Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Addressing Third Base

No doubt about it, the Michael Cuddyer experiment last season failed miserably. Cuddyer, who the Twins were relying on to provide offensively as a replacement for Corey Koskie, was awful at the plate last season and perhaps even worse in the field. He will not be starting at third next season, so it is back to the drawing board for the Twins as they look into other possibilities on the free agent market and in trades for the hot corner. Matt Moses is the only third baseman in their system who looks even close to ready to making a splash in the Majors, but he didn't exactly tear up the Arizona Fall League so there's no reason to think he'll be ready within the next year.

Monday, the Marlins traded Mike Lowell, a third baseman the Twins were rumored to be interested in, to the Red Sox along with Josh Beckett. I never thought Lowell was that great of an option, as he carries a hefty pricetag and was absolutely awful last year, but his glove would be nice and there is reason to think he could bounce back next season based on his history as a major offensive threat. There's no guarantee that the Red Sox will hold on to Lowell, as he basically just came stapled along with Beckett (who they really wanted) and they have a nice young third baseman in Kevin Youkilis who will likely start next year. That said, I don't see the Twins making a move for Lowell.

Another name the Twins are rumored to be interested in is Texas' Hank Blalock. Blalock has posted gaudy numbers in his young career with the Rangers and is a terrific defender, but a quick look at his stats away from the Rangers' friendly stadium quickly tell why acquiring him might not be the wisest idea. He hit .231 on the road last year with a .611 OPS, and only five of his 25 home runs came away from home. Now, I'm not a person who's going to say that Blalock will be a poor hitter whenever he leaves the Rangers; I have seen him hit on several occasions and I know that he is a great hitter who can drive the ball and bring home runners, but it wouldn't necessarily be wise to expect the same production from him in the Metrodome as he has had in Texas the past four years. Then again, it should also be noted that he made only $850K last year, although he will likely be demanding a raise next year.

Nomar Garciaparra is another name worth looking at. The Cubs' shortstop who has struggled with injuries the past few years is on the free agent market, and he probably won't be demanding an insane amount of money. He has some experience playing third base and has stated that he wouldn't mind playing there on a regular basis next year. I think Garciaparra would be a very nice option, but he would probably struggle on defense and he hasn't played much in the past couple years so he might have trouble returning to his old form.

Of course, the Twins have also expressed interest in former Red Sox 3B Bill Mueller, who is in free agency as well, but his age and lack of production on the road put up some immediate red flags. The previous three names would most certainly be better, albeit more expensive, options.

6 comments:

Jeff said...

I can't agree that Cuddyer was "awful" last year. He certainly wasn't great, but after an April that truly was awful he was decent the rest of the year. Not great, but decent, and certainly better than the other guys they played at third last year.

As you noted, all the guys the Twins might get have question marks. On the other hand, it's the Twins--they aren't going to pay for a proven superstar, so anyone they get will be somewhat of a gamble. It's just a question of whether it's better to gamble with someone new or gamble with what they have.

Nick N. said...

Cuddyer was poor in the field all year last year, and while his offense did improve after April, he never showed the necessary consistent power or ability to provide in important situations.

That said, I wouldn't be totally disgusted to see him starting at second next year. If he can hit like he did after April last year, his offense there would be sufficient, and I think second base his best defensive position.

Nick M. said...

Agreed. Some people say third is not our issue, but clearly Cuddyer is just not comfortable over there. How many overthrows do we need to see before we realize he is much more inclined to play second? Morneau, Cuddyer, Bartlett isn't cringe-worthy as long as we add a decent thrid baseman.

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