A number of names have become popular around TwinkieTown the last few days as the excitement for another hitter mounts. Let's compare Milton Bradley, Kevin Mench and Wily Mo Pena.
What I like about all three of these players is what sort of payment they're likely to extract from the Twins, at least at first glance. Pena and Mench are both backups, and Bradley was DFA'd Thursday afternoon. Defensively Bradley is superior, but Mench and Pena have more pop in their bats, and any of them could find their way around left field or pick up at-bats as designated hitters. So eagerly rub your hands together, and let's see what we've got with these baseballers three.
Bradley is one of those players who, with his tools, could have seen time in a handful of All Star games. He has speed but doesn't flash it often on the basepaths, but it does allow him to get good jumps in the field. His arm strength and accuracy are assets as well. At the plate he doesn't always hit for the best average, but he walks often enough to post a decent on base percentage. Playing full time, he's good for 10-15 home runs a year.
What makes him such an exciting and intriguing player is the same thing that feeds his malevolence: his competetive nature. It makes him want to win, it makes him want to be in THE spot, but it also makes him sulk and it breeds inconsistency. In addition Bradley has a history of minor injuries, seeing a multitude of 15-day stints on the disabled list since 2002 (at least seven by my count).
In what ways is Bradley an attractive option for the Twins? He's a more than adequate outfielder, better than Kubel, White, Tyner or Ford. With Milton in left field, each outfield position is once again a defensive strength. His offense is good enough to make him a legitimate candidate for the sixth spot in the batting order, although his skill set probably makes him better suited for the two-hole and sliding Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau and Hunter down a spot. The strength of the Twins' top five, however, would mean he'd probably be hitting sixth.
What makes him not such an attractive option for the Twins? Two things primarily: attitude and his history of injuries. While I don't believe in "injury-prone" players, it's impossible to ignore Bradley's medical history. As for the attitude, it's difficult to gauge how much team chemistry actually effects a team's win-loss record. Winning teams can ignore dinks in the club house and losing teams can manufacture problems that just manifest the culture. All the same, a jerk running around pissing people off helps nothing, and it's definitely not fun.
Apart from having the largest head in baseball, Kevin Mench has been rotting on the bench for Milwaukee. After acruing large amounts of playing time (and offensive notoriety) with Texas in 2004, 2005 and the first half of 2006, he was traded to the Brewers. He played in 40 games the rest of last summer for the NL Central squad and struggled mightily. This season has seen him averaging less than three at-bats per game in 50 appearances, and his numbers continue to be weak.
Whether something has happened to Mench physically or if his dropoff in performance is due to his change in venue or if pitchers have just decided to pitch him away, it's all up for debate. As far as I'm concerned he needs a chance to rack up regular at-bats, and the Twins would be an ideal venue, as left field and designated hitter would both give him that opportunty.
Kevin is a good fit for the Twins for a number of reasons. He's a right-handed hitter, his pricetag isn't extortionate, he hits for power and he's (from everything I've ever read) a great guy to have in the clubhouse. His profile makes him a more 'natural' fit as the sixth man in the batting order as opposed to Bradley, able to hit 25 home runs and 30 doubles as a full-time player. While his defense is unastonishingly average, largely due to mediocre foot speed and a sub-average arm, just remember it's all relative. After all, he's not Shannon Stewart.
Mench's contract expires after this season, although he's probably a guy who's in Minnesota's price range if they wanted to go in the direction of negotiating a multi-year deal upon acquisition. Perhaps he could off set the loss of Hunter's power should Torii not re-sign with the Twins after 2007. It's hard, from my perspective, to find a real negative in regards to Kevin Mench unless it has to do with what he's going to cost. Hopefully it shouldn't be much, as he's playing behind Bill Hall, Geoff Jenkins and Corey Hart in Milwaukee, and without a DH slot to fill I'm of the mind that fourth outfielders in the National League are a bit more expendable than those in the American League.
Wily Mo Pena
Salary: $1,880,000 (plus $100K incentives)
After doing my research on these three players, there's no doubt in my mind that Pena is the least desireable option of those listed here. In fact, looking over his career numbers, there's a frightening similarity in his statistical profile to Tony Batista. Sure there's power, but there's also a disappointing on-base percentage and lots of strikeouts with few walks.
There are projections out there giving Pena the benefit of a doubt, stating he'll be a superstar outfielder and a complete player once he matures. He's one of those infamous "five tool" players. This poses a problem for the Twins as they won't pick up a guy to simply add to the home run totals, and considering what the Twins would have to give up in order to add another couple of runs worth of production over the rest of the year, it's a hard trade up to justify.
Pena would be a good piece to grab if the Twins suddenly find themselves out of contention. If things aren't working out, then it becomes acceptable to give every day at-bats to a work in progress. Sadly, I see the Twins contending, and even though I see positives in the first two players discussed I don't see any in regards to Pena that don't carry with them an even larger downside (at least for this year).
I tried being even-handed when discussing Bradley and Mench, but probably came across as optimistic about both. With Pena, considering what I now know about him, there's nothing subtle about whether or not I'd like to see him in a Twins uniform. Still, I hope you're able to make your own judgements.
My preference of these three men is Kevin Mench (I know, huge surprise). He has the potential to give the Twins some power that they really do need, and he'd definitely provide fewer personnel issues than Bradley.
What are your thoughts? I'll leave you with stat lines from each player so far this summer.
Name AB 2B HR BB SO Avg Obp Slg
Bradley 65 4 2 8 14 .292 .373 .446
Mench 143 11 2 1 12 .273 .274 .406
Pena 96 5 4 10 38 .229 .308 .406