Yesterday afternoon, Brandon covered a lot of the questions being posed to the Twins following the announcement of Joe Mauer moving permanently to first base. My next question is: how does the decision affect the rest of the roster? Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello, I'm looking in your direction.
Even a healthy Mauer isn't going to play first base everyday. I think we're all wishing for a 150 or 155 game season, but we also know that some of those games will feature Joe as the team's designated hitter. Do Parmelee or Colabello have roles if their primary job is to backup first base over 20 or 25 games this year? Can the roster sustain that kind of one-dimensional player?
Let's run through the paces and see what shakes out. First, we're doing to assume that Ryan Doumit will be available to catch but that it won't be his primary position. Lest we forget, Doumit also suffered a concussion in 2013 and, beyond that, he's not really a good defensive catcher anyway. While the latter reason isn't enough to believe he'll be shifted out from behind the plate, the former reason is certainly enough to believe the Twins will want to minimize how often they're forced to turn to him as a catcher. As a result, second, we're going to assume that either Chris Herrmann or a free agent catcher is going to take another roster spot. Third, we're going to assume that Ron Gardenhire and the Twins will continue to carry 13 position players.
Here's what we can safely assume.
Catcher (2): Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann/Free Agent
First base (1): Joe Mauer
Second Base (1): Brian Dozier
Shortstop (1): Pedro Florimon
Third Base (1): Trevor Plouffe
Outfield (4): Josh Willingham, Alex Presley, Darin Mastroianni, Oswaldo Arcia
Designated Hitter (1): Ryan Doumit
My California Math tells me that we've just rattled off 11 roster spots, meaning that we have two position player spots to fill. Looking at that list, there are already five guys who can play a corner outfield spot (all four outfielders and Doumit); six if we count Herrmann. Two of those players can play center field, although Mastroianni doesn't have a great deal of time there in his career.
Looking at first base, after Mauer the Twins could turn to Doumit, Herrmann, and Plouffe. I still like getting Willingham some time there just to keep his bat in the lineup and to keep the outfield defense a bit tighter, but that seems unlikely.
Where the Twins really don't have any backup options is at second, third, and short. Players currently on the 40-Man roster who can play those positions include Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar; only one of those two is Major League-ready. Let's give Escobar roster spot number 12.
So who gets 13? Let's see what other position players are still on the 40-Man roster.
Eric Fryer, C - Nope. (I'd like to leave it at that, but here's my additional note: he's not such a good defensive catcher that it's acceptable to overlook what would be a terrible bat. The team will already have two full-time catchers available, as well as Doumit. They won't need another one.)
Chris Colabello, 1B/RF - Chris the first is primarily a first baseman. His 20-home run power makes him an intriguing option, but as we've already discussed his positional availability makes him somewhat redundant on the roster. I like the power coming off the bench, but can the Twins afford to hand him the spot for that solitary reason?
Aaron Hicks, CF - Hicks struggled in Triple-A after his demotion last season. I sincerely doubt he has an opportunity to crack the roster this season, especially with two players available for center field whose low-risk, low-reward profiles make them predictable. Maestro and Presley are giving Hicks (and the Twins) the time they need.
Chris Parmelee, RF/1B - Prior to Mauer's move, it looked like the Twins could give the bulk of the first base at-bats to Chris the second. He played more right than first last season, but first was always going to be his primary position. Parmelee's youth is still an attraction if you believe there is upside remaining, but even if that's the case then the clock is ticking. A bench role might be best for him, but it certainly won't give the Twins the flexibility to see whether his bat will ever truly show up.
Roster/Free Agent Infielder, 3B/SS/2B - This is where the Mauer move begins to shake down. With multiple options in the outfield, at first base, and behind the plate, even with Escobar the Twins are running four players out for three positions. While that isn't a problem for long-term issues since the team can always call someone up, it is a problem when the team has to deal with a healthy scratch.
Before the Mauer move, the Twins essentially had two spots to work with because it was feasible to see Mauer, Pinto, and Doumit cover the catcher role. By taking first base away from someone (probably Parmelee) and by adding another catcher to the roster, Minnesota's options for the bench are that much more limited.
In either scenario, the bench includes a catcher, an outfielder, and an infielder, but in pre-Mauer-at-first-base world we also had Parmelee penciled in at first - which left that final bench spot open. In our current world, including Parmelee (or Colabello) leaves the Twins infield shallow on the ground.
As things sit right now, and this could change as the Twins move through the winter, I'm not convinced that Parmelee or Colabello have a job with the Twins out of spring training. How do you see it?