Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Best Trade Not Made

Going into the offseason, Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor made quick work of releasing the information that Miguel Sano was going to try and make a transition to the outfield. The exciting slugger needed to make room for Byung Ho Park, and playing right field was how the Twins were going to handle that. The notion was met with skepticism and an almost guaranteed thought that in the end, Trevor Plouffe would be dealt from the Twins.

In the end though, Plouffe has stayed put, and it creates a best possible scenario for the Twins.

Although Sano is entering uncharted territory in the outfield, there's reason to believe that it could work. What's more important though, is exactly how much Plouffe means to Minnesota. For Molitor's squad, there was no logical return that was going to bring back what Plouffe meant to the lineup. Most importantly is that the production Plouffe brings may be under appreciated.

A season ago, Trevor Plouffe was worth 2.5 fWAR for the Twins, down from a 3.6 fWAR in 2014. Unfortunately for those stuck on projections, Steamer sees just a 1.6 fWAR for the Twins third basemen in 2016. It really depends on what Plouffe is able to play throughout the entirety of the season however.

In a handful of categories, Plouffe set new records for himself a year ago. He played in a career high 152 games, scored 74 runs, picked up 140 hits, tripled four times, homered 22 times, drove in 86 runs, and looked every bit the part of one of the best third basemen in baseball. The problem is that Plouffe's season was a tale of two parts.

From Opening Day until the end of July, Plouffe slashed a respectable .257/.316/.456 as well as clubbing 14 of his homers and driving in 55 of his runs. Of his 35 doubles on the season, 24 of them came before August, then things changed. From August 1st through the end of the season, Plouffe slashed an ugly .223/.294/.398. He homered just eight more times, and he struck out 53 times in 56 starts. The momentum from the better part of the season had fallen off of a cliff.

So why does it matter that Plouffe is still in the middle of the Twins lineup? Because for a team that will rely on offense, the California product has shown he can be a catalyst for it. When called upon to handle the load as the cleