The 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?