December 15, 2008

Third Base: Sign Wigginton? Stick with platoon? Other options?

After Nick Punto was re-signed for two more years, if the Twins are looking to upgrade any other areas, the focus is now completely on third base and the bullpen. The team has a few in-house options and there are still quite a few guys thought to be available either through trade or through free agency that could certainly help stabilize both positions.

Over the weekend, Ty Wigginton was non-tendered by the Houston Astros which made the 31-year-old probably the most desirable free agent (remaining) at third base. La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is already reporting that the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates are all interested in signing him. Ken Davidoff of News Day thinks the Mets should get into the action. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any word (since he was non-tendered) on whether the Twins will look at acquring him, it's been just speculation thus far.

The other day I mentioned that a 2-year $14 million offer might be what it takes to land him. Many commented that it would be far too much and that if it costs that much the Twins should just stick with Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris at third base. Neal believes that Wiggington is "worth at least $6 million a year and it may take $7 million a year to get him." With there already being a few teams in the mix to sign him, there's no doubt in my mind that he could legitimately get a salary between $6-7 million per season.

Other than Wigginton, Joe Crede is probably the most desirable remaining third baseman still on the market. But with Crede's health a major concern and the fact that he's a client of Scott Boras, the probability of Crede becoming a Twin is slim to none. Rich Aurilia and Aaron Boone are still available, but those guys are nowhere near as good as what we currently have at third base.

Nomar Garciaparra
was injured most of last year, but he is still a good player. Would the Twins take a flier on him? I seriously doubt it but I wouldn't be opposed (depending the deal). I doubt that his legs would hold up very well on the Metrodome Turf.

If the Twins can't find a fit through free agency, there are still options that through the trade route that may interest the Twins.

Adrian Beltre is one of the most thought after third basemen in baseball due to his solid offense and outstanding defense. He is the best option that is reportedly available, but his chances of becoming a Twin decreased significantly from an already slim chance after he reportedly put the Twins on his no-trade clause following the season. That's not to say that he doesn't want to come to Minnesota, it's more likely just a move that he and his agent (which happens to be Boras) came up with to try and squeeze out a few extra bucks from the team trying to acquire him.

What that shows me however is that he really is not as concerned about winning as he is about making money. Although that's not uncommon in this day and age, it's just something that the Twins don't look for in players. If Beltre really cared about winning, he'd do anything in his power to get out of Seattle and get onto a winning team, such as the Twins. This doesn't really do much in my own thoughts & feelings on him, but I am sure the Twins aren't interested in playing any games with him and Boras.

Garrett Atkins is another player the Twins have shown strong interest in but it looks like the Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd wants a lot more than what the Twins are willing to give up. Sometimes that doesn't take too much for the Twins who are sometimes very stingy when trying to trade, but the reports are that the Rockies at one point wanted Kevin Slowey, Denard Span and a prospect (or two) for Atkins. Even an armchair GM (such as myself) would know that that would be a crazy deal on the Twins behalf. If it were for Matt Holiday and Atkins, then I might be able to get behind that. But since Holiday is gone and the Rockies likely wouldn't give up any other player of (at least) significant value, I think that there is really no chance that the Twins get into talks with the Rockies again unless they lessen their demands.

Mark DeRosa's name has come up, but it doesn't look as if the Cubs want to trade him. The Twins would likely look to him as a third baseman, but if it were up to me, he'd play second base.

Kevin Kouzmanoff looks to be a fairly realistic option. The good thing about him is that he has serious power potential and is still under team control through 2012, which is great. But his negatives are his defense, OBP, strikes out too much and is not a good vs. southpaws. The negatives really outweigh the positives, but if his value is low enough the Twins may look to try and acquire him.

I still would like to see the Twins acquire Jason Donald if they aren't able to sign Wigginton. Donald could probably be had for a pitching prospect, but the question becomes is he a better option than Luke Hughes or Danny Valencia? Although he hasn't played anything over AA Ball, the Twins he is probably more Major League ready than either Valencia or Hughes. He somewhat reminds me of Valencia in that he's a solid all-around hitter, an older prospect, and also is a college draftee. Although I'd love to acquire him, he's not a clear cut better player than either of those two, so is it really worth the price of a good pitching prospect? I doubt the Twins think so.

Then there's the Buscher/Harris platoon. Although it would be great to not have to rely on a platoon, it sure worked out last year and the Twins really seem comfortable with this option at this point in time. This is probably the most likely of choices that the Twins will choose, but that could change in a day. The one thing that makes me really unsettled about this option is what if there's an injury to one of the two. I don't feel too good when thinking of Buscher starting against left-handers.

The Twins are looking for stability at third base. Although Hughes & Valencia are close to the majors, it's not a given that they'll be major assets to our team. The Twins really don't have a lot of free agent options, but Wigginton does "fit the mold" for the type of player the Twins are looking for. He's reasonably cheap and has a good, right-handed bat. This tidbit also tells you why the Twins and Wigginton would make a great match:
I've heard the phrase. "game on," used to describe him.
If it were up to you, what would you do? Sign a free agent? Trade for a player? Or would you rather just stick with the platoon?