Friday, October 23, 2015
Weeding Through Molitor's Messages
Paul Molitor is heading into his first offseason having been the acting manager the season before. With a full year of evaluation, Molitor now has the task of positioning the active roster for sustained competitiveness in the years to come. Judging by his interview, he's already given the process some serious thought.
Early on when talking to Reusse, Molitor addressed the bullpen, and suggested Neal Cotts could be brought back. As things stand currently, Cotts (acquired from the Brewers) is headed to free agency. There's been some buzz that the Twins would look into bringing him back needing a left-handed arm in relief. Cotts pitched on a one-year, $3 million deal in 2015, and no doubt would be looking for more. He owned a 3.95 ERA across 13.2 IP for the Twins, but had a 5.99 FIP (fielding independent pitching) and a 1.390 WHIP. Cotts struck out just 5.9 per nine and walked 3.3 per nine (walks mirroring his career numbers). If you're looking to fix the pen, Cotts isn't where I'd start.
Following the pen discussion, Molitor then turned his attention toward some of the youth in the Twins organization. First noting pitcher Jose Berrios, Molitor had good things to say of his performance in 2015. With a 2.87 ERA and 9.5 K/9 in 2015, it's hard not to be excited about the production. The Twins skipper did touch on concerns of workload (Berrios pitched 166.1 innings in 2015, previous high was 139.2), despite noting his work ethic and conditioning.
There was plenty of angst towards the Twins in not promoting Berrios down the stretch. Molitor suggested that he was in favor of keeping the Puerto Rican hurler on the farm, and that service time and contracts unfortunately come into play. He'll be pushing for time out of Spring Training, but it doesn't sound like Molitor plans on opening that door too easily.
From the mound to the outfield, Molitor then discussed Byron Buxton's performance down the stretch. Despite not getting into too much action, Molitor noted the staff "saw lots of signs of improvement," also noting his "athleticism is off the charts." It doesn't appear that the organization is convinced Buxton will open 2016 with the big league club however. Buxton shouldn't have a prolonged stay in Triple-A, but beginning the season there seems like the route that may be taken.
Staying in the outfield, Torii Hunter then became a talking point. Molitor praised his season (at least the 20 HR 80 RBI portion of it), and said there's "interest on our side," in regards to bringing him back. It doesn't sound like Torii has made up his mind as to what he'd like to do. Despite Reusse suggesting most don't understand defensive metrics outside of the organization, it's the defensive metrics that should have Twins fans wanting Hunter out the door. He posted an ugly -8 DRS (defensive runs saved) and a poor 0.3 UZR (ultimate zone rating) in 2015. His roster spot is better used on someone more than just a figurehead.
Interestingly enough, and despite the youth out in the outfield, Molitor seems to believe the Twins outfield depth isn't where he wants it. Noting that Hicks is off to a good start but needs to continue that path, and having some other unproven youth, he took the conversation to an unexpected place. Suggesting it's "not out of the realm of possibility" to play Miguel Sano in the outfield, it doesn't seem the Twins are concerned about getting him out of being solely a DH.
Lastly addressing the infield, Molitor quickly suggested that Eduardo Escobar is their shortstop. He earned the role in 2015, and should be allowed to run with it for the immediate future. His fWAR ranks 12th among 72 shortstops with 100 or more plate appearances since 2014 (credit @Brandon_Warne).
With Escobar locking down short, Molitor offered that "We're (Twins) going to run into issues with (Danny) Santana, out of options and all." The problem with this line of thinking is that there really is no problem at all. Both Escobar and Eduardo Nunez filled super utility roles for the Twins in the past. Santana seems like the ideal candidate to do so at least in 2016, and that decision becomes even more clear when not wasting roster spots on players like Hunter.
As a whole, the conversation was extremely candid, and often times Molitor lets slip some very good tidbits of information. The Twins have begun to trim their 40 man roster already, and more decisions loom this offseason. Minnesota needs to take another step forward in 2016, and seeing how that happens will be interesting.