Tagged: Third Base

Playing Punto

Punto Day.pngHe may have said it last season after a game against the Boston Red Sox, but Nick Punto made a comment that might come true when the Minnesota Twins begin a new era in Minneapolis during the 2010 season.
“If that bottom of the order can produce for the middle of the lineup, 
this could be one of the best offenses in team history.”
With three All-Stars at the top of the order and several other capable bats mixed in, the Twins could indeed have one of the best offenses in team history next season if the bottom of the order, which includes the likes of J.J. Hardy, Delmon Young and Nick Punto, produces. 
Nick Punto does not fit well into the two-hole, and he isn’t a great hitter. Those two things don’t make him a bad baseball player, and they don’t make him invaluable. The ideal scenario would have Punto as a super-utility player, one who could shift around the infield and even to centerfield when absolutely necessary. 
Instead, Punto will likely begin the 2010 season as the team’s third baseman (if he beats out Brendan Harris for the job this spring). With Orlando Hudson now between Span and Mauer, and Punto guaranteed to be at the bottom of the order, the one last piranha on the team being a starter might not be all that bad. 
Punto will give the Twins a capable player at the hotspot until youngster Danny Valencia arrives, and his defense at the corner position is top notch. In fact, among a few of the options the team considered this off-season, including Mark DeRosa, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Joe Crede, Punto’s defense ranks best. 
Punto Day UZR.png
Over his career, Punto has saved his team 19.9 runs per 150 defensive games as a third baseman. Crede has been a pretty good defensive third baseman himself as Twins’ fans witnessed last season, but even he doesn’t come close to Punto’s mark. 
Offensively, Punto has historically posted his best on-base percentage when in the nine-spot in the lineup, and there will be little pressure for him to produce if the big sluggers in the top-half of the order can do the heavy lifting. 
Nick Punto would be very valuable off the bench as a backup to both Hudson and Hardy, but since the Twins have added some offensive threats elsewhere, Punto’s defense at third should suffice enough to warrant his playing time. And who knows, if he can produce, the Twins might have one of the best lineups in team history. 

On Joe Crede…

Joe Crede.jpgThe biggest question remaining for the Minnesota Twins this off-season, outside of the Joe Mauer contract situation, is what to do at third base. Second base too is a gaping hole as December nears an end, but the team has several in-house options to fill the void if only they can put someone next to shortstop J.J. Hardy on the left side of the infield. 
With half the options joining teams across baseball, three primary options seem available for Minnesota: sign Mark DeRosa, sign Adrian Beltre, or trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff. 
If no trade occurs or the other options sign elsewhere, the Twins will have a backup option in the form of third basemen Joe Crede. While Crede played in just 90 games last season, there are some reasons he could make sense if other options don’t develop.
Why Crede Makes Sense…
He’ll be cheap: A back injury ended Crede’s season early in 2008, and after playing in 90 games last season, he was done yet again. Crede may have one more opportunity to stay healthy, and where he receives that opportunity, he’ll likely go cheaply. 
Shortly before spring training earlier this year, Crede signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with incentives that could have pushed it to $7 million. Crede earned very few of those incentives with just 333 plate appearances, and so the Twins got him relatively cheap. 
A deal this off-season would again be incentive-laden, would likely have a cheaper base salary, and possibly include fewer incentives. 
Low-risk, high-reward: The same was said when the Twins signed Crede before, but the same would be the case if they sign him a second time. Crede has potential to put up solid power numbers and play decent defense at third base. He’d be a cheap option who would be underpaid if he played a full season at his capable level. 
Better than nothing: The Twins do have other options to fill third base if the primary ones run out. They could put Nick Punto there and sign a second basemen, or they could go with upcoming prospect Danny Valencia.
Nonetheless, Crede makes sense even if he has a high likelihood of being injured again in 2010. If the team doesn’t feel Valencia will be ready until mid-season or the beginning of 2011, Crede could push his debut date back, and even if he lasted only until mid-season, Valencia would have a half-season at triple-A Rochester to improve his game.
Why Crede Doesn’t Make Sense…
There are second basemen: If the Twins can’t get DeRosa, Beltre or Kouzmanoff, they could always switch their focus to second base. Two key second base options are Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez, and both would also fit nicely into the lineup.
Nick Punto seems like a lock to be in the lineup at some position, and whether he’s at second or third isn’t a big issue. Punto will be inserted much more for his defense than hitting capabilities, and he’s an above-average defender at both second and third. 
Crede’s injury history: While Crede would come on the cheap, it may be better to just go in-house. If Danny Valencia is closer to the majors than some believe, would it be a terrible move to let him take a shot at starting from the first day of spring training and use the money elsewhere?

