Whether because of injury, poor performance or trade, the Twins have annually gotten far fewer games than expected from their season-opening keystone combos. Unless Casilla and Nishioka can miraculously shatter that trend, we should expect to see other players getting significant time in the middle infield this year.As it turned out, Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka did not shatter that trend. Quite the contrary. Between injuries and sheer ineffectiveness, they missed more time than any other duo over the past six years, playing in only 165 games combined. This left a lot of middle-infield work in the hands of players like Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dinkelman and Luke Hughes; as you saw, the results were not pretty.
The Twins clearly underrated the importance of experienced depth in the infield last year, a mistake they are unlikely to repeat. After sitting through a season marred by booted grounders, errant throws, missed relays and plain old lousy fundamentals, Ron Gardenhire has undoubtedly stated his desire for the front office to shore up this unit.
So, what's out there? Among the free agent crop, some names that pop out at me are Ramon Santiago, Cesar Izturis, John McDonald, Edgar Renteria, Nick Punto and Jamey Carroll.
I realize that none of these options are all that enthralling. They're not high-impact, premium names and in some cases they shouldn't be viewed as starting candidates. But these are veterans who have been around the block, and since the Twins seem unlikely to break the bank for a player like Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, they are the types of infielders I expect to see targeted in the coming months.