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Twins trade Aaron Hicks: Roster fallout

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What happens in Minnesota's outfield now that Hicks is out the door?

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2015-2016 off-season, the baseline expectation was that Byron Buxton would start the year in Triple-A and that Aaron Hicks would begin the year as the Twins' starting center fielder. Even if Buxton showed up to spring training and blew the proverbial roof off, Hicks was seen as a viable corner outfield option. Now, things have just gotten very interesting.

Who is Minnesota's center fielder on opening day?

Byron Buxton

Expectations for Buxton in the wake of the Hicks trade shouldn't change. Where he starts the 2016 season should have everything to do with what's best for him. Based on what we saw in his time with the Twins, that would probably be in the minor leagues until his development as a hitter catches up to where he is as a fielder.

There's a chance he could be the club's center fielder on opening day, of course. In that scenario it would be Eddie Rosario in one corner and, right now, either Oswaldo Arcia or Miguel Sano in the other corner. Most of that seems pretty optimistic though, not just in the case of Buxton and his state of readiness but in Sano and the outfield experiment. It's been announced that Sano won't be playing any outfield during winter ball, which means his first real crack at it would come in spring training; that's a pretty aggressive timetable.

Eddie Rosario

Rosario profiles better as a corner outfielder given his skillset, but he's fast enough and athletic enough and his arm is good enough to hold down center field for a while. He at least has some experience at the position, starting three games there for the Twins in 2015. He's also logged more than 1,500 innings in center field during his time in the minor leagues.

This would open up both corner outfield spots. Putting Sano in one corner and Arcia in another doesn't feel great, but if Trevor Plouffe hasn't been traded that's how Minnesota will shoehorn Sano into the batting order - and Arcia is out of options, and has too much talent as a hitter to pass through waivers and lose for nothing.

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Worth considering are the free agent and trade markets. With the departure of Torii Hunter, a young outfield is without experience - both their own, and that of a former mentor.

Remember being 18 and leaving home for the first time and having to deal with your life? Sure, we all knew how it was supposed to go, but now we had to make our own meals and wash our own clothes and rotate our own tires and get ourselves up for class. All easy enough, but for until you get used to being out from under your parents' roof it's a new experience. Now when you needed to figure something out it was all on you and your equally inexperienced friends. That's the Minnesota Twins outfield right now.

With Hunter and Hicks now gone, not to mention Shane Robinson, Minnesota's most experienced outfielder is now Oswaldo Arcia. He has 853 Major League plate appearances, which is less than two years' worth as a full-time player, and he had all of 65 of them in 2015.

If Minnesota's outfield isn't now primed for the addition of a veteran presence, I don't know when it would be.

Would the Twins be willing to target the bigger outfield targets? Successfully signing Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward, or even Dexter Fowler would require Minnesota to forfeit its first-round draft pick. Perhaps a short-term option might be a better fit, such as Nori Aoki or Colby Rasmus.

It's also possible that the Twins target another familiar face in Denard Span.

In the trade market, the Reds have put Jay Bruce on the block. Would the Cardinals be willing to part with Jon Jay, or the Rockies with Carlos Gonzalez? At this point, there are very few big names I'd be counting as untouchable for Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins.


Whatever happens with the Twins and their outfield over the coming weeks and months, it's not finished. Looking down the list of outfielders on the 40-man roster, it will not look exactly the same as it does right now by the time opening day comes around. Somebody else may go. But someone else will be coming in. Maybe it'll just be a fourth outfielder - perhaps even something as simple as the return of Robinson - but there's still work to be done.

The makeup of Minnesota's opening day outfield has changed drastically in the last couple of weeks. With Hunter's retirement, the trade of Hicks, and the strong possibility that both Buxton and Max Kepler start 2016 in the minor leagues, we find ourselves in a position where we're almost waiting for another shoe to drop.

Or maybe three moves in four days has me a bit trigger-happy. How does the outfield shake out if you're putting things together?