I thought I would do a follow up article to Jesse's What to do with second base? article with my own thoughts. I think it would be wise of the Twins to target the following players, or at least take a look at them and review how these players could help the club, not only this year, but also into the future.
Freddy Sanchez - 2B (Pitts):
Freddy Sanchez provides the Twins with a savior to their glaring hole on the right side of the infield, 2B. The Twins have gone through a bunch of 2B this year trying to find a regular: Alexi Casilla failed after doing so well at 2B last year, Matt Tolbert failed after doing well in Spring Training and now unable to hit a beachball to save his life, and now Nick Punto fails because he doesnt know which end of the baseball bat is used for hitting the ball. Sanchez, a former National League Batting Champion, possesses the skills that the Twins lack at 2B right now: namely, the ability to get on base/table setter for the 3-4 hitters in the lineup. Sanchez has a career batting average of .302 through 4.5 full seasons in the big leagues. Although Sanchez does not hold a lot of homerun power, career high 11 homers, he does have some ability to drive doubles and leg out a few triples. This year, Sanchez has a .355 OBP; Nick Punto, the Twins regular 2B now, has a .306 OBP. Sanchez has a .316 avg; Punto has a .212 avg. Sanchez has a .832 OPS while Punto has a .534 OPS. Also, Sanchez has committed one error at 2B in 365 total chances, by no means shabby defense. Furthermore, Punto is once again battling injuries and could very soon hit the disabled list again if taken out on a slid into second base on a double play ball.
Currently, Sanchez has a young CF, Andrew McCutchen, hitting in front of him. McCutchen possesses a lot of skills, nobody can deny it. However, he still is young and is in his first season in the big leagues, thus, he will experience the ups and downs of all rookies. However, if Sanchez came to Minnesota, he would have the sophmore Denard Span hitting in front of him, one of the best leadoff hitters the Twins have had for a while. Furthermore, Sanchez would have Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hitting behind him, a far more dangerous combo than the LaRoche Brothers who hit behind him currently. For the right price, I would really like to see Sanchez doning the red and blue of Minnesota. Sanchez would fix the two biggest holes in the Twins lineup: 2B and #2 hitter in the lineup. However, I see Sanchez as a rent player, being in Minnesota for only .5 - 1.5 years. Is it worth giving up the prospects to acquire a rent player?
Yunel Escobar - SS (AAA ATL):
Recently, we have heard that the Braves have put Yunel on the trading block. While Brendan Harris has done an admirable job at SS this year, he is not the long term solution. Harris does not posses the range to play SS and from what we have seen, he cannot really play 2B either. So Harris, next year, should once again be a utility player, who sits on the bench and occasionally comes in to hit for one of the younger light hitting regulars. So, this raises the question, who plays SS when 2010 rolls around. Names, such as J.J. Hardy, have been thrown around out there, but it appears that the Milwaukee Brewers are not willing to sell Hardy. So, when Escobar's name appeared on the trading block, I immeadiately went looking for a possible trade for Escobar.
My brother, CarterHayes, had this to say about Yunel Escobar:
The Braves are said to be shopping Yunel Escobar. He's five years younger than Sanchez, is a much better fielder, and hits pretty well to boot. There's no comparison between their two contracts, either. If the Twins are going after a middle infielder, Escobar should be the first one they inquire after.
He is right on the button...Escobar is cheaper by far than Sanchez (both in terms of money and prospects - guessing on the last one). Escobar has been rated as one of the best fielding SS prospects in the major leagues. Baseball Reference compares Yunel to players such as: Todd Walker, Tony Pena (Sr.), Ernie Lombardi, and Howie Kendrick among others. Of course, as always, this is not to say that Yunel will hit like Todd Walker or Howie Kendrick but they are comparisons and should be taken into account. In my own mind, I see Yunel Escobar comparing the closest with Jason Bartlett. Yunel gets on base at a decent clip, maybe not enough to warrant giving him the #2 hole in the lineup but certainly he could do very well hitting #8 or #9 in the lineup (a .795 OPS over the past 3 years is not bad for a middle infielder; also, this is a higher OPS than Sanchez at .763 has managed to put up over the same span of years). Also, since Yunel is five years younger than Sanchez, as my brother pointed out, he has the same amount of time to develop into the player than Sanchez is currently, and probably a better player than Sanchez was or ever will be. Whereas Sanchez would only be a rent player, Escobar would be a mainstay in the Twins system for many years. *The only knock agaisnt Escobar is that he has a really bad attitude right now, but I think that is because he is a gamer and wants to win; since the Braves are not winning right now, Escobar is mad.
***I thought I would run a defensive side for the benefit of the Twins fans. I will compare Sanchez vs Escobar. The defense is the big key here...Twins fans would rather have Gomez in CF because of his defense and not his bat (though improving). SS requires a lot of defense as well. Check out these sites for defensive figures on Sanchez and on Escobar. As you can see from those graphs, Escobar is so much better than Sanchez on defense. Only Bartlett ranks higher than Escobar on the defensive scale. Also, check out Bill James for the best defensive players by position. As you can see, Escobar is behind only Jimmy Rollins in +/- rankings, while Sanchez is nowhere to be seen on the defensive chart.***
Miguel Angel Sano - SS (Dominican Republic):
While Sano is hardly a trade target, thus making my title for this article a little false, he is somebody that I thought I should bring up. Sano, though listed as a SS, has the build of a 3B or a corner outfielder. If you wish to see this kid in action and to see his attitude, click here. There are many doubts as to the age of Miguel, but looking at the video, Miguel has no fear or doubt that he will not make the big leagues because of his age. I do not have any stats to throw out there, but all scouts have said without a doubt that this kid is something special. He has a love for the game that Kirby Puckett would envy. The Twins have made an offer of $3 million to Sano; the Pirates and Orioles are also in play for this kid, but it sounds like the Twins have made the biggest offer. All I can say is that I hope the Twins pull this one off, because I would love to see him in the red and blue of Minnesota. However, because of his build (6'3" - 185 lbs), scouts do not think that he can remain at SS. Twins have a 3B prospect in the minors in Danny Valencia, but if we sign this kid and he must play 3B, I would gladly give up Valencia for him! Edit: At 6'3", 185 lbs., I do not really understand the scouts reasoning for not being able to play SS. Ripken, at 6'4", 225 lbs., played SS. He currently is the size A-Roid was at when he started playing SS. My only guess as to why the scouts do not think that Sano can play SS (besides the fact that they [the scouts] might be smoking crap) is that Sano could be a little slow on his feet.
Steve Tolleson - 2B (AAA Twins):
Once again, I stretch the title of this article but I thought it would be important to bring Tolleson into this article. Steve started the season in AA New Britain, but was promoted mid season to AAA. If the Twins do not sign a 2B or if the 2B problems continue, Tolleson could be getting the call to move up to the highest level. Tolleson's fielding can be streaky but his bat is solid. I would like to keep him in AAA for one more season, but, as I said, if the problems persist, then I would not be against a move to bring him west. No matter what happens this year, you can bet that Tolleson will be wearing the TC hat come 2010 or 2011 (at the latest).
The Twins have also been looking for some relief help. Names such as LaTroy Hawkins, Matt Capps, and John Grabow have come up. The Twins desperately need one more reliable arm in the pen. If the Twins do not trade for a 2B, but rely on in house options, they had darn better make a trade for a reliever if they wish to keep their hopes alive for the Hunt for Red October.