One name that I didn’t mention yesterday when running through the Twins’ search for a third baseman during the ongoing Winter Meetings in Las Vegas is Garrett Atkins, but apparently the Twins continue to have talks with the Rockies regarding the right-handed third baseman.
Atkins, who turns 29 on Friday, is poor defensively and figures to post above average – but not great – offensive numbers outside of Coors. Certainly he’d provide an upgrade over a Brendan Harris/Brian Buscher platoon, but perhaps not to the extent that he’d be worth giving up a starting pitcher for, which seems to be what the Rockies are demanding.
In the same article I linked above, La Velle E. Neal III notes that it is “coming to light … that the Twins really want to hold on to their core of young starters,” which I was pleased to read. Some have accused me overvaluing the Twins’ young rotation, which I’ve termed The Fab 5, but I think that having five starting pitchers who figure to give you league-average production or better at less than a million dollars is a wonderful thing to have in a market where the Carlos Silvas and Kyle Lohses of the world are signing long-term deals for exorbitant amounts of money. I also think many people are far too hasty in assuming that one of the Twins’ marginal starters in Triple-A will be able to step in and replace a guy like Glen Perkins or Nick Blackburn.
So if Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is in fact asking for any member of that group in return for Atkins, Bill Smith should politely tell him to take a hike. If the Mariners are seeking a guy like Perkins in return for Adrian Beltre, it merits more consideration. (Though it’s worth noting that all the “young starter for Beltre” speculation might be off-base, because the more I look at their roster, the more I realize that the Mariners really don’t need any more starting pitching.)
If the Twins are indeed still trying to acquire a third baseman, Beltre seems like the only reasonable option anymore at this point. Why do I say that? Because Phil Miller reports that the team only intends to upgrade one of the two left infield positions, with the indication being that acquiring a third baseman would lead to a Harris/Matt Tolbert platoon at short. That the Twins only plan on upgrading one of the two positions doesn’t come as a real surprise, but now that I’ve read it and mulled it over I’m thinking more and more that the club should be pursuing a shortstop. A Harris/Buscher platoon at third is far more appealing than a Harris/Tolbert platoon at short, particularly if that shortstop duo were to be accompanied on the left side by one of the defensively challenged third basemen that the Twins have reportedly been chasing this offseason (Casey Blake, Atkins, Kevin Kouzmanoff, etc.). I could maybe live with the sub par defense provided at shortstop by a Harris/Tolbert platoon if a strong defender like Beltre was manning the hot corner, but combining the two with another defensive liability at third would signal a total abandonment of infield defense.
All of which is why I think the Twins probably should re-sign Nick Punto. He plays sound defense at shortstop and probably will hit enough not to be a total liability there, and tabbing him to a reasonable two-year deal gives the team some flexibility to go after a third baseman. I’d also be open to bringing in a more potent shortstop and sticking with a Harris/Buscher platoon at third, but J.J. Hardy doesn’t seem realistic and I don’t know what else is out there.
If this post seemed like a rambling, circular cluster of thoughts, I apologize. It’s just a very tricky situation.