About The Twins Outfield Situation

As we continue examining the options available to the Twins’ brass with regard to the formation of the 2011 roster, I think it’s worth taking a look at the outfield. I know that, on the surface, this appears to be one unit (perhaps the only one) where many people expect to see little or no change, other than seeing it revert to the unit as it was before Michael Cuddyer had to shift to first base to replace Justin Morneau.

Delmon Young

Going in to 2010, the Twins clearly decided they would be willing to sacrifice some OF defense in return for making sure they had the sticks necessary in the line up to score more runs. The hope was that Denard Span would have the range to cover not only centerfield, but left-center and right-center as well. We don’t need fancy advanced defensive metrics to know that Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are not exactly candidates for gold gloves in the outfield.

Delmon certainly held up his end of the bargain, having his most productive year as a Twin (and winning the Knuckleballs Boyfriend of the Year Award, in the process!). But outside of DY, the outfielders simply did not live up to their expectations.

To be fair, Jason Kubel wasn’t supposed to have to play rightfield every day. He was supposed to DH. Maybe he’d have had a better year with the bat if he had been able to simply play the role intended. Maybe. And Michael Cuddyer certainly wasn’t supposed to play 1B for half a season. Maybe if he had been able to just play his more familiar role in RF, he’d have hit better, too. Maybe.

Denard Span

But then there’s Denard Span. I like Denard. I like him a lot. I expected great things from him in 2010. Maybe too much. It’s not his fault, I suppose, if my expectations were elevated and, in the end, unmet. He just simply did not get on base as reliably as a lead off hitter for a contending team needs to. And I don’t even want to discuss how often he got picked off once he did get on base. In short, he needs to do better… much better. I also was disappointed with his defense. No it isn’t fair that he has to cover half the outfield instead of just a third of it, but life isn’t fair sometimes. I also was less than impressed with the way he covered his own third of the field. He seemed to get poor jumps and appeared timid any time he got within 10 feet of a fence. Maybe it was just a matter of getting comfortable with the new ballpark. Maybe.

That’s a lot of maybes, folks.

Jason Repko did a nice job as a late inning defensive replacement and he gave the Twins a CF option when Span needed a day off, but he’s really not a consideration as a starting outfielder on a regular basis. Still, the Twins will need him, or someone like him, on the roster in 2011. That means five roster spots taken up by outfielders.

Jason Kubel

Obviously, the outfield spots are also influenced by the decisions made with regard to the DH, since one could argue not only Kubel, but Young and even Cuddyer might be better DH options than outfielders. Given that, does it make sense to bring Jim Thome back, even if he’s again available at a discounted price? Yes… of course it does.

Come March, most people would probably bet that we’ll see all of these familiar faces in Twins uniforms, once again. We can hope that Kubel, Cuddyer and Span bounce back and have better years with the bat, that Delmon continues to build on this season’s success, and that we all get to witness Jim Thome belting career HR #600 in a Twins uniform in 2011.

Then again… if I were Bill Smith, I would be looking for a top of the rotation pitcher and if it takes one of these outfielders to get that need filled, I wouldn’t hesitate to make such a deal. That could result in “addition by subtraction” if it means Thome returns and gets more DH opportunities than he might otherwise and if an outfielder can be added to the line up that can both cover decent ground in a corner position and play CF on occasion.

Michael Cuddyer

It’s unlikely that the Twins would find a trade partner willing to take on Cuddyer’s contract or Span’s extension (which starts getting pricier in 2012), leaving Kubel (who’s reasonable $5.25 million option was picked up by the Twins last week) and Young (who is still locked in to arbitration) as the most likely trade chips.¬† I think both players have several very productive offensive years ahead of them in Major League Baseball and if those are in Twins uniforms, that’s fine. But the Twins arguably have a surplus of talent in the outfield and to shore up other needs, sometimes you have to give up good ballplayers and the Twins definitely have a couple of positions that need shoring up.

The Twins front office is not exactly known for making dramatic trades, but Bill Smith has proven he doesn’t just go in to hibernation in the off-season, either. I think this organization knows they need to improve their roster from the outside before Opening Day 2011 and I think that means Jason Kubel or Delmon Young will be wearing a different uniform in 2011.

Do you want or expect to see changes in the Twins OF next season or do you think they should keep this unit intact as is? Please use the comment section to let us know your thoughts! – JC

6 Replies to “About The Twins Outfield Situation”

  1. I think trading DY would be a terrible idea. After all, we need some offense in the outfield. Yes, we’d get more for him in return than we would for Kubes, but it would be a much greater loss.

  2. I love voting. I am glad I live in a state where its so easy to vote too.

    a Twins note, Bill Smith was on 1500ESPN this afternoon. Not a whole lot of news came out of it, but he did say that they are interested in bringing back Jim Thome, that is if Thome wants to play another year. He also said that he/the organization is a bit disappointed in the pitchers in the Arizona Fall League

  3. I rather it be Kubes although DY would probably fetch more. I just don’t think you can trade DY after the yr he had, he’s finally figured it out.

  4. As good as Delmon was at the plate this year, I held my breath just about everytime anything other than a routine fly ball was hit to left. That being said, I think (or at least hope) he can improve his defense enough because the Twins need his bat in the lineup.

  5. Melissa, Tom and Lisa… I think your comments pretty much captured the challenge Smith is facing. Is DY on the brink of becoming a real superstar… or was this season the apex of his career? If you trade him, will you be trading a superstar just as he’s hitting his stride or will you be “selling high” before his performance plateaus or even regresses? Tough call and no matter what you do, you’ve got a good chance of being wrong and subject to a ton of “I told you so’s” this time next year.

    James, I would certainly hope Smith is more than a bit disappointed in the pitchers the Twins sent to AFL. I haven’t checked their stats lately, but the last I read (in Seth’s blog I think), they weren’t just struggling, they were stinking up the joint. If their Arizona performances are indicative of what the talent is among the Twins’ next line of top pitchers, we’d better hope the current staff stays healthy and productive a long time.

  6. Delmon just turned 25. This can’t possibly be the apex of his career! If he were 28 and just hitting his stride, I’d consider it a fluke, but he’s got plenty of time to head upward.