I really wish I didn't have to write this, I really do. However, from my little corner of the Twittersphere I have seen the same suggestions posited over and over that it's become downright frustrating. Now, I would hope that the vast majority of Twinkie Town readers would not need this lecture, but I never can be too certain. Besides, perhaps you may know someone that is in need of this speech as well, so go forth and spread this gospel I'm about to preach.
The Twins were a surprising team before the All-Star break and now we've watched the tower come crashing down as the team has become a shell of its former self. Everyone, from the players, the coaching staff, the front office, and even the fans are grasping at ideas on what will turn this team around. We've seen Aaron Hicks bat leadoff (not bad), Trevor May get demoted to the bullpen (not ideal but somewhat necessary) then sent back to make a spot start (horrific) and now return to the 'pen, Torii Hunter get more and more days off as he slumps (not a bad idea), and more. Meanwhile, Byron Buxton was activated from the disabled list and had an option year burned when he was sent to Triple-A (questionable) and Jose Berrios is looking solid in the minors instead of showing what he can do in the big leagues (frustrating).
While the organization has been arguably calm and collected in the face of adversity over the past month, fans have been a little annoyed at the perceived lack of ambition. While we should be realistic and understand that making the playoffs would be an enormous bonus on what was supposed to be yet another rebuilding year, this team simply is not built to compete with the playoff teams at the moment. Next year? Sure, let's go crazy as Miguel Sano keeps slugging in the cleanup spot, Buxton hopefully is anchoring center field, Eddie Rosario avoids a sophomore slump, and the pitching staff gets some reinforcements.
As next year approaches, a logjam in the outfield suddenly appears. Rosario is holding his own this year, Aaron Hicks is finally putting all his tools together that made him a first round pick, and Hunter has staved off time for the most part this season and has talked about returning another year. This doesn't even include Oswaldo Arcia, who is definitely looking to wipe the slate clean and start all over next year. Of course, we cannot forget Buxton, who is the best prospect this team has developed since Joe Mauer. It sure sounds likely that Hunter will return for next season, which means something has to give in order to cram all these outfielders into the lineup. This is where our intervention starts.
Ladies and gentlemen, as much as you want to believe that it's possible, the following are never going to happen:
- Eddie Rosario is not moving back to second base.
- Brian Dozier is not moving back to shortstop.
- Trevor Plouffe is not moving back to shortstop.
Let's start with Rosario moving to second base. The root of this idea comes from the experiment the Twins tried a few years ago when - coincidentally - the team had an excess of outfielders and were lacking middle infielders. The thought was that Rosario's bat was a sure thing and that it would play anywhere, but with no room on the major league roster, he would be better served learning a new position. Thus, the switch to second base was on. It wasn't a full-time move, but Rosario did see time up the middle over parts of three seasons, stretching from 2012 to 2014. In that time, he made 204 appearances at second, compared with 70 appearances in the outfield over the same time frame. This season, the Twins chose to keep Rosario strictly in the outfield, perhaps because of a certain All-Star second baseman that was already on the big league roster.
This leads into the idea that Brian Dozier should be shifted over to shortstop. After all, it's the position he primarily played in the minor leagues and it's where he debuted in 2012. However, the results were less than great for him. His arm wasn't strong enough for the position, he made far too many errors, and his range was limited. The move to second base the following year helped jump-start his career and I don't think you'll find too many decision-makers in the Twins organization that see a switch back to shortstop as being a wise idea.
The last bullet point from above doesn't really concern the outfield, but rather the emergence of Miguel Sano. His natural position is third base, but it's likely that he'll outgrow the position. First base is occupied by Joe Mauer and a move to the corner outfield probably won't happen in the near future for reasons detailed above. It would make sense to let Sano show what he can do defensively, but Trevor Plouffe is currently holding down the position. Like Dozier, Plouffe was primarily a shortstop in the minors and made his Twins debut at shortstop. Continuing the similarities, Plouffe also failed to inspire confidence while he was there with his lack of range and proficiency for errors. He was moved to third base and with some tweaks, he has now transformed himself into an above-average third baseman.
I suppose I should give Twins fans some props for thinking outside the box here. Shortstop has been a black hole since J.J. Hardy was here and it would be nice to fix this perpetual issue. However, Plouffe and Dozier both showed that they can excel at other defensive positions while being unable to play shortstop, and Rosario is excelling in the outfield. I know Moneyball seemingly taught that defensive didn't matter, but I feel it certainly does. Weakening the defense to cram as many bats in the lineup seems counterproductive.
Trying to find room to get Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Dozier, Plouffe, Hicks, Mauer, Hunter (if he re-signs), Arcia, and Vargas all into the lineup simply isn't possible. It's those last three players I mentioned that I feel are on the outside looking in. Besides, I am a huge proponent of organizational depth. If any of the regulars get hurt, Vargas is always a phone call away from coming up to the major leagues, Arcia should probably be platooning anyway, and if Hunter returns, he should be making 3-4 starts a week in his age 40/41 season anyway.
A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think moving Plouffe or Dozier back to shortstop along with moving Rosario to second base would be insane. It doesn't make sense to me to shift players away from positions where they're comfortable all in the name of solving a single problem. Having too many bats is a good thing, so let's not ruin it.