Here is the production on the plate by the middle infield for the Twins in 2008, broken down by month, compared to the twins team (all position players):
April May June July Aug Sept Overall
Team: .666 .740 .770 .802 .771 .739 .748
Punto: .568 .884 .774 .817 .744 .653 .726
Casilla: .937 .742 .718 .622 .574 .707
Harris: .716 .609 .649 .811 .788 .878 .721
Everett: .437 .628 .704 .764 .601 (career: .653)
Tolbert: .700 .560 .897 .711
Here are the fielding numbers from the Twins infielders in 2008:
Defense: 2B FP 2B ZR SS FP SS ZR (min 20 inn)
Punto .985 .787 .973 .865
Casilla .974 .830
Harris .969 .786 .976 .764
Everett .967 .829 (career: .976 FP .876 ZR)
Tolbert .978 .758 .976 .794
The incumbent SS (Punto) had an .726 OPS with .973 FP and .865 ZP. Everett's career numbers are also included, since he spent the majority of the season injured. Some observations:
- Nick Punto had a good year on the field at SS and an average year on the plate, while Everett was hurt most of the season
- The monthly breakdown, suggests that Punto and Casilla ran out of steam the last 2 months of the year, while Harris, Everett and Tolbert improved as the season moved on.
- Casilla's decrease in production was linear and it is troublesome to the point that there might be questions whether he could hold a starting job next year. Most of the fans remember Casilla's game winning hit sweeping the White Sox the last series at the Dome in September, as well as his timely hits and energy infusion to the club when he was called up. However, overall his production was slowed during the season
Here is a look at potential targets for the SS position, along with their 2008 numbers (career numbers added when appropriate), age, RH/LH/S batting, and potential cost for the Twins to obtain or sign. The cost for resigning the Twins' free agents is also included
Free agents (SS):
Raphael Furcal(S, 31): 1.012 OPS .972 FP .856 ZR (35 games started)
(career: .764 OPS .966 FP .834 ZR)
Cost: $12M for 3 years
Orlando Cabrera (R, 35): .721 OPS .978 FP .831 ZR
Cost: $10M/3 years
Cesar Izturis (S, 29): .628 OPS .980 FP .850 ZR
Cost: $1.5M/2 years
Punto, cost $3.5M/3 years
Everett cost $1.5M/1 year
Potential trade targets (SS):
J.J. Hardy (R, 26): .821 OPS .977 FP .813 ZR
Cost: To Brewers, at least one young starting pitcher, potentially and outfielder and another prospect. To Hardy, 2 years of arbitration at $6M-$7M each
Khalil Greene (R, 29): .599 OPS. (career: .731 OPS) .982 FP .852 ZR
Cost: To Padres, an average starting pitcher (Bonser/Humber) and a prospect. To Greene: 1 year $6.5-7.5M (based on incentives). His relations with Padres are strained and the Padres will be more than willing to let go.
There has been discussion to sign and/or trade for a second baseman, switching Casilla to SS. I cannot find the ZR numbers of Casilla at SS, but his career FP at SS is .963.
Looking at potential 2B free agents and trade targets:
Free agents (2B):
Mark Ellis (R, 31): .694 OPS .993 FP .868 ZR
Cost: $4M/ 3 years
Orlando Hudson (S, 31): .817 OPS .982 FP .790 ZR
Cost: $7M/ 3 years
Potential trade target (2B)
Dan Uggla (R, 29): .874 OPS .981 FP .803 ZR
Cost: To the Marlins: A starter, an infielder and a prospect; To Uggla: 3 years of arbitration at $6-8M each
There are several options for the Twins to chose:
- the worst of it is staying put and using Casilla at 2B, while having Harris, Tolbert and Plouffe battle for a starting SS position.
- along the same lines, they could resign Punto as the starting SS, have Casilla as the starting 2B and Tolbert and Harris would play utility roles. Even though Punto is adequate as a starting SS, there are the previously indicated questionmarks about Casilla being able to hold his 2B job on a day to day basis. For fairness sake, Casilla played hurt during September, so it is difficult to determine whether his numbers slit because of that and he needs the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, SS is probably a lesser priority than a power bat at 3B at this point
- Signing a free agent SS, other than Furcal does not make much sense, since Cabrera (who is not a spring chicken any more) will likely have the production of Punto or Harris and Izturis the production of Everett. If the Twins have an extra $12M a year to spend, signing Furcal would be great, but I suspect that after getting a third baseman, they cannot spend that much money for a SS
- How about trades? I do not see the J.J. Hardy trade happening, mainly because, what the Brewers need in return, is better spend and it is probably what it will take to get a third baseman. On the other hand, the Greene option needs to be at least entertained. Greene is a premium defender and he has some pop with the bat. He is slugging .802 career away from Petco field. His relations with the Padres are severely strained and the Padres may let him walk for a package centered around someone like Boof Bonser, which would be a win-win situation for both teams
- I do not like the idea of moving Casilla to SS, especially since he is getting comfortable at 2B; so obtaining a second baseman outside the organization would be difficult. Both free agents are probably going elsewhere: Ellis has indicated that he wants to stay with the As and the As like him, so he probably will not move. Hudson is very high at the Mets' radar and the Twins will get outbid in a bidding war
- How about Uggla? This is an intriguing possibility, for several reasons: The Marlins are looking to trade power hitting for pitching and defense, have 18 arbitration-eligible players and obtaining Uggla will solve 2 holes in the Twins' lineup: a middle infielder and another (3B is still higher priority) power RH bat. How can they Twins get Uggla if they use Perkins to get a third baseman, without breaking up the rotation? They have to be creative and offer the Marlins a package centered around Casilla, one of Swarzak/Duensing, Humber and possibly a prospect.
What would I do if I were Bill Smith? Having traded already Glenn Perkins, Brian Buscher and a prospect (let say Dustin Martin) to the Cardinals for Troy Glaus, I would trade Boof Bonser and Trevor Plouffe to the Padres for Khalil Greene and Alexi Casilla, Brian Duensing, Phillip Humber and Sergio Santos to the Marlins for Dan Uggla
The results would be Dan Uggla as the every day 2B, Khalil Green as the every day SS and Troy Glaus as the every day 3B, freeing up 8 spots on the 40 man roster and filling up 3 (net: four 40 man roster open spots.) Harris and Tolbert will be the backups at the infield positions. Note: The Twins do not have to trade Casilla for Ugla and it will be an unpopular move with a lot of the fans (see: Garza, Matt); however, I think that the probability for winning will be higher with Uggla at 2B and the Twins will clear up several (3) spots on their 40 man roster with this trade, to protect players like Swarzak, Hughes and Valencia.
Going back to the needs of the Twins this offseason, these 3 trades would take care of the first 3 needs in the list (2 power RH bats, a 3B, a SS). Coming up soon are my suggestions on how to fill the rest of the needs, along with projected lineups, 25-man and 40-man rosters, as well as payroll.
I run the proposed trades through my simulator and it looks like just Perkins might be enough for Glaus, Bonser might be enough for Greene and Casilla and Humber enough for Uggla. I figured that the above proposal would probably be overpaying for the Twins, so I expect them to pick up some additional prospects (hopefully catchers) along in these trades.