Ty Wigginton + Minnesota Twins = ?

Today the Houston Astros non-tendered their third baseman, Ty Wigginton.  He's going to garner a few long, hard looks from a handful of teams around the league...but for right now let's forget about that.  Minnesota could use an upgrade at third base.  Could this be a match?

During the Winter Meetings the Twins were connected to Ty Wiggington...loosely.  Usually this was in speculation which wasn't necessarily baseless, but it might as well have been.  If any third baseman was available, you could pretty much draw a line between him and Minnesota.

Last season the right-handed hitter Wigginton, 30, hit .285/.350/.526 with 23 home runs for the Astros.  Even though it was in a hitter-friendly park (with a 315 foot left-field portch, no less), those still look like some pretty good numbers.  His EQA was .291, which is good, and his translated line is .284/.351/.573.  That's encouraging.  In simple terms, Wigginton's .876 OPS would have been fifth best in all of baseball among third basemen, behind Chipper Jones, A-Rod, David Wright and Aramis Ramirez.

Next year Wigginton will be in his age-31 season.  That's not necessarily a time for decline at corner infield positions, but what kind of year at the plate could we expect?  Bill James and Marcel have already projected 2009, and I've also included Pecota's 2009 projection from their '08 numbers:

Baseball trades, rumors and blog coverage - SB Nation MLB Hot Stove

2009 Projection 2B HR AVG OBP SLG
Bill James 31 23 .269 .335 .465
Marcels 24 20 .273 .333 .473
Pecota ('08) 26 20 .275 .341 .471

Is any of that overly impressive?  No, it's not, but you're getting more power than you'd get from Brian Buscher or Brendan Harris, and that counts for something.  Any help for the offense is good.

Offensively, Wigginton doesn't usually connect for a great deal of line drives, hitting a few more ground balls.   His strike out and walk rates have been fairly consistent throughout his career, although he does swing at balls outside the strike zone fairly often.  I'd describe him as a contact hitter who can get ahold of one.

So for the runs gained on offense, how many get lost in the field?  While Wigginton is notorious for being versatile, it's another way of saying he hasn't been good enough to lock himself to a single position.  Last year he was strictly third base (652 innings) and left field (247), but he's also logged time in right field, and first and second base as recently as 2006.

I've tried tracking a few defensive stats for 2008, but a number of defensive metrics are either incomplete or not started, so we'll stick to a few basics and see what we can extrapolate from those.

  • Looking at what's available for free from the Fielding Bible, Ty Wigginton wasn't one of the best third basemen in the +/- system, but he wasn't one of the worst, either.  For what it's worth, Adrian Beltre is the best third basemen from 2006 - 2008 (+63), while Garrett Atkins is one of the worst (-42).
  • These are combined 2006 and 2007 Innings, RZR and OOZ totals at third base...with a couple of extras for reference.  Ty Wigginton:  920, .651, 37.  Nick Punto:  1594, .740, 53.  Brian Buscher:  402, .648, 26.  Adrian Beltre:  2637, .700, 125.  Tony Batisa ('06):  434, .602, 15.  Michael Cuddyer ('05):  816, .717, 49.
  • In 2008, Wigginton's glove was one run better than the average third baseman.  Or, in terms of run prevention, he was essentially league average.  Unfortunately that's a high point.  In 2007 he was -11, and since 2003 he's -35.

Those three points sum up Wigginton's defensive finesse pretty well.  He doesn't have good range and thus doesn't make many plays outside of his zone, and even on balls in his zone he's only been making an out on 65% of them.  Historically he's a below average defender.

What Wigginton adds on offense he takes away on defense.  He's not good enough on one side or bad enough on the other to make a swing either way, which means anyone deciding to pick up the former Astro will have to hope that what happened last summer can continue.  Unfortunately, it's most likely that his relatively good fortune in the field was just that--luck.

Totaling up their Batting Runs Above Average and Fielding Runs Above Average, here are your totals over the last three years.  Just remember to put it in perspective, since Wigginton was a total of +17 overall last year.

Ty Wigginton:  16 (+26 Off, -10 Def)
Brian Buscher:  -6  (0 Off, -6 Def)
Nick Punto:  -13  (-21 Off, 8 Def)

Buscher's numbers are for two years, of course, but things aren't too likely to shift dramatically for him this season.  The results are pretty telling, even if nothing we should be too surprised at.  Punto is worth a couple of runs in the field but loses them at the plate, Buscher loses a couple of runs in the field, and if we're to take a stab at what kind of year Wigginton is likely to have, all things would even out.

Which is still an upgrade.  And that's the whole point, as long as you don't end up overpaying ridiculously.  Besides, who knows, maybe we could get another year or two where Wigginton's defense doesn't completely negate what he can offer at the plate.

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