Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Roster Moves Are Coming, Aren't They?

Yesterday, the Minnesota Twins played one of the worst baseball games I have witnessed at the professional level for quite some time. With Phil Hughes leaving after five innings due to an injury, Tim Stauffer came on to take over. Handed a 7-3 lead, he promptly allowed two solo home runs (giving up three total runs), while getting just two outs. Casey Fien later allowed three more earned runs before leaving with an injury, and the Twins fell by a score of 10-7. Losing centerfield Jordan Schafer to injury in the game as well, the Twins looked to be hurting in every aspect. The assumption was that moves would be coming, but the matter now is when.

Looking at the game yesterday, the Twins watched as their two biggest deficiencies were exploited to an ugly extent. Having a below average defense hurt them on multiple occasions. Schafer and Oswaldo Arcia looked inept in the outfield, and a popup fell for a hit in the infield. Following a good start, the bullpen imploded giving up not only the lead, but also seven earned runs on 10 hits in just four innings. There's no doubt that Minnesota gave away a win yesterday, a chance at being a game within .500, and an opportunity for a second consecutive series win. With players like Stauffer and Schafer repeating those types of performances more often than not, Minnesota needs to make some changes.

It appeared initially that Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan may have had their hand finally forced. Losing Hughes, Schafer, and Fien all in the same game suggested that some moves would need to be made. For now however, it looks as if all three players should be able to overcome their setbacks in short order and avoid missing time. For the sake of the Twins however, injuries shouldn't dictate a certaint few moves being made.

Defense has been a problem all year, and it's only going to continue to be an issue. Minnesota has tried Schafer in center for plenty of time, and it's past the period of moving on. Aaron Hicks no doubt was the most sensible option in center for this club out of the gate, and it's time the Twins fix the mistake. Schafer is batting .188.204/.229, by all measurable standards, horrible doesn't being to describe that. Hicks is hitting .288/.385/.485 in Triple-A, and brings a plus level of defense to the field. His mental lapses can't happen, but Molitor can inflict that discipline on him. Shane Robinson makes sense as a fourth outfielder, and he's hit well even in a small sample size. Schafer has worn out his welcome in Minnesota, and Hicks should be up with the big league club within the next couple of weeks.

Despite snagging two hits yesterday, Kennys Vargas is slashing just .183/.246/.250. His power has not shown up, and he's been caught chasing pitches all over the plate. A trip to Triple-A to mash some breaking balls would probably do him well. Offering little at first base defensively, a switch to Trevor Plouffe or Chris Herrmann as the backup wouldn't be a big downgrade. In Rochester, Josmil Pinto continues to pound baseballs, and would immediately add a boost to the Twins lineup. Pinto is slashing .305/.397/.373. On top of that, he's thrown out 2-8 would be base stealers, and has allowed just one passed ball in 14 games. Pinto has little to prove on the farm and should also be with the big league club before the middle of May.

If Minnesota wants to be able to hang onto leads, a bullpen shakeup is going to be necessary. Rather than continuing to mutter that the club is looking for help, a quick glance at the farm would do the Twins well. Terry Ryan took fliers on Blaine Boyer and Tim Stauffer likely with the idea he could turn them into something later in the season (a la Sam Fuld). We can see that's not going to happen with Stauffer. His 8.38 ERA is horrid and just keeps climbing. DFA'ing Stauffer sometime soon would probably be the best practice. Boyer has looked sharper of late, and the Twins could still get value out of him if he can continue along that path. It's not a guarantee though, and there shouldn't be much of a leash there either.

The Twins bullpen is currently void of power arms, and the ones they could have taken north are in Triple-A. Michael Tonkin currently owns a 2.45 ERA with Rochester, and is striking out batters at a 12.3 K/9 clip (he is now taking over in the pen for Casey Fien who will hit the DL). Ryan Pressly's 4.50 ERA isn't where you'd like it to be, but it's only been 10 innings. He does however have a 13.5 K/9 and owned a 2.86 ERA for the Twins in 2014. Finally, Lester Oliveros owns a 1.04 ERA with Rochester, and has struck out batters at a ridiculous 17.7 K/9 rate. You could probably throw A.J. Achter into this group as well, and make the argument that all of them are better bullpen options than a handful of the guys the Twins currently are running out there. I'd expect to see at least one of them with the big league club within the next two weeks.

At the end of the day, it's a sad situation if it ultimately becomes injuries that force the Twins briantrust to make necessary moves. With that in mind however, this team needs to stretch wins in its favor by putting their most competitive lineup on the field each night. Running low-ceiling guys out there hoping they don't get burnt isn't a good practice. It by no means is time for the kids (check out how Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are hitting, the rust needs to come off first), but there's significantly better options in the organization than what the major league team has gone with. Let's get those moves queued up.

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