I spent plenty of time last offseason dreaming about the possibility of Orlando Hudson landing in a Twins uniform. (See here, here and here.) Hudson qualified as a Type A free agent and the Twins have historically coveted their draft picks, so it didn't surprise me to see the team express little public interest in the second baseman despite his going unsigned through the first three months of the offseason. When Hudson ultimately inked a one-year deal with the Dodgers that guaranteed only $3.4 million -- an incredible bargain -- I let out a frustrated sigh but was hardly taken off-guard.
One year later, Hudson finds himself in a similar situation. Once again, he's entered the month of February without a contract and -- with few legitimate suitors -- he is coming to terms with the reality that he won't be getting the type of contract he'd hoped for.
That is unfortunate news for Hudson, who has been victimized by a tough free agent market over the past couple winters. But it's potentially very good news for the Twins, who now actually appear to be showing interest in signing him. Bill Smith and Co. have been quiet on the Hudson front for most of the offseason, but recent reports have been connecting the free agent with the Twins more frequently, and FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reported through one of his sources today that the team's pursuit of Hudson has "intensified."
This is excellent news, because Hudson makes as much sense for the Twins this year as he did last year, if not more. The lineup is well constructed but clearly lacking one key piece: a hitter who can slide into the No. 2 spot between Denard Span and Joe Mauer to provide the bat-handling capabilities that Ron Gardenhire requires of a player in that role while also providing enough offensive production to merit such a high spot in the batting order. Hudson, a switch-hitter with a .282/.357/.431 career hitting line (which he basically matched last year), reaches base enough to be an asset in the two-hole and sprinkles in some power as well. Additionally, he was used in the small-ball capacity more than ever with the Dodgers last year, setting a career high with nine sacrifice hits.
Hudson is no longer the defender that his trophy case and its four Gold Glove Awards would suggest that he is, but he's more than competent at second base. His addition would solidify the Twins' infield, giving them three quality full-time starters and allowing Nick Punto to return to the super-utility role he's best suited for while also splitting time with Brendan Harris at third.
Adding Hudson is almost a no-brainer from a competitive standpoint, so really this all comes down to dollars and cents. The Twins have stretched their budget thin already and Joe Christensen opined earlier this week that the Twins would not spend even $3 million on the second baseman. Yet, Hudson's options are running low and multiple reports have his choices narrowed down to Washington and Minnesota. If the Twins are willing to match Washington's offer (or come close) and Hudson is forced to choose between playing for the Nationals, who won an MLB-low 59 games last year and won't come close to sniffing the playoffs this year, or the Twins, who made the playoffs last year and will be favored by many to return this year while playing in a brand new stadium, it's hard to imagine he'd opt for the Nats. Then again, there's no way of knowing right now whether the Twins are willing to offer the same deal, or whether Hudson has some particular aversion to playing here (Christensen mentioned in another blog entry that he'd "been told Hudson had little interest in the Twins in the past").
At this stage it's unclear what will happen with the Twins and Hudson. But reading multiple reports that the team is finally showing serious public interest in him qualifies as a very encouraging sign. I've coveted Hudson for a long time, and right now he looks like the potential missing piece for a club that seems poised to make a deep run this season. Here's hoping that Smith and the Twins realize this and show some willingness to stretch the budget a little bit accordingly.