Thursday, July 23, 2009

Growing Pains

Those who have followed this blog for a while are undoubtedly aware that I was pretty lukewarm on Joe Crede when the Twins signed him. Here's an excerpt from my preseason write-up on the third base position that basically summarized my position on the newly acquired third baseman.
If he's healthy, Crede should be expected to deliver reasonable power numbers and solid defense while hitting for a poor average and making a ton of outs. A player like that is not without value, but those who are expecting Crede to be a superstar who will single-handedly turn around the team's fortunes are bound to be disappointed. And that's if he's healthy.
Crede has lived up to those expectations almost exactly. When he has been on the field, he has played excellent defense and provided some much-needed pop, with 29 extra-base hits in 264 at-bats. He has also posted a paltry .239 average and .299 on-base percentage while missing time sporadically due to various injuries. His back hasn't proven to be a huge problem, but Crede has been far from an iron man. Now, it appears that a potentially serious shoulder injury could put the rest of his season in jeopardy.

Crede is scheduled to see specialist Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles today regarding his aching A/C joint. On Tuesday night, the third baseman reportedly felt extreme pain in his right shoulder -- which he initially injured in Texas over the weekend -- and also experienced numbness in his hand. These are bad signs.

Over the past couple years, Crede has had a tough time staying in the lineup consistently, which was one of the main reasons I was heavily opposed to handing him a sizable guaranteed contract this spring. Ultimately, Bill Smith was able to negotiate Crede's agent Scott Boras down to a one-year deal that included only $2.5 million in guarantees, with $4.5 million in additional salary to be earned through playing time incentives. The contract is now looking exceedingly wise.

Of course, money is not much of a concern for fans right now. The larger concern is that losing Crede for an extended period of time would leave another significant hole in the Twins' lineup. His combination of speed power and defense at third base will be impossible to replace with the players currently on the roster.

If Crede is out, the Twins could seek to replace him with a combination of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher. That approach seems rather unappealing at this point though; Harris at third means Punto at shortstop, and Buscher's substandard defense will be hard to tolerate with the rest of the team struggling in the field.

It could be that the better bet would be to call up Danny Valencia, who is absolutely mashing the ball in Rochester right now. In 25 games since moving up to Triple-A, Valencia has hit .370/.379/.620 with 10 doubles, five homers and 22 RBI. Pushing him to the majors so aggressively would be uncharacteristic of the Twins, though, and questions linger about his plate discipline and defense. Valencia has clearly established himself as the top candidate to fill third base for the Twins over the next several years, but it's not clear that throwing him directly into the fray amidst a pennant race after playing just a handful of games in Triple-A is the right choice.

Fresh off an absolutely embarrassing series in Oakland, the Twins could find themselves in a very precarious position if Crede's injury turns out to be serious. This team already has enough gaping holes, and adding one more could very well end their chances of contending in this division. The pressure is mounting on the general manager and the front office to right the ship and keep this team from unraveling completely. Let's hope they're up to the challenge.

9 comments:

D'Luigi said...

I agree, this team needs Crede in the lineup for the stretch run... I also agree with you about Valencia, finishing this season in AAA (and possibly a September call up) is probably best for his development. I have to say that with Grudzy a potential help in middle infield and moving Harris to 3B is probably the right move if we lose Crede, only problem is Grudzy needs time in minors to shake the rust off.

I just don't see us making a bigger trade move, but I hope we do.

janus said...

Thought this was interesting. Twins UZR by position so far this year (which one of these is not like the others? ):

1B: -1.8
2B: -9.1
3B: +11.9
SS: -2.5
LF: -6.0
CF: -1.6
RF: -9.6

Here's hoping Crede can get healthy, because losing his glove is a big blow. For what it's worth, the Tigers have a team UZR of +24.4.

Topper said...

Ok, the Perkins fiasco again makes me think that our rotation is really the killer. Brings me back to Halladay. Since you don't like Doogie's proposed package, how about some more baseless suggestion:

Blackburn 3.44 ERA/ 1.33 WHIP
Delaney 2.83 ERA/ 1.13 WHIP (AAA)
Manship 4.03 ERA/ 1.30 WHIP (AAA)
Morales .343/.397/.403
Casilla .143/.247/.211
Tosoni .283/.389/.478 (AA)

or maybe even Gomez instead of Tosoni?

Schruender said...

You know what could have been interesting is if the Red Sox had acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres. That would have made him the everyday first baseman and made Mike Lowell expendable. Of course Lowell has the same injury problem that Crede has, but I imagine the Red Sox would have been willing to swallow some of the salary hit.

I don't think you'll notice a giant hole left by Crede's departure. Bill James always says defense is a little over rated and the average, well you've covered that.

mike said...

I don't know how long it will last, but I thought it was noteworthy that at least for the moment the Twins are 1-2-3 in OPS+ and adjusted batting wins in the AL. The old Free Kubel campaign has had some success.

Anonymous said...

Do you still call this abortion of a rotation "The Fab 5" Nick?

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