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Twins Pull a Bit of a Surprise

The Twins pulled off a bit of a surprise today, signing Craig Monroe to a 1 year contract worth 3.82 million.  That number is the least amount they could have paid Monroe under the bargaining agreement, which states a player can only take a 20% paycut at most.

It is worth noting that the deal is no garaunteed.  If he is cut before 16 days before the season starts, he will only get just a bit over $600,000.  If he is cut between then and the season starting, he will get one fourth of his salary, or just under 1 million dollars.

Obviously, the Twins have an interesting glut of outfielders at the moment.  With Young in left, Cuddyer in right, a starting center fielder still coming, and now Kubel and Monroe fighting over additional DH at bats (with Joe Mauer probably getting a share of time there as well) there seems like there might not be enough at bats to go around for even those hitters, much less players such as Jason Tyner and the newly acquired Jason Priddie.

Kelly Theiser had a comment on what the Twins expect to be the situation among the logjam of outfielders:

"Young and Michael Cuddyer are expected to be the starting corner outfielders, and Jason Kubel likely will be the team's primary designated hitter. Monroe's role with the club will be to provide a right-handed bat for the DH spot against lefties and to add some more depth to the outfield."

So we have the starting outfield we expected still, with Kubel having a full blown platoon partner at the DH spot, in addition to having a bench bat.

Bill Smith also had a thought on why he believes there will be enough at bats to go around:

"Between right, left and DH, there are going to be plenty of at-bats available," Smith said. "It's a long season. You certainly need quality guys and also a little bit of depth to get through some of the nagging injuries. You also have to give the manager a little more flexibility with matchups throughout the season."

I don't mean to get on my Jason Kubel soapbox too much, but this deal irritates me a great deal.  Jason Kubel has consistently throughout his career hit much better when he's gotten consistent at bats, and now you can guarantee he will NEVER start against left handed pitchers.  He'll probably never get many at bats against them at all.  His platoon split, which did not exist in the minors, will quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy.  This, of course, from a team and manager who never even so much as considered platooning Jacque Jones, despite his career OPS being a whopping 23% lower against lefties in his career (for the record, that's a bigger drop off than going from Torii Hunter or Justin Morneau to Brain Buscher).

On the other hand, a bench bat, especially from the right side, is something this team has missed over the last couple of seasons, and Monroe should do a pretty good job filling that hole.

A lot of the sense of this move probably depends on the focus of this year.  IF Santana is traded (likely followed by Nathan) and we embrace project 2010, I'd like to see Monroe cut to allow Kubel more development time.  If Santana is still around and the team decided it would still like to try and compete to win NOW, having Monroe could very likely help us a couple time as the year goes on.

This also would make moving Michael Cuddyer back to third base even more worth of serious consideration, but I would be absolutely floored if Ron Garenhire ever even so much as admitted considering it publicly.

For more reading on the Monroe deal, check out Joe C's Blog, which is where I got some of the information for this write-up.

Last, after this move, the Twins now have one remaining unoccupied spot on the 40-man roster.