This offseason has started off better than expected. The very first week of November, all across the internet, bloggers everywhere could be heard shouting "Hallelujah!" as our hopes and prayers were answered with the swift and beautiful acquisition of JJ Hardy to fill a position that's been a gaping hole in the Twins infield since Cristian Guzman left us.
Don't feel pressure or anything...
After the bitter taste of champagne wore off, many of us noted that our outfield defense looked slightly shaky heading into 2010. Denard Span, as amazing and fantastic as he is, is not an A+ centerfielder. He's an amazing leadoff hitter, but his glove and range are more adequately suited to left field.
For some reason, no one seems to be focusing anymore on the fact that we have no true centerfield solution on our team. The Twins have in effect exchanged one gaping hole for a new one.
No, not that gaping hole!
To be fair, we can consider our outfield (and, in particular, centerfield, to be a position of strength in our system: Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Joe Benson, perhaps even Rene Tosoni though I don't know enough about his range, he has played center). Unfortunately, the highest of those prospects just completed his first year of AA, and while he had a solid season, he isn't screaming to be ready for the majors this next season. So while it's definitely a position of strength that we dealt from -- that strength is still a ways off from developing.
Our best case scenario right now is that Denard Span plays adequately enough in center that we don't cringe every time a ball soars into the outfield, and that next year either Tosoni or perhaps Revere makes a smooth transition into the majors out of Spring Training to allow Span to shift to a better corner outfield position. This is highly wishful thinking.
1) We are assuming Denard Span stays healthy all year.
That's a relatively big assumption.
God forbid Michael Cuddyer or Delmon Young is tabbed to play center if Span gets injured, and that Kubel slides into a corner outfield spot. Talk about cringing at our outfield defense! The only other option here is that either Jason Pridie (who very well could be released), or Dustin Martin (not quite the best center fielder, even in AAA), steps into a starter role if Span gets injured.
There is just no ready and available talent behind Span to be a regular in our lineup and on the field. This concerns me greatly.
2) Tosoni and Revere will probably not be ready in only one year.
Tosoni seems to be moving along nicely through the minors, but he's had one full season at AA, and to assume that he'll be ready to be handed a starting role in 2011 is still a big assumption. The Twins clearly think highly of him, but his .271/.360/.454 batting slash is sure to take a hit if not in AAA then certainly upon arrival in the majors. He'll more than likely be a useful major league player, probably in the corner outfield, by 2012 or so. But to assume he's the impending answer is a leap of faith.
Josh, sorry for pirating your photo...
Ben Revere is an amazing prospect. He might not have the arm of a center fielder right now, and his power certainly hasn't shown itself, but he's been tabbed as the Twins Minor League Player of the Year for the past 2 years and his numbers show you why. His .311/.372/.369 is a low for his (limited) career, and it was still enough to garner him the Minor League Player of the Year award. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to look at him as our center-fielder of the future -- the only question is: How far away is that "future"?
Torii Hunter had 6 years in the minors under his belt before tasting the big leagues, spending a year there, and being sent down for another partial year. Denard Span, our most recent incumbent, spent 5 full years in the minors, and then another partial year before earning his spot. Revere has only spent 3 years in the minors. Assuming he's not rushed along -- and we know the Twins aren't one to rush players along, especially because they coddled Revere out of the gate in instructional league -- our earliest bet to seem him at Target Field would probably be in 2012 or perhaps partway into 2013.
OK, let me be direct: the Twins need a stop-gap true centerfield option to tide them over until Ben Revere or perhaps Joe Benson, etc. is ready take over when they are adequately ready. That means a two-year deal for one of the free agents out there, or looking around on the trade market for a rangy outfielder to help out our dilemma.
Maybe the fact that everyone seems much more concerned about second and third base than centerfield means I'm worrying too much -- but I think it would serve this team well to address what could very well be a more pressing issue than letting Punto and Harris round out our infield.
Perhaps I'm being swayed by living in New York, but there's a face out there on the trade market that could more than adequately handle center field for us and perhaps even the second spot in the order:
Angel Pagan: .306/.350/.487, 27.9 Runs Above Replacement, and 2.8 Wins Above Replacement.
...and he appears in sweet photos like this and has a fun name Bert Blyleven would love to pronounce.
OK, that's enough for one post. Check out the podcast from last night, Jack Steal hosted, I co-hosted, and John Bonnes was our suprise guest star! And be sure to check back here Friday morning for the next entry in my Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em offseason series when I profile Andrew Bryz-Gornia of We Are Off the Mark. In the meantime, share your thoughts with me, am I crazy for wanting a center fielder?