Having come within a game of the postseason in 2008, the Twins enter the 2009 season with last year's roster almost entirely intact, and with a great opportunity to seize an eminently winnable AL Central division. The problem is that the Twins have not made one meaningful addition this offseason, and if that continues to be the case they're not likely to be favored by many to make the playoffs, much less succeed there. As solid as the the Twins' roster is, they may have a hard time keeping up with competing AL clubs that have been wheeling and dealing to improve their chances. As cliche as it may seem, there's plenty of truth to the notion that adding one impact player could make all the difference in what figures to be a tight division race in '09.
Of course, making a move while holding a "win now" mentality typically means giving away pieces with future value in return for immediate help. The Twins aren't generally in the business of trading away promising minor-leaguers for established veterans (usually they're on the opposite end of those swaps), but they have had some success in the past with trading prospects. As two examples, you can look at the Luis Castillo trade prior to the 2006 season and last year's Delmon Young/Matt Garza swap. In order to acquire Castillo, the Twins had to ship highly touted RP prospect Travis Bowyer to the Marlins along with a solid starting prospect in Scott Tyler. The deal seemed risky at the time, but Bowyer struggled with injury problems immediately after reaching the Marlins organization and hasn't pitched in a professional game since the trade. Meanwhile, Tyler fizzled out and never moved past Double-A. In the Young trade, Bill Smith was forced to include top RP prospect Eduardo Morlan in order to entice the Rays, a move that the time drew ire from fans such as myself. Yet, like Bowyer, Morlan struggled with injury problems last season and after the season was deemed expendable enough by the Rays to be left vulnerable in the Rule V draft.
If the Twins want to make a move and bring in a quality player who can help immediately, it might mean giving up a prospect who is deemed highly valuable by other teams around the league. The trick for the Twins is making sure that player isn't one whose loss will come back to haunt them. To me, the perfect candidate for such a purpose is Ben Revere.
Revere was a great story last year. The diminutive, athletic outfielder had plenty of doubters after being grabbed up by the Twins in the first round of the 2007 draft in what was almost universally viewed as a huge reach intended to save the organization money on a signing bonus. Yet, after a successful half-season rookie-league debut in 2007, Revere took the Midwest League by storm last season, flirting with a .400 average for much of the year and ultimately finishing with a .379/.433/.497 line that earned the 20-year-old the No. 2 slot on Baseball America's postseason organizational Top Ten Prospects list. Clearly, Revere's value is very high right now. And in my mind, there's a very good chance it will never be higher.
I have a sinking feeling that Revere's stock is going to drop significantly, and perhaps as soon as next year. For while the possibility certainly exists that he could ultimately develop into "Ichiro without the arm," as I've heard a few analysts predict, I believe it is much more likely that he develops into a Juan Pierre type player -- an outfielder who hits for a solid average and runs well but doesn't provide much else. Should Revere follow that path, it doesn't mean he can't be a useful player, but it also means he's pretty expendable.
While Revere maintained a nearly even K/BB ratio last year and did manage 18 extra-base hits in 83 games, my fear is that he will never develop great patience at the plate (he's walked only 40 times in 133 minor-league games) or legitimate power (he's homered only once over that same span). If this is true, his value will be tied directly to his ability to hit for a high batting average, and it seems rather unlikely that he'll continue to hit in the high .300s as he moves up through the minors. Should Revere hit something like .300/.350/.390 in Ft. Myers next year, his value could take a pretty significant hit considering that he's an outfielder whose throwing arm is reportedly a considerable liability.
Another key factor worth considering is the fact that Revere is somewhat redundant in this organization. Not only are there several athletic center-field types in front of him -- such as Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Jason Pridie, Dustin Martin and Joe Benson -- he's also got the organization's top prospect right behind him.
Aaron Hicks starred in the Gulf Coast League last year, and he's got something I always look for in a top prospect: outs. What I mean by that is that Hicks has enough intriguing aspects to his game that if he doesn't develop in certain areas, he has other skills that he can reliably fall back on. Hicks showed impressive discipline at the plate in his pro debut last year, and he also displayed solid power. Even if that plate discipline dissipates as he moves up, Hicks still has a decent shot at being a productive hitter because he has a legitimate shot at developing power. Moreover, Hicks is reportedly a very strong defender with a cannon for an arm, so even if the bat doesn't really pan out, he could still find a niche as a top-notch defensive center fielder. A similar case can be made for catcher Wilson Ramos, who I feel is the organization's second-best prospect. Even if Ramos fails to make major strides with his plate discipline, he's already got a pretty powerful bat, and if that fizzles out he can fall back on his reputation as an excellent defensive backstop.
I'm not seeing as many outs for Revere. At 5'9" and 166 lbs, it seems unlikely to me that he'll ever develop much power (though it's certainly not impossible), and should that be the case, then what happens if his plate discipline starts to decline as he moves up, or if his batting averages start to head south?
I like Revere and would love to see what he could do as he moves up the ladder in this organization. But the Twins are in a great position to succeed right now, and in order to bring in something of immediate value through a trade, they must part with something that is perceived as valuable to another club. For this reason, it'd be tough for the Twins to build an attractive package around prospects who aren't at their peak value -- guys like Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship and Tyler Robertson. Revere is a hot item right now... perhaps hotter than he will ever be in the future. That makes this the perfect time to move him, particularly considering that the Twins have enough depth to move forward comfortably without him.
On a final note, I'd like to send my thoughts to the Pohlad family. Longtime Twins owner Carl Pohlad passed away yesterday at the age of 93.