Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Next Twins Reuinion Tour

In recent seasons, the Twins have been more than well known for taking some flyers on the players of yesteryear. There was Matt Geurrier, Jason Kubel, and even Jason Bartlett. While Torii Hunter had more appeal than those players, more often than not, it's not a winning strategy. However, in 2016, it could actually be a path that makes a lot of sense.

To be fair, there's plenty of reason to tread cautiously. Geurrier all but forced his way to the big leagues with his contract suggesting he be added to the 25 man or leave. Jason Kubel offered the Twins next to nothing in 45 games in 2014. Then there was Bartlett, who was put in the outfield and quickly was worth -2 DRS (defensive runs saved), in just 7.0 innings. While Hunter wasn't the trainwreck of those before him, he was more liability in the field than he wasn't, and his greatest asset came in the clubhouse.

With the Twins in a position to take another step forward in the upcoming season, there's a couple of options that could make a decent bit of sense. With the bulk of the roster being set, and holes being more position related than the team as a whole, Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan could find fits from at least two of three former Twins.

Let's start with the guy that probably doesn't make sense to bring back; Justin Morneau. The Colorado Rockies recently declined the team option on his contract, and the former league MVP and batting champ now is a free agent. He'll be 35 next year, and is coming off of a season that was once again cut short by a concussion.

In two seasons with the Rockies, Morneau slashed .316/.363/.487. Coors Field no doubt aided in his increased slash line, and he's a prime candidate for regression no matter where he goes (Morneau hadn't hit about .267 since 2010 previously). While hitting for average, Morneau hit only 17 homers a year ago, and just three in 2015. On top of the expected dip in production, Morneau is a first basemen or designated hitter, two places the Twins already have too many options. This one is a pass.

Next, it's time to touch on the fit behind the plate again. A.J. Pierzynski is an ideal fit on a one-year deal to pair with Kurt Suzuki. Should the Twins not want to shell out big money to Matt Wieters, it's Pierzynski they should turn to. I've made all of the points as to why he would work here (go read it please).

He's going to be playing at age 39 this upcoming year, and while the age should cause him to regress, the same argument could have been made in 2015. Unlike past scenarios, putting A.J. behind the plate in the year ahead would be much more about production than it would a reunion or feel good story. If the opportunity is there, the Twins should take it.

Finally, and maybe most interestingly, the Twins have a bullpen option to consider. Looking to improve upon one of the worst relief situations in all of baseball, Minnesota has plenty to consider. Former closer Joe Nathan is one of the names they could choose to look at. The Tigers declined his $10 million option (sensibly), as he's returning from Tommy John surgery.

Nathan's last deal was a two-year, $20 million contract from Detroit. In his four years since leaving the Twins, he owns a 2.93 ERA and has converted 116 saves. He still strikes a ton of batters out (9.91 K/9), although being admittedly dangerous the past two years (3.1 BB/9 in 2013 4.5 BB/9 in 2014). The caveat here is that in Minnesota, he wouldn't have to close.

I'm not sure what the market will look like for a guy like Nathan. When he signed that $20 million deal, he was coming off an All Star season with the Tigers. Now, he's trying to rebuild his value (both from injury and ineffectiveness). If Ryan gets an opportunity to bring Nathan in on a minor-league deal with a spring training invite, Minnesota should do so in a heartbeat. Allowing him to pitch in a Casey Fien role seems to make a lot of sense.

Although in recent seasons the Twins have made a habit of bringing back retreads in hopes of finding a former spark, they aren't in a position to do that in 2016. You can't have has-beens taking meaningful at bats, but in Pierzynski and Nathan, the expectation would be much higher. If there's a reunion tour this time around, expect it to make much more sense.

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