Thursday, December 13, 2007

Plan D?

When I saw that SS Adam Everett had been non-tendered by the Houston Astros yesterday, I thought, "Ooh, we need a shortstop!" After spending about 30 seconds perusing his career stats, my enthusiasm faded, and I moved on. So, of course, today the Twins signed him to a 1-year, $2.8 million contract. My initial reaction was something like:

Ummmmm, 'kay.

But a few more minutes of research showed Everett to be one of the most superlative defensive shortstops in the game. Guys like that can make a big difference to a team, especially when a young starter gets himself into a bases-loaded, 1-out jam, and that two-hopper up the middle turns into a double-play instead of a two-run single. Casilla may have more offensive upside at short, but it won't make too much difference to have Everett get those at-bats instead. We can always pinch-hit for him in a critical situation. It's a good Moneyball move: his best skills are under-valued, so his contributions are affordable for the Twins.

It may also help us to focus on Bill Smith's strategy for this off-season. The Twins obviously won't be able to slug with the Tigers, but could outpitch and out-defend them. Let's put our resources toward the parts of the game the Tigers have overlooked. Why not put together the best defensive team we possibly can?

I think Marcus Giles fits into that, while providing some offensive potential that someone like Everett has never shown. Why not go after Inge for 3B? He'll solidify the left side, and provide 20+ homers while he's at it. How about Coco Crisp or Corey Patterson for CF? Either one will play dynamite D up the middle while getting on base less than 1/3 of the time. The pitching would have to carry the team, but that's our strength right now, and the market for available players doesn't offer much in the way of hitters.

The heart of the lineup, as currently constituted, should provide plenty of pop - Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, Young, and Kubel are all capable of improving on their numbers from last year. The other four slots in the lineup would be filled with pretty light hitters, but that was also the case in 2007. The Twins should be able to improve upon their run total from last year. And with a team built for defense and pitching, they might prevent a few more runs while they're at it. That improved run differential should be enough to provide a winning season.

By the way, this Everett signing highlights how easy it is to fill roster spots with players commanding moderate salaries. Such players will be available in every off-season. Just another reason it should be considered possible to set aside $20+ for Santana.

In other news, there was this report that came out today. The only Twin implicated for performnce-enhancing drug use while a member of the franchise was pitcher Dan Naulty. Though no one claims the list of players in the report to be exhaustive, I think it serves to confirm what I had always suspected - that Ron Coomer came by his power naturally.

Only the good kids could go through the steroid era without anybody hitting 30 homers in a season.

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