Today Brandon Warne returns to TwinkieTown to make his winter home after his first season of covering the club on the beat for 1500ESPN.
Even in a year where free agency lacks a great deal of top-end talent, there’s no shortage of players who could help the Twins in 2014 and beyond.
Though maybe that’s more indicative of where the Twins are, rather than the types of players available.
But at any rate, the popular opinion -- held by this writer too, no less -- is that the club should skew younger, focusing on twenty-something free agents who can not only help this team dig itself out of this funk, but be a part of the next winning culture to come to the Twin Cities. The other popular opinion is that the Twins should spend their entire offseason budget on pitching.
And quite frankly, pitching isn’t the only thing plaguing this club. We’ll tackle the pitching in this respect next week, anyway.
It can be dangerous to paint one’s self into a corner when it comes to improving any team, let alone one who has lost 90 games for three consecutive years. And as we see year-in and year-out, sometimes help comes from the oddest places (see Liriano, F. and the Pittsburgh Pirates).
With that in mind, here’s a peek at some thirty-something free agent hitters who can help this Twins team now, and possibly for a few years into the future (players pulled from MLBTradeRumors.com’s 2014 list):
SS Jhonny Peralta - Detroit Tigers
Twins general manager Terry Ryan said late in the season that he’d be open to signing players coming off suspensions with a few conditions. One was that they’d served their time, and in that same vein, showed contrition for the misdeed they had committed. And while that doesn’t exactly leave TR and Peralta shaking hands this fall, it does provide an interesting angle.
Peralta could fill in at third base until Miguel Sano is ready, and move to shortstop once that time comes. That would shift Pedro Florimon and Trevor Plouffe to roles more accommodated by their skillsets, and overall improve a surprisingly sluggish offense. Peralta should still have a healthy market this offseason, but perhaps not as robust as if he’d stayed clean. Then again, that’s the risk these players take, with the risk-reward being reaching free agency with some pretty good numbers. Coming off a .303/.358/.457 age-31 season, Peralta probably doesn’t mind the consequences.
C A.J. Pierzynski - Texas Rangers
It seems crazy, right? After all, of what use is a soon-to-be 37-year-old catcher coming off one of his worst offensive seasons in his 16-year career? And that’s nothing to say of the fact that the Twins already have three catchers in Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, and Josmil Pinto.
But hear this out. If there truly is a clubhouse culture crisis in Minnesota, adding Pierzynski could go a long way toward helping that out. And this is from a long time chemistry truther, mind you. And to the point of three catchers, none are without question marks. Mauer could be moved off the spot at any time, Doumit needed a red-hot September to salvage an otherwise lost season, and Pinto still has to prove his September wasn’t the second-coming of Chris Parmelee.
Enter Pierzynski, who was three plate appearances shy in 2005 of making 500-plus PAs in every season from 2003-2013. That’s an insane amount of durability from a catcher. In a lot of ways, a Pierzynski platoon with any of those three catchers makes a lot of sense. Pierzynski still has some pop, a loud mouth, and some durability. What of those three things have the Twins sorely needed in the past three years?
Plus, it'd be a ton of fun to see how Twins fans receive him.
1B-OF Corey Hart - Milwaukee Brewers
Hart desperately wants to return to the Brewers after missing all of 2013, but if that were to fall through, he wouldn’t have to look too far geographically to find a phenomenal fit. The Twins are sorely lacking in all the spots Hart could fill, and as a right-handed hitter with as much raw power as almost anyone, Hart is a very interesting piece to the Twins as well. He’ll have a lot of suitors, however.
SS Rafael Furcal - St. Louis Cardinals
If the Twins get serious about filling the shortstop spot with someone from the outside, Furcal could make a good deal of sense. He’ll turn 36 this week, and that coupled with only five seasons of 150-plus games in his 13 year career could help keep his value down a bit. Oh, and he’s coming off Tommy John surgery, which means he didn’t play at all in 2013. The Twins need to embrace the concept of finding good players coming off bad years -- like the Tigers did with Peralta, for instance -- and this sort of move would definitely hold that kind of potential.
OF-1B Mike Morse - Baltimore Orioles
Morse is another player who could fall under the ‘good player, bad season’ concept. He’ll enter next season 32-years-old, and at this point, he is who he is: a masher who isn’t particularly adept at fielding. Sort of like a Ryan Doumit with more power, if you will. At the price he’s likely to command -- read: LOW -- he has a lot of potential as a bargain bin move. Don’t take that the wrong way, though. This isn’t the same bargain bin that Tony Batista and Sidney Ponson came out of. This is the sort of bargain bin the Tampa Bay Rays shop from.
OF David Murphy - An intriguing corner bat if the Twins go that route. Can’t play center really, and that might be the dealbreaker.
3B Eric Chavez - Would make great platoon partner with Plouffe.
UTIL Ben Zobrist - No chance Rays let him get away unless it’s a trade, but TR loves this guy.
CIF Casey McGehee - Nothing more than a flyer after good year in Japan (.289/.371/.512).
C Jose Molina - Pitch framer extraordinaire could help immensely with staff who needs it more than anyone.
1B-3B Mark Reynolds - Potentially cheap power at a couple positions the Twins are weak at. Nothing more to see here.
IF Nick Punto - You don’t think....do you? Maybe.
IF Ryan Roberts - McGehee without the trip to Japan.
3B Kevin Youkilis - A lot hinges on if the Twins move Plouffe and need a 3B stopgap.
3B Michael Young - Same as Youkilis.
OF Jason Kubel - Sounds like he hated hitting at Target Field, so don’t count on it.
More on Twinkie Town:
- Monday Twins Notes: Hicks, Chavez, Price, Leyland, Randball & Morneau
- Terry Ryan Holds "Press Conference" at Area Bar
- FanPost: Twins' Run Prevention - Pitching vs Defense
- October 20, 1987: World Series Game 3 vs Cardinals
- October 20, 1991: World Series Game 2 vs Braves