What Should The Twins Do With Josmil Pinto?


The Minnesota Twins have a Josmil Pinto problem.

Last September the young slugger had a fantastic late-season audition, belting out 4 homeruns and knocking in 12 RBI in 21 games and 76 plate appearances.  Fans and coaches alike raved about his raw power and many had him penciled in as the opening day starter for 2014, despite playing just 19 games at the Triple-A level.  Concerned about Pinto’s defensive liabilities and his difficulties handling a pitching staff, the Twins signed Kurt Suzuki to a one-year deal to allow Pinto to get an extra season to shore up those deficiencies. What the Twins got instead was an All-Star performance from Suzuki, rendering Pinto a forgotten man in Rochester after being sent down in early May.  Considered a stopgap signing in the offseason, the Twins signed Suzuki to a 2 year extension valued at over 12 million dollars running through the 2016 season. With the financial committment made to Suzuki, he will be the assumed starter at catcher for the next two seasons.  So what should the Twins do with Pinto? Let’s go over the possible scenarios:

Option A: Keep Suzuki and Pinto on the major league roster. 

  • Positives:  Allows Pinto to learn on the major league level from veteran Suzuki and coach Terry Steinbach, long-time All-Star catcher for the Oakland A’s.  Pinto can develop a repoire with the major league staff and have a better command of the pitchers abilities, preferences, and styles. With Pinto on the roster, the Twins have a power bat to come off the bench for pinch hitting opportunities and spot starts at catcher and designated hitter.
  • Negatives: With Suzuki starting and assuming most of the catching duties as well as young phenom Kennys Vargas slated as the starting designated hitter in 2015, Pinto would be hard-pressed to get any consistent playing time.  With Pinto languishing on the bench, there is genuine concern that his growth and progress may be stunted.

Option B: Send Pinto down to Rochester for another summer.

  • Positives:  At 25, Pinto still has not hit his prime yet so time is his and the team’s friend.  Having him down in Rochester gives Pinto more ample and consistent playing time working with minor league staff committed to his development.  It also takes pressure off Pinto to produce major league results while still trying to learn the catcher position. For the Twins, it opens up a roster spot for a more versatile player like Chris Herrmann, who plays both catcher and outfield.
  • Negatives: Keeping Pinto down in the minors for an additional season could be considered a step back by both the player and team.  For Pinto, not being able to work with the major league coaching and pitching staffs could stagnate his development as he does not appear to be any closer to being major league-ready after almost an entire summer down in Rochester.  For the Twins, not having Pinto’s bat on the roster greatly reduces any power options off the bench.  It also does not allow direct supervision and coaching by the Twins’ staff, which would require some catching up for the young catcher once he finally does ascend to the major leagues full-time.

Option C:  Trade Pinto during the offseason

  • Positives:  Both previous options project Pinto to not receive any consistent, full-time catching duties until late 2016 or the 2017 season.  By that time, the Twins lineup should include top prospects Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, & Eddie Rosario; as well as current Twins Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, and Joe Mauer.  Needless to say, offense will not be the issue for that lineup, making Pinto’s production at the plate more of a luxury than a necessity.  One thing the Twins are in desperate need of is pitching.  Seeing that top catching prospects are not a dime a dozen, GM Terry Ryan could fetch a high price for the young slugger from a team willing to overlook his defensive liabilities or in need of a Designated Hitter.  For Pinto, this would mean a full-time spot on a major league roster.  For the Twins, shoring up a starting pitching position or supplementing their bullpen from a potential Pinto trade maybe too tantalizing to ignore.
  • Negatives:  If this whole scenario sounds familiar, it’s because the Twins faced this very situation less than four years ago.  In 2010, the Twins had an up-and-coming catching prospect in Wilson Ramos whose promotion to the majors was blocked by All-Star catcher Mauer.  Instead of keeping both catchers on the major league roster or sending Ramos back down to Rochester, then-GM Bill Smith chose to trade Ramos to the Washington Nationals for relief pitcher Matt Capps to fill their vacant closer role.  After two mediocre seasons, Capps was out of the Twins organization while Ramos is a fixture in the pennant-winning Nationals’ lineup.  The trade’s failure was one of the contributing factors to Bill Smith‘s demotion in 2011.

Conclusion:  While Option A is an intriguing option for the team next season, I just don’t see how sitting on the bench benefits Pinto’s development.  What Pinto needs is consistent work on his craft and the only way he’ll receive that with the Twins is with the Rochester Red Wings next summer. Option C is by far the boldest option, with the greatest risk/reward potential.  Knowing how GM Terry Ryan values his prospects, I just can’t see him pulling the trigger on a Pinto trade.  With all possibilities considered, expect Option B to be the course of action with Josmil Pinto spending the 2015 season in Rochester with catchers Kurt Suzuki and either Eric Fryer or Chris Herrmann on the major league roster.

Until next time…