Yesterday's post examined Orlando Cabrera as a potential free agent target for the Twins this offseason, and I concluded that he wouldn't be a very wise investment. Today I'll take a look at another Orlando, one who I think the Twins would be much wiser in targeting this winter. I'm talking about second baseman Orlando Hudson.
Hudson, 30, just finished up his last year of arbitration and becomes eligible for free agency this offseason. He's not expected to re-sign with the Diamondbacks, meaning he will hit the open market. He's a disciplined switch-hitter with a .282/.346/.433 career line, and he's also an elite defender who collected Gold Gloves in three consecutive seasons (and might make that four this year). With his speed, hustle and proficiency with the glove, Hudson falls very much into the Twins organization mold, but he also possesses solid power for a middle infielder which is something we haven't seen around here in some time.
Many seem to view shortstop and third base as the positions where the Twins need to upgrade this offseason, but to me, second and short are somewhat interchangeable in the Twins' situation. I'm hardly sold on Alexi Casilla as a permanent answer at second base -- his numbers over the past two seasons have been pretty ugly except for that three-month tear he went on this year after being called up to the majors. If the Twins have an opportunity to bring in an outstanding second baseman like Hudson, it would make plenty of sense to slide Casilla over to his natural position, shortstop, and have him compete with Nick Punto for playing time. I think the Twins are in some trouble if they enter next season counting on both Casilla and Punto to start at the middle-infield spots, but I'm much more confident that one of two could perform satisfactorily as the starting shortstop. Both are solid defensively and could combine with Hudson to form a very nice keystone combo.
Of course, the big question with Hudson is price. He's amidst his prime and coming off a season in which he hit for a career-high .305 batting average, so Hudson will likely be looking for a lengthy deal with a high salary. There will be numerous teams interested in Hudson -- the Mets and White Sox have been mentioned, among others -- and this could drive up his price. I've seen some guesses that Hudson could command as much as $15 million annually, but that seems unlikely. If the Twins could tab him to a 3-4 year deal in the $30-40 million range, I think it would definitely be something worth considering. They'll have the money to spend next year and to a lesser degree the year after; things might become a little crunched in the following seasons, but the hope is that payroll increases from new stadium revenue would help soften that blow.
Year in and year out, the Twins waste millions of dollars on poor free agent signings, many of whom fail to even finish the season in a Minnesota uniform. This winter, if they want to take advantage of their budget surplus and make a splash, Hudson would be a smart choice.