Third Base Options Dwindling

The off-season plan is much of the same for the left side of the infield after the Minnesota Twins again received little production at both third base and shortstop in 2009. Less than two days after the World Series, the Twins upgraded at shortstop, but as the year nears an end, third base remains uncertain and time is running out. 

In recent weeks the list of third base options has been nearly cut in half. Garrett Atkins is off to Baltimore, Troy Glaus is off to Atlanta, and Pedro Feliz is headed to Houston. Remaining are Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre, trade candidate Kevin Kouzmanoff, and the often injured Joe Crede. 
The price tag for both DeRosa and Beltre has been high. At the Winter Meetings nearly three weeks ago, reports put their price at $9 to $10 million per season for three seasons. While the Twins will see an increase in payroll for the 2010 season, that price is far too high for most major league ball clubs. 
Earlier this week, DeRosa reportedly was offered a two-year, $12 million contract by the San Francisco Giants. If the price has fallen to that point, the Twins could be in on the veteran third baseman capable of playing second base and the corner outfield positions as well.
Outside of the two remaining premier free agents lies Kouzmanoff. The Twins had interest last off-season according to reports, and had several talks with the Padres at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis earlier this month. 
Kouzmanoff is expected to make around $5 million next season and is under control for three more years. The Twins have offered Glen Perkins according to reports, but on Thursday it was reported that talks have “cooled” and there is a possibility he could now stay in San Diego.
When all is said and done, the team’s only option just might be to re-sign Joe Crede. After playing in just 90 games last season, Crede will be cheap on an incentive-laden deal, and he is willing to return to Minneapolis for the first season at Target Field.
Fans almost certainly would favor DeRosa, Beltre or Kouzmanoff, but the options at third base are dwindling, and unless the team acts fast, they may have the same starting third baseman on Opening Day for the first time since 2007.

Winter Meetings: Third Base Talks

There is still no action on the Minnesota Twins’ front, but there have been several rumblings in the past day regarding the team and several players. There has been no talk of starting pitchers or second baseman, just third basemen. 

With just three days to go by, indications are that the club is looking at third base as the position of choice to upgrade. Currently it seems that they’ll go in-house to fill the second base void and sign a free agent or make a trade to finish off the left side of the infield. 
So who have the names been?
Mark DeRosa 
The Twins apparently have “strong” interest in DeRosa. The veteran apparently is looking for a three-year, $27 million deal. That won’t happen in Minnesota, but if the price drops, he could be a fit. 
So far it seems, there have been only preliminary talks:

Just spoke with Mark DeRosa’s agent, Keith Grunewald, and he confirmed that he’s talked with the Twins about the free agent third baseman. They haven’t talked much and it’s just been preliminary. Grunewald said there’s a great deal of interest in DeRosa and called him one of the best commodities in the third base market.

Pedro Feliz
While FoxSports reported yesterday that Pedro Feliz was interested in Minnesota and the Twins were potentially interested in him, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems the Twins especially haven’t been looking in his direction:

…The agents for Feliz have not heard from the Twins. 

…Indications are that the Twins just aren’t feeling Pedro Feliz.

Kevin Kouzmanoff
The Twins seem to have the most interest in Mark DeRosa as far as free agents are concerned, but the name Kevin Kouzmanoff has been a popular one recently. There were several indications Wednesday that there is mutual interest between the Twins and Padres. 
The talks were first reported on Tuesday night when it was learned that the Twins had offered the Padres Glen Perkins and were rejected with San Diego asking for another player. Wednesday talks apparently continued:

The Twins and Padres have had several discussions about Kevin Kouzmanoff, perhaps a better (cheaper) fit for Twins than other 3B options.

Later in the day the Padres heated talks and continued to talk with the Twins:

Padres now “aggressively” trying to move Kevin Kouzmanoff, says one source who spoke with them. Hear Twins & Giants have been most interested. 

Hearing that Padres offered Kouzmanoff to Giants for Fred Lewis & Kevin Fransden. Asked Twins for Glen Perkins & 2nd player.

With all of those talks, the general feeling is that nothing will happen at least until the non-tender deadline passes Saturday. Several infielders are expected to be let go by their teams rather than offered contracts, with Garrett Atkins being one potential player. 
The Twins are apparently not keen on giving up more than Glen Perkins in a Kouzmanoff deal, but he’s cheap with pretty good production, and if other options don’t become available, something could happen.