The Twins trade dismal middle infielder for power hitting corner outfielder/DH

One of the first moves that Terry Ryan made as the new old Twins' general manager was to announce in an interview with ESPN 1500 that Trevor Plouffe will move from the middle infield to the outfield and the right hand DH position. Ryan astutely said that the defensive side of the game affects him some when he does go to the plate. And Plouffe has been a horrific defender both at second base (-41.8 UZR/150 in 127 innings) and at shortstop (-25.0 UZR/150 in 362.2 innings.) Ryan's comment was extremely astute because Plouffe batted .235/.299/.366 (.665 OPS, .131 isoP) as an infielder and .279/.360/.582 (.942 OPS, .303 isoP) as an outfielder or DH. His numbers, especially in the power category, while playing the OF or DHing were close to elite. On the other hand, they are based on a total of 15 games and his middle infield numbers are based on a total of 60 games, so they need to be taken cautiously. An other, probably unrelated, interesting split in Plouffe's 2011 performance is his performance in day games vs. night games (despite the position he was playing.) In day games, he hit .178/.252/.287 (.539 OPS, .109 isoP) and in night games .270/.333/.449 (.782 OPS, .179 isoP.) His numbers at night games are respectable and his great difference in performance when playing the OF, indicate that with better preparation, an .800-.850 OPS could be achieved in 2012 as a full time OF/DH

Plouffe is making the transition to the OF in his age 26 season. He was a 1st round draft pick (20th overall) by the Twins in the 2004 amateur draft out of Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, CA. Making a transition from a middle infielder to an outfielder relatively early in someone's career is not a rare phenomenon. A good comparable is the player who Plouffe is most likely to replace in 2012, another former Twins' first round pick, Michael Cuddyer. Michael Cuddyer spent 2004, his age 25 season splitting duties between second base and RF. His numbers at 2B were .206/.225/.309 (.534 OPS, .103 isoP) and at RF: .278/.359/.444 (.803 OPS, .166 isoP); very similar splits as Plouffe. In 2005, (his age 26 season) Cuddyer hit at 2B: .190/.370/.190 (.561 OPS) at 3B: .255/.317/.429 (.746 OPS, .174 isoP) at RF: .318/.366/.455 (.821 OPS, .147 isoP). When he moved to RF full time in 2006, (his age 27 season) he hit .274/.353/.470 (.823 OPS, .196 isoP.) Note that Terry Ryan was also the person who moved Cuddyer to the OF. I think that Plouffe can be a valid replacement for Cuddyer in the 2012 season and there is a good possibility that he will provide the team with right hand power that has been lacking.

A few other notable outfielders who made the switch from the infield in early ages (season and age of the switch in parenthesis) :Jose Bautista (2007, age 26), Ryan Braun (2007, age 23), Alex Gordon (2009, age 25), BJ Upton (2007, age 22), Michael Morse (2010, age 28), Emilio Bonifacio (2011, age 26) and Alfonso Soriano (2006, age 30.) So there is precedence, there are positive indications of future performance, thus is a trade well made by Ryan and at a very low cost.

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