With the burdensome thought of Jason Pridie making the roster, many believe that the Twins are in need of another outfielder. So when oft-injured outfielder Eric Byrnes was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks last week, John Bonnes of Twins Geek immediately made his sales pitch for Byrnes to come to Minnesota.
Bonnes puts forward that Pridie is not someone we want to see batting a lot. I agree. But I believe that the Twins still consider Jason Kubel their fourth outfielder, which means Pridie will only see action when Denard Span needs a rest or late in games as a defensive replacement. Byrnes will receive $11 million this season from the Diamondbacks and it's assumed that he'll sign for the veteran minimum in order to latch on with a team in hopes of signing a multi-year contract in free agency next year. So low-risk, high-reward? Right? Maybe not.
The biggest (and only) quarrel I have with the proposal of bringing in Byrnes is Bonnes' belief that the Twins need to bring in someone who can continue to push and challenge Delmon Young. Have we forgotten all of the enormous pressure Young has had on him since coming to Minnesota? When dealing with young players, it's common for people to buy into the belief that they need to be pushed. But at the same time, we need to keep in mind that everyone responds differently to pressure. It's been noted in the past that Young is a fairly sensitive person. Pushing him hasn't worked up to this point. so lets try giving him a little room to breathe and allow him to feel comfortable and even instill a little faith in him.
The Rays showed faith in Young when they took him as the first overall pick in the 2003 draft. Throughout his time with the organization, Young's playing time was never in question and it was up him to motivate himself and to perform well, it was expected of him, but he knew there weren't going to be ramifications if he went on an 0-20 skid. When he came over to the Twins, he was a young and immature 22-year-old who had little discipline throughout his time with the Rays.
Immediately, both the Twins and media put a lot of pressure on him. That carried into last season when trade rumors and quotes from manager Ron Gardenhire were circulating the internet. Gardenhire indirectly said that his preferred outfield was Carlos Gomez, Michael Cuddyer and Span. It appeared evident that the Twins grew sour of Young in just a year's time.
Young went on to split time with Gomez for the majority of the season. He had a great second-half, hitting .300/.322/.502 with 21 extra-base hits (including nine home runs). He stepped-up and was one of our best hitters following Justin Morneau's season-ending back injury. At that time, the Twins went with a steady dose of Young, Span and Kubel in the outfield.
Maybe it was comforting to Young that the Twins felt that they'd rather have Jose Morales in the lineup instead of Gomez. Who knows? Over his last 21 games of the season he added 23 points to his batting average, 24 points to his on-base percentage and 46 points to his slugging percentage.
Following the season, rumblings of Young being non-tendered were quickly shot down by the front office. The Twins eventually traded Gomez to Milwaukee for shortstop J.J. Hardy, all but guaranteeing Young a starting role in 2010. Could this be Young's year to finally take that step forward? Maybe. But the front office certainly looks as though they have faith in Young.
I'm not saying this method is right or that Bonnes' ideas are wrong. I would just like to see the Twins change their approach with Young. Pushing him hasn't worked up to this point so instead, give him comfort and maybe something good will come of it.
And with all of that said, I'd rather see the Twins sign a bench bat who can DH when Kubel is needed in the outfield.
Who could that bench bat be?
The Twins are reportedly interested in signing Jim Thome. The fact that they are interested in him shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. Up to this point, I haven't really thought about the Twins adding a bench bat, despite having a feeble bench. Thome would allow Kubel to move to the outfield when necessary and the Twins wouldn't have to settle for a poor replacement DH.