Two big names from the crop of backup defensive-minded outfielders – if you can call them "big names" – were picked up by other teams on minor league deals Monday.
Endy Chavez and Willy Taveras both agreed to contracts.
With the loss of Jason Pridie on waivers to the New York Mets a week or so ago, many wonder who the Twins plan to use as an outfielder off the bench. Of course, there’s plenty of depth with Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Jason Kubel and Delmon Young as outfield options. But only one of these four – Span – plays even average defense in the field.
The question the Twins face is: With a two-run lead in the eighth inning, do you really want Young lumbering around in the outfield? Or, worse yet, what happens if Span gets hurt and goes on the 15-day DL? Seriously, what does?
Right now barring a miracle – Jacque Jones making this team on a minor league contract could be considered that – the Twins don’t have anyone who can come off the bench in the outfield. I thought Taveras and notably Chavez would have been great additions in that regard, and neither would have cost the team anything.
It’s still possible that the Twins trade someone like Glen Perkins and/or Alexi Casilla for a guy who can fill that role.
And solid players who can do this type of thing do get cut during spring training. Just a couple years ago, the Toronto Blue Jays cut Reed Johnson late in spring training. A guy like that would work well.
I think Chavez would have been a great fit for this team, which in terms of position players doesn’t need much.
And I’ve read Nick Punto‘s name thrown around as a potential option for a backup outfielder. Maybe that could work. But I think the Twins would want him focused on improving offensively and trying to win the third base job rather than shagging fly balls so he can back up Young.
Speaking of Casilla, MLBtraderumors.com ran a list of players who are out of minor league options and have less than five years of big league experience. These players would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minor leagues.
The Twins have five of these players. In addition to Casilla, the list includes Young, Scott Baker, Clay Condrey and Brendan Harris.
Three of these guys – Baker, Young and Harris, who just got a two-year deal this offseason – would seem to be not at risk of being sent down no matter how bad the spring goes.
Condrey is a possibility, but only because there are quite a few bullpen arms to choose from. I could see him not making the team, though I think it’s likely he will.
The Twins do have a decision to make on Casilla, who is blocked by Orlando Hudson as a starter now. And Casilla doesn’t have the versatility that Punto, Harris or Matt Tolbert bring to the table as reserves. My guess is Casilla gets traded during the spring. And that might be the answer to the backup outfielder dilemma.
As far as outside possibilities on the list, the Seattle Mariners have a glut of outfielders. Maybe someone like Ryan Langerhans - who grades out really well defensively – could be let go during the spring. Or even Mitch Maier in Kansas City, where Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and David DeJesus would appear to be locks in the starting lineup.
It’s a small job, but it would make a big difference to Joe Nathan and the rest of the Twins bullpen if they could find someone with some range in the outfield who can help close out victories.