headed to the outfield, and Minnesota has found their newest designated hitter. In the midst of it all, Trevor Plouffe still remains in line to man the hot corner, and for good reason.
There has been plenty of discussion regarding the Twins looking to deal their starting third basemen. Plouffe is considered to be blocking uber-prospect Miguel Sano, and he's only getting more expensive through arbitration. After another solid campaign in 2015, there's no doubt his $4.8 million contract is going to go up in the second year of arbitration eligibility. While a trade could still come to fruition, it's far from something that should be considered a lock.
A season ago, Plouffe had the look (at least early) of an All Star caliber third basemen. He finished with a .244/.307/.435 slash line cemented by 22 homers and 86 runs batted in. The 29 year-old logged career highs in games played, runs, hits, triples, and RBI. On the defensive side of things, he was worth -1 DRS (defensive runs saved) and compiled a 1.7 UZR (ultimate zone rating). Although it was a step back in the field, the improvement defensively over the last two seasons still remains substantial.
In short, Plouffe is an asset for the Twins, and appears to remain so moving forward.
That begs the question, what reason is there for Minnesota to trade him? Considering his positioning as an asset, Plouffe has become a valuable commodity. Adding to that is the fact he is under team control until 2018, and is still just 29 years-old (likely entering his prime a bit later than most). The production combined with the business side of things makes Plouffe a commodity if the Twins choose to go that route.
Looking at the roster shuffle the Twins have recently begun, it's hard to argue against Plouffe not pushing the envelope however. While Sano to left field is a defensive step backwards, it makes a significant amount of sense for the immediate future. Sure, an Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Aaron Hicks is a defensive wonder, but it's probably not quite ready yet. Buxton's bat may keep him from the Opening Day roster, and Rosario's swing and miss rates should be some cause for concern. In due time, that scenario could still play out.
With things shaping up as they are, it appears the Twins are poised to go with an outfield of Sano, Hicks, and Rosario. Plouffe would man the hot corner with Joe Mauer at first, and the (hopeful) addition of Byung-Ho Park filling the DH spot. In going with this construction, the Twins would be adding talent all over the field, and worrying about how to make it fit later. In an organization with strong youth prospects, as well as major league pieces, this is an incredibly sensible strategy.
There's still reason to believe Plouffe could be dealt. If a team like the Angels is willing to part with pitching, Terry Ryan would be best served to listen. Regardless, right now the assumption that his bags are already packed should be looked at as incredibly premature. Minnesota is on the cusp of turning the franchise around for the foreseeable future, and parting with talent because of position squeezes isn't generally a viable strategy.