July 20, 2009

Twins sign Mark Grudzielanek

Seth Stohs reported yesterday that the Twins and free agent second baseman Mark Grudzeilanek have agreed to terms on a Minor League contract. Grudzielanek will report to Ft. Myers where he'll work out a week or two before being placed somewhere in the system.

Many Twins fans are split on this signing. While both sides are understanding, I do have to say I'm slightly on the 'pro' side of this argument.

Here are the cons:
  • He's 39-years-old
  • He hasn't played for almost a year (he was injured the last two months of the 2008 season)
  • This will likely be the Twins' only move toward upgrading second base and possibly even the team.

And here are the pros:
  • He's a career .290/.332/.395 hitter and has been best since he turned 33-years-old.
  • He is a solid defender with a career UZR/150 of 8.8 at second base.
  • He's cheap and doesn't require anything other than money to acquire.

I don't for one minute believe that Grudzielanek is going to be a season-changing addition, but with the way Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto have played this season, I love this signing. Grudzielanek's OPS+ has been around league average for the past six seasons while Punto and Casilla's combined OPS+ this season would still be 23 points below Grudzielanek's from a season ago. I know, I know. Different season means different story, but even their career OPS+ numbers are still well below Grudzielanek's.

Grudzielanek's defense is also something that should bring optimism to this signing. He has been one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball the past few years, something that the Twins can really use at second base if Brendan Harris continues to make starts at shortstop.

Casilla is still (at least according to Bill Smith) the 'first choice', but he'll need to pick it up quickly if he expects to hold onto second base. He has just one hit in his first nine at-bats since being recalled, but he's not looking overwhelmingly better than what he looked prior to his demotion, which is what the Twins wanted to see. Obviously we need more than three games to make a proper assessment, but the Twins aren't going to give him a lot of time to clean up his act.

I do hope that this isn't the only move the Twins make to improve our team but it wouldn't be out of the Twins' character for that to be reality. The Twins have (in the past) been attracted to several older veterans at the trade deadline (Phil Nevin and Brett Boone to name a few), but they've failed to bring in players of real value. While I have more confidence in Grudzielanek than I ever did in Nevin or Boone, I do think that this is not going to be a season-changing move.

And while the Twins add Grudzielanek, the conventional thought is that Freddy Sanchez is now off the radar. While that is probably true, at least it does put (a little) less pressure on the Twins to make a move for either Sanchez or another second baseman. If they do make another deal, Grudzielanek's services could be used elsewhere throughout the system.

One thing is almost certain though, it puts more priority on adding bullpen help. Several names have been linked to the Twins and there seems to be plenty of relief help available. I do have one problem with acquiring bullpen help in that at the trade deadline, it's at such a high demand that teams will often overpay for relievers. But while the bullpen seems to have gotten better almost each month this season, there is still room for improvement.

I hope this isn't the only move the Twins make, but I wouldn't be surprised. While it's easy to dislike this move, I can't help but like it because of how poor both our second basemen and #2 hitters have been this season. I have to limit my expectations on Grudzielanek, but I do think this is an imiprovement.