Now that the Twins are (maybe?) finished buying up every other starting pitcher on the free agent market, Terry Ryan and company are likely turning their eyes to other parts of the club and noticing they they have a number of holes to fill. Unlike the acquisitions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, however, none of the players available are smart choices for long-term contracts.
Below are a trio of position players who would fit into available roster spots (or at least spots that can easily be created), who aren't going to break the bank, and who would be available on short-term deals.
Kelly Shoppach, C
I pick Shoppach over Kurt Suzuki because over the last three seasons he's actually made a positive contribution to the teams for which he's played thanks entirely to his ability to frame a pitch. He's not good at it, but he's better than Suzuki has been in the aggregate. Suzuki's 2.3 wins above replacement from 2011 - 2013 disappear entirely when framing is taken into account, while Schoppach's 2.7 wins drop to 1.8 over the same timeframe.
Neither of these guys are who you want to start long-term, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about bringing in the best backup we can find, and while Suzuki is a better option than Buck, Shoppach looks like a better option than Suzuki.
Offer: One year, $3 million
Jeff Baker, 1B/LF/3B/RF/2B
Baker plays a lot of positions, which is useful even if he doesn't play them particularly well. Baker's biggest asset is his ability to absolutely destroy left-handed pitching (.298/.353/.522 in his career). Whether you want to stick him in a corner outfield spot or into the DH role when a lefty starts, or if you're letting him ride the bench until a late-game opportunity, he has the ability to be a game-changer if used appropriately.
We're certainly not answering all of the questions here, but that's not possible on this free agent market. And even if it were, it would damage The Plan. Baker fits in perfectly as a role player who can make an impact. When facing lefties, the Twins could trot out a lineup featuring Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe, and Jeff Baker. Considering some improvement is likely from Oswaldo Arcia as well, that's six legitimate hitters. You'd have a chance to win, which is something you couldn't say last year.
Offer: One year, $2 million plus a vesting option based on plate appearances
Jason Kubel, DH
Is this cheating? Maybe. I know that Kubel expects to make the roster, which is why he was happy to sign a minor league deal, and yeah I'm maybe bending the rules here a little, but I do think the team would be better with him on it.
Besides, what fun is getting the back back together if you're just going to leave them in upstate New York?
I do think that adding these three players makes the Twins better. Not immensely, but having A) a backup catcher who can still help the team when he's on the field, and B) finding a way to bolster the offense are the primary goals when looking at the position player side of the 2014 equation. Here's what your roster might look like.
First Base: Mauer
Second Base: Dozier
Third Base: Plouffe
Left Field: Willingham
Center Field: Presley
Right Field: Arcia
Designated Hitter: Kubel
Bench: Shoppach, Baker, Escobar, Mastroianni
I'm assuming that Kubel makes the roster here, as I said, but if he doesn't then you could pencil in either Chris Parmelee or Chris Colabello or Ryan Doumit. If one or both of them miss the roster, however, they'll be exposed to waivers.
Would the additions of Kubel, Baker, Escobar, and Shoppach make the team noticeably better than the existing standard of Colabello, Parmelee, Doumit, and Chris Herrmann? I think so. Possibly as much as two or three wins better, and that's certainly starting to push Minnesota into the mid to upper-70s win range.
What do you think? Would you make any combination of those moves, or would you stay away from them entirely? And if you'd stay away from them entirely, why do you hate America?