Minnesota Twins Mailbox: What happens to Trevor Plouffe?


In this first edition of the weekly Minnesota Twins Mailbox we discuss Trevor Plouffe, free agents, expectations and top prospects with Puckett’s Pond Editor Jerry Burnes.

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What do you think the Twins do with Trevor Plouffe heading into the off-season? Is he a trade option or do we pay him the around 8 million he would get in the free agent market?(@AJaySchmidt):

Plouffe could have a lot of value to other teams entering 2016, so the Twins should actively shop him. His estimated arbitration value is $7.7 million, fairly cheap for a third baseman coming off a season with 22 home runs and a 3.6 fWAR in one of the league’s worst hitters’ parks, and two full seasons from free agency. Dealing him solves the riddle how to work in field time for Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer, among other potential DH options. And, really, any way to free up payroll at overstocked positions to spend on needs should be considered.

Off hand, Plouffe would be an immediate upgrade in Milwaukee, and depending on free agency, the White Sox, Angels and Indians. A team could easily view him as a first base option (118 innings in 2015), opening him up realistically to Colorado, Baltimore, San Diego, and — in a backup/platoon role at both positions — the Pirates and Mets.

All that said, I’d only be mildly surprised if he did return to Minnesota in 2016.

Here’s a softball: who’s the #1 target in free agency? (@dvinsand):

It has to be Jordan Zimmermann, right?. I’m a firm believer the Twins need an ace to take the next step, a point I’ll expand on with my pitching outlook. Beyond him, the market at shortstop, catcher and relief is mediocre at best.

I don’t even sniff Ian Desmond. He’s not that consistent. His good years are top-5 shortstop, but his bad years are ugly. That and if he signs for a bargain, he’s staying in Washington, which is the only way you sign him if you’re the Minnesota Twins.

The only real questions with Zimmermann is how much does he want, and who else will chase him? If I’m the Twins and want to make a legitimate run at him, I make my max offer early on while everyone else has attention focused on David Price and Zack Greinke.

What can we expect from Miguel Sano this year? John, Minneapolis:

Sano is an interesting study because of how quickly he adjusted to pitchers’ efforts against him. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs had a tidy recap of that to spare all our times. Sano had only 335 at-bats last year, so we’re still looking at a relatively small sample size. That’s been the case as he progressed through High-A (243 AB), Double-A (276 AB in 2013, 286 AB in 2015).

If you look at his Class-A season in 2012, I think that’s where you find a typical Sano season, and it matches the type of hitter he was expected to be when the Twins signed him: .258/.373/.521 with 28 home runs, a lot of strikeouts and a fair share of walks, though I think his power range is more 30-40 annually.

Is Adam Brett Walker the next Sano? Tom, St. Paul:

Highly doubtful. Walker has the power, but his hit tool is far below Sano’s. In today’s game of prospects, sometimes you have to accept the strikeouts with the power. That’s why I think Walker’s .239/.309/.498 line, 31 home runs, 34/9 K/BB percentage split aligns him more with Javier Baez than anyone else. I also think Walker will have to pay some dues in Triple-A, unlike Sano, to try and ready his overall approach more. It’s imaginable he shows up in September off the bench when the Twins need him to try and run into a pitch.

If not Ian Desmond, who starts at shortstop in 2016? Patrick, Mankato:
At this point, not starting Eduardo Escobar would be snubbing him. He was great from August through the end of the season batting .297/.348/.547. Does he throw that line down for a full season of work? Probably not. But there’s no reason to spend on Desmond when Escobar is there as a potential bridge to Nick Gordon in 2017. Problem is, I don’t think he’s consistent enough with the bat or glove to hold down a spot all season.

There’s a few other sleeper options for shortstop, too. A Ricky Nolasco-for-Jose Reyes bad contract swap has been thrown around, though I’m pessimistic a deal like that happens. Jorge Polanco is viewed by scouts a second baseman, but he’s ready for the bigs and has played a considerable amount of shortstop in the minors. He’s also among their trade chips as a middle infielder.

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