’s a solid player both offensively and defensively and is definitely a good clubhouse leader. But if we don’t want to re-sign him in 3 years, we should have guys knocking on the door, like Parmelee, Benson, Revere, possibly Hicks, possibly someone we don’t even know about yet (which is how baseball works a lot of the time). The point is that our outfield is locked down with good players long enough for the next batch to be ready. It doesn’t need an upgrade.
Bench? Monroe, Lamb, Punto, Redmond. Not really a bad bench. Redmond’s a good backup catcher, Punto’s valuable as a utility guy, Monroe and Lamb are theoretically good “bats off the bench” (if, that is, they decided to hit). This bench is a huge upgrade over years past (hmm, we need a late inning homer, who do we pinch hit … Tyner or Luis Rodriguez?). But it could always get better.
Pitching? You can always use more pitching, but … Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins, Duensing, Humber, Liriano, Boof, Mulvey, Swarzak, Manship, Guerra, etc. This team has solid pitching depth at the major league level and all the way down the farm system. Trading for more arms isn’t really necessary.
All that said, it would obviously be nice to upgrade to a better player at every position. Texeira over Morneau, Soto over Mauer, Utley over Casilla, Hanley over Harris, etc all down the lineup. But it’s not going to happen. What upgrades can this team realistically want to make?
I think this is a good roster, and the only real weak spot is at SS. Plus, the players should get better as the years go on, and we get closer to replacing them with cheaper, faster, more talented young players, as we always do.
The front office should not, as Souhan demands, think for the present and make ill-advised moves. They should also not, as Souhan suggests, give bad players playing time at the expense of good players. What they should do is always be on the lookout for a good deal, be ready to cut bait on someone before it’s too late, and tell Gardenhire to play the best players, for crap’s sake. (Kind of, you know, the opposite of what Souhan said.)
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