Since Todd Walker and Chuck Knoblauch played at the Metrodome, the Twins haven't had steady play from any of their second basemen. In fact, the team has put in little effort (at least, compared to other positions) to upgrade it at all. Surely you can mention Brett Boone or Luis Castillo, but both were well past their prime before putting on a Twins uniform. And when options like Alexi Casilla and Luis Rivas have failed, the Twins haven't been able to find a suitable replacement. And now after a decade of futility at (admittedly) a position that isn't viewed as a highly productive position, the Twins could be in a great position to finally find a productive player to put at second base.
Last week, I mentioned who I would most like to see at second base. Today, I'll give other options that could entise the Twins. And thankfully, there are quite a few.
Orlando Cabrera - The Twins traded for JJ Hardy last week which made everyone assume that the Twins would move on from Cabrera. But since the trade, there have been some rumblings over Ron Gardenhire's comments of how he'd would like to keep Cabrera with the team. As a second baseman.
I understand why Gardenhire would like to keep a person like Cabrera around, but from a player standpoint, I see little reasoning to it. Cabrera hasn't played more than a game at second base sine 1998 and he's a liability at the top of the lineup. If the Twins had an ideal number-two hitter to implant between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, I may be a little more open to it. But I would like to see someone that is better at getting on-base in that spot. Cabrera played well for the Twins down the stretch, but I'm sure that he's looking for a multi-year deal and that's not something I'd like to see the Twins offer a 35-year-old with a severely declined skill set.
Orlando Hudson - When taking in both offensive and defensive production, Hudson's been one of the most underrated second basemen in all of baseball this decade. Despite being on the wrong-side of 30, he still has proven to have a productive bat from both sides of the plate. Last season, Hudson hit .283/.357/.417 which was pretty similar to the triple-slash line that he put up as a 26-years-old in Toronto and nearly identical to his career hitting line.
The problem with Hudson these days isn't his bat, it's his defense. Yesterday, reports came out that Hudson won his fourth Gold Glove Award of his career. Although we won't know until later today if that's true, we've come to know that the award is based a lot of reputation than actual defensive standards. According to his UZR, Hudson has been considered below average defensively in both the last two seasons. But his defense was better in 2009 than it was in 2008 which could make some believe that he's on the rebound.
Hudson's injury risks and declining defense may make some want to keep away from signing him. Much like last off-season, Hudson heads into free agency with the lackluster 'Type-A' status hanging over his head, which immediately made me say, "no way, Jose!" But as John Bonnes points out, some teams may be against offering some of their players arbitration over fear of them accepting it. While I don't think the Dodgers would be distraught over Hudson accepting their arbitration proposal, they may be better advised to let him walk instead of offering him a large one-year offer. As Bonnes mentioned, Hudson was benched toward the end of last season after falling apart in September.
If the Dodgers don't offer arbitration to Hudson, I expect the Twins to make a big play for him. He's an ideal two-hole hitter and wouldn't cost a first round pick. Even with his declining defense, the Twins would be making a mistake if they didn't look into him.
Placido Polanco - Much like the same case between the Dodgers and Hudson, the Tigers have a tough decision to make whether or not to offer Polanco arbitration. Polanco also qualified as a Type-A free agent and the 34-year-old will look at the trouble that fellow 30+ year-old infielders have had trying to ink a contract and could choose to stay in MoTown. And the Tigers aren't as prepared as the Dodgers in the event that Polanco does accept arbitration. The reason is that Scott Sizemore is slatted to start at second for the Tigers in 2010 and it probably isn't worth the risk to offer Polanco arbitration.
Despite his age, Polanco is still very valuable defensively and was awarded the second Gold Glove of his career yesterday. According to UZR, Polanco saved 11.4 runs with his glove this season, the highest in baseball. Polanco also is a pest at the plate and could be an interesting bat to have between Span and Mauer. Although he doesn't walk a ton, he's hard to strike out and makes a lot of contact. Polanco, like Hudson, should also be on the Twins' radar if he's not offered arbitration.
Brandon Phillips - Unlike the other options, Philips would need to be acquired through a trade instead of free agency. The Reds are believed to be cutting costs this off-season which makes players such as Phillips vulnerable to be traded. He's set to make $29.75 million over the next three years but doesn't turn 30 until the middle of the 2011 season. Phillips isn't an ideal two-hole hitter, but he's a good right-handed bat with pop. He also plays very strong defense and was recognized with a Gold Glove in 2008.
Unfortunately, the Twins already have several eight-figure players on the team already and should they add Phillips, they'd be adding two more for 2011 with Michael Cuddyer's option being picked up. If the Twins planned on shedding some salary between now and then, it might make some sense, but I don't see the Twins adding a player like Phillips right now.
So there are several other players that have been discussed throughout the Twins Blogosphere. I still think that Felipe Lopez would be a good fit, but there are certainly other intriguing options that could make sense for the Twins.