I must say, I'm extremely happy that JJ Hardy is officially a Twin. It hasn't really set in yet that Carlos Gomez and all his exuberance and funny antics will no longer be a part of our team, but it's nice to look at that shortstop position on our roster and know that we have a quality major league player locking it down.
You, sir, are a shortstop. And a good one.
It seems that everyone's biggest criticism of this move is that our outfield defense has been set with Cuddyer occupying right field, Span in center, and Young in left. While that certainly looks to be the case, remember that the offseason has just begun.
I would still be perfectly happy packaging Delmon Young and shipping him off too. If the Twins are finally ready to concede how awful both the Santana and the Garza/Bartlett trades were, why not just scrap both of them and start anew? I still think we could pry something away for Delmon Young. He's not that far removed from his successful rookie year, and he's shown enough flashes of greatness down the stretch the past two years that someone should be willing to take a chance on him.
Most everyone will concede that Denard Span's defense isn't quite up to par in centerfield, but is exceptionally better in left or right. If I were Bill Smith, I'd start looking at free agent and trade candidate center fielders -- and there are several realistic options out there.
Of course we could always grab Mike Cameron and allow both he and JJ Hardy a mini Brewer's reunion party at Target Field. But even if the Twins didn't want to go after someone on the Cameron level of 7 or 8 million a year, they could easily take a flier on a couple other candidates:
Chavez has always been a great defensive outfielder, and adding him to our roster would easily upgrade our outfield defense. He should come relatively cheap too, at around 2 or 3 million for a year. Perhaps a 2-year deal to provide a stop-gap until someone like Ben Revere is ready to take over?
Crisp is coming off one of his worst seasons as a batter (.228/.336/.378), but his glove should still be sharp, and those numbers are a cry from his 8-year average of .277/.331/.407. The Royals weren't willing to pay him $8M next year, so they bought out his option. He is joining the wrong-side of 30 for a baseball player who relies on speed and defense, but he figures to have a few productive years ahead of him, and just like Chavez he could be a useful and inexpensive holdover until our better prospects are ready to come.
Of course those are just a couple of the potential free agent names that spring to mind. There are also a few trade candidates out there who shouldn't cost an arm and a leg to pry away from their teams. I bet we could pull a Matt Guerrier-for-Juan Pierre trade.
Pierre's a solid center fielder and a career .301 hitter who wouldn't be a bad fit in that second spot in our lineup for starters (although he does bat lefthanded and wouldn't break up the Span-Mauer-Morneau lefty combo). He comes at a steep salary, but the Twins could still handle it, especially for such a good player. The Dodgers definitely don't need him, with Kemp, Ethier, and Ramirez already locking down their outfield, so I'm sure they'd rather take a year of Guerrier than pay $10M for a bench player/pinch runner. The Twins could certainly use someone of his particular skill set.
I'd even take Felix Pie.
Not the best hitter, but a decent glove, and the Orioles certainly make some weird trades, so, maybe we could trade them Rick Stelmascek?
Hey, don't be upset, you'd be helping us get a center-fielder.
If we got Pie from the Orioles and upgraded at either 2B or 3B, we'd still have a pretty solid lineup next year and keep our outfield defense intact.
Of course we have a stock of minor league center fielders coming through, so someone like Crisp, Chavez, or Pierre would perhaps make more sense than someone like Pie, as we'd only need them for one or two years until one of our better prospects is ready to take over.
Rene Tosoni profiles more as a corner outfielder although he's played center some in the minors. He's perhaps the most major-league ready, but right on his heels is Ben Revere, who is one of the best prospects in our system and has steadily moved up a level each year. He should be ready to debut in 2011 or 2012 at the latest if he keeps this pace.
Even further back are Joe Benson, Angel Morales and Aaron Hicks, who could be ready in 2012 or 2013, and many wouldn't be hesitant to label them All-Stars once they arrive.
Anyway, my point is simply that we shouldn't just think that we're stuck with Delmon in the lineup every day because we traded away Gomez. We shouldn't be hesitant to trade Young, as there are enough center fielders out there that we could afford to snag one of them for a year or two until some of our guys are ready to come up, and that way Span can still be an everyday starter in left, where he should be.
Just my thoughts.