Monday, June 1, 2015

The Twins Are Great, But Can They Be Better?

The Minnesota Twins won 20 games in the month of May, a feat they accomplished for just the first time since June 1991. In doing so, they took over the lead in the AL Central division as well as laid claim to the best record in the American League. After four seasons of 90 losses, it's pretty easy to call this revelation a smashing success, but here's where beggars turn into choosers. Could the Twins actually be even better?

Right now, Minnesota still has Tim Stauffer, Eduardo Nunez, Chris Herrmann, and Shane Robinson on the 25 man roster. Each of those players are easily recognizable as being replacement level at best. With internal options looming, there's little doubt that their eventual removal should be a net positive.

Stauffer was a free agent flier that the Twins hoped to be a long-arm option out of the bullpen. His $2.2 million contract has been a virtual waste as he's pitched to an 8.03 ERA (and an even worse 8.69 FIP). A DL stint appeared to be the long awaited end for Stauffer, but the Twins instead brought him back and made him the 13th arm in the bullpen

Nunez made the Opening Day roster as somewhat of a de facto utility man. Despite Eduardo Escobar being a better option in virtually the same capacity, the Twins decided to bring Nunez along as well. Functioning in a very limited role for the Twins (playing in just 14 games), Nunez has slashed .316/.366/.526. Had Eddie Rosario been considered as a fourth outfield option in spring training, Nunez could have found himself the odd man out.

Looking at Herrmann, the Twins were somewhat forced into the situation. What makes it more curious is that he still remains on the 25 man roster. After Josmil Pinto dealt with concussion like symptoms in spring training, Herrmann grabbed onto the backup role. Hitting just .171/.227/.317 and spelling starter Kurt Suzuki in just 15 games, calling Herrmann a disappointment would be a massive understatement

Rounding out the group, Shane Robinson was brought in on a no-risk free agent deal. With Minnesota needing a fourth outfielder, the veteran profiled as the ideal candidate. Being paired with Jordan Schafer from the get go was an odd decision, but Robinson has done everything asked of him. Despite hitting just .267/.313/.293, Robinson has been a defensive asset to an outfield with limited options in that category. Should the Twins move on from him, it will be indicative of their developed depth more than anything.

Noting that the Twins have some black holes on their roster, there's no doubt replacements would signify an opportunity for improvement. It would be hard to argue that pitchers such as Michael Tonkin, A.J. Achter, Lester Oliveros, or even a Jake Reed type wouldn't be more beneficial than Stauffer. Removing a run-allowing pitcher in the pen is always an area to focus on. Minnesota actually has the opportunity to gain through loss in two situations if they were to take a serious look at Brian Duensing's viability for their club.

Nunez and Herrmann were always going to be replaceable from the get go. The former is an interesting role to replace because he doesn't need to get into games. Nunez isn't a developmental product at this point in his career and you know what you have with him. Herrmann on the other hand is a mere placeholder. Despite a recent cold stretch, Pinto has five home runs and 22 RBI in Triple-A and he's throwing out baserunners at a 26% clip. Minnesota no doubt should be looking to upgrade their backup catcher sooner rather than later.

Looking at the situation as a whole, the Twins have to be excited about what they have done, and who they have done it with. Knowing that the roster isn't even in an optimal condition, the arrow should be pointing upwards. Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor will need to get creative in the coming months, but they have plenty of pieces to form an elaborate puzzle.

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