Most of the Twins offseason up to this point has revolved around whether or not Brian Dozier would be traded. Now that the issue is settled, we can turn to some other issues… like who the hell is going to play shortstop?
I think most Twins fans have assumed, barring a Dozier trade, Jorge Polanco would be the starting shortstop in 2017. After all, Polanco is out of options, so the Twins have to put him somewhere. Shortstop is open, and Polanco is a shortstop prospect.
Or, at least, Polanco was a shortstop prospect. The problem now facing the Twins is that, as time has gone on, Polanco is really looking more and more like a second baseman, not a shortstop. This was one of the reasons Dozier seemed particularly expendable. In fact, Polanco played exclusively at second in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, just as he did last year in the minors. The only time he’s played shortstop in the past year was in the majors, where he started 45 games--and he wasn’t all that great by any measure. Defensively, he was basically the worst shortstop in the majors outside of an aging Alexei Ramirez.
Beyond Polanco, the Twins’ current major league choices are slim: just Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana. Escobar was the Opening Day shortstop in 2016, but he wasn’t able to cement himself in that position. He really is more of a utility player. Danny Santana, on the other hand, is already hanging on to his roster spot by a thread, if that.
So if neither Polanco, Escobar, nor Santana seem ideal, do the Twins have any other choices?
According to MLB Daily Dish’s 2016-2017 Free Agent Tracker, there are three free agent shortstops still on the market: Daniel Descalso, Alexei Ramirez, and Erick Aybar.
Neither Descalso nor Ramirez are legit options. Descalso, 30, is more of a utility player, and Ramirez, 35, was released by the Padres last year because, well, of the reasons mentioned earlier.
That leaves Aybar, 33. He played 111 games last year between the Braves and Tigers, with 104 of them being at shortstop. While he only hit a meh .243/.303/.320, he’d provide a veteran presence and could shore up at the position when Polanco or Escobar (or Santana?) isn’t out there having fun and trying their best.
Even going out and signing Aybar, however, has its problems. His defense last year was only average, if that. Plus, signing Aybar would create a roster crunch by forcing both Escobar and Polanco to the bench, where they’d basically both be mostly-infield utility players. How many of those can the Twins carry around on the roster?
The Twins could try looking in their farm system for a shortstop, although they probably aren’t going to find an immediate solution. The only shortstops who’ll be in big league camp for spring training are Benji Gonzalez (27), Leonardo Reginatto (26), Engelb Vielma (22), and Nick Gordon (21).
Vielma is the only one of the four actually on the 40-man roster, though he has never appeared above Double-A. He is known for having strong defense, but would he be ready to make the jump from Double-A to the majors? It’s possible the Twins could call him up in a pinch--after all, that’s what they did with Jorge Polanco, wasting an option and helping create the mess the team is in now… In any case, it’s doubtful Vielma would be the starting shortstop on opening day.
That leaves Gonzalez, Reginatto, and Gordon. Gonzalez has only had 61 plate appearances in Triple-A, and they all came back in 2015 in the Pirates’ system. Last year Gonzalez played 129 games at shortstop in Double-A for the Mariners, where he also made 16 errors. Reginatto played in 23 games in Triple-A last year, but they were all at third base. And Gordon hasn’t played above High-A. He’s not ready.
Although it’s possible one of these guys may be called up during the year, it’s highly unlikely the will be the shortstop on Opening Day.
It’s possible the Twins could trade for a shortstop, but quite honestly, I’m not sure who they would trade for or what they would offer. In addition, unless what they offered was Polanco or Escobar, the Twins would likely run into the same roster issues they would face signing a free agent.
Does anyone have any idea on how the Twins could make this work?
Hear me out on this one. Yes, I know Manny signed to play with an independent minor league team in Japan this year, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t possible. The Twins could always offer to trade Shane Carrier or something, or maybe even just cash. Heck, they could probably just wait until Manny gets homesick and quits like he did when he played in Taiwan a couple years ago.
He’s 44 years old, but who really knows how he’s aged after all those PEDs. All I’m saying is that the Twins need to really keep all of their options open here. It’s not like I’m the first person to ever suggest this.
Personally, I think the Twins will start the season with some sort of combination of Escobar and Polanco at short, and maybe supplement at the position later on with a call-up or maybe a trade.
What do you think the Twins should do?