Tuesday, October 07, 2008

O-Dog, Go!

Yesterday's post examined Orlando Cabrera as a potential free agent target for the Twins this offseason, and I concluded that he wouldn't be a very wise investment. Today I'll take a look at another Orlando, one who I think the Twins would be much wiser in targeting this winter. I'm talking about second baseman Orlando Hudson.

Hudson, 30, just finished up his last year of arbitration and becomes eligible for free agency this offseason. He's not expected to re-sign with the Diamondbacks, meaning he will hit the open market. He's a disciplined switch-hitter with a .282/.346/.433 career line, and he's also an elite defender who collected Gold Gloves in three consecutive seasons (and might make that four this year). With his speed, hustle and proficiency with the glove, Hudson falls very much into the Twins organization mold, but he also possesses solid power for a middle infielder which is something we haven't seen around here in some time.

Many seem to view shortstop and third base as the positions where the Twins need to upgrade this offseason, but to me, second and short are somewhat interchangeable in the Twins' situation. I'm hardly sold on Alexi Casilla as a permanent answer at second base -- his numbers over the past two seasons have been pretty ugly except for that three-month tear he went on this year after being called up to the majors. If the Twins have an opportunity to bring in an outstanding second baseman like Hudson, it would make plenty of sense to slide Casilla over to his natural position, shortstop, and have him compete with Nick Punto for playing time. I think the Twins are in some trouble if they enter next season counting on both Casilla and Punto to start at the middle-infield spots, but I'm much more confident that one of two could perform satisfactorily as the starting shortstop. Both are solid defensively and could combine with Hudson to form a very nice keystone combo.

Of course, the big question with Hudson is price. He's amidst his prime and coming off a season in which he hit for a career-high .305 batting average, so Hudson will likely be looking for a lengthy deal with a high salary. There will be numerous teams interested in Hudson -- the Mets and White Sox have been mentioned, among others -- and this could drive up his price. I've seen some guesses that Hudson could command as much as $15 million annually, but that seems unlikely. If the Twins could tab him to a 3-4 year deal in the $30-40 million range, I think it would definitely be something worth considering. They'll have the money to spend next year and to a lesser degree the year after; things might become a little crunched in the following seasons, but the hope is that payroll increases from new stadium revenue would help soften that blow.

Year in and year out, the Twins waste millions of dollars on poor free agent signings, many of whom fail to even finish the season in a Minnesota uniform. This winter, if they want to take advantage of their budget surplus and make a splash, Hudson would be a smart choice.


Josh Johnson said...

I'd love to see either Rafael Furcal or Orlando Hudson in the middle of the Twins infield next season.

Nick N. said...

I think Furcal would be a great addition but for some reason I just think he'll cost a lot more than Hudson.

David Rasmussen said...

Hudson's BABIP for the last two years is .338 and .344. For his career, his BABIP is .318. As a Twin, with Hudson's batting luck averaged back out, he becomes a .270's hitter, just as he was as a Blue Jay, or a poorer hitter if declines.

What about Adam Everett? His BABIP as a Twin was .050 pts lower than his career average. Next year, Everett should bat .240 instead of .213.

If Everett's arm heals, and weighing the fielding, the hitting and the price, Everett might be worth keeping. I suggest spending the extra money on Beltre.

Anonymous said...

When was the last time the Twins went out and got a multi-year big name free agent?

I know Chili and Jack were both one year deals and coming off down years besides. Was Molitor year to year? I just don't see the Twins having much bargaining power with a guy not from Minnesota. If we are willing to pay $30-$40 million for this guy, why wouldn't New York pay $45?

Nick N. said...

Hudson's BABIP for the last two years is .338 and .344. For his career, his BABIP is .318. As a Twin, with Hudson's batting luck averaged back out, he becomes a .270's hitter, just as he was as a Blue Jay, or a poorer hitter if declines.

I think we can safely say that that 2005 season in Toronto is the outlier in Hudson's career. He has OPS'd over 800 for three straight years, and I don't think that's particularly attributable to luck. Some hitters just have a style that is conducive to a high BABIP. Luis Castillo is an example of that.

If we are willing to pay $30-$40 million for this guy, why wouldn't New York pay $45?

Well here's the thing about the Mets... they remain contractually obligated to Castillo through 2011. They are already regretting the four-year deal they inked him to last fall after the season he had this year, but they'll have trouble finding takers in a trade and they can hardly just eat a $25M contract. So while the Mets are often mentioned as a potential destination for Hudson and would certainly be able to outbid the Twins for his services, I'm not seeing how they're a fit.

David Rasmussen said...

Let me explain more clearly.

Here are Hudson's BABIP starting with 2002: .304, .312, .317,.298, .311, .338, .344. In his age 29 and age 30 seasons, Hudson had the highest BABIPs of his career.

Did Hudson get faster? Did he become a better hitter? It is really his "style" that is conductive to high BABIP? Or in 2009, will he revert to his career norms and have a correspondingly lower batting average?

Nick N. said...

Well, in 2006 with that .311 BABIP (which is probably about his "norm," if you believe he'll revert), he still hit .287/.354/.454, which is an excellent line from an elite defensive second baseman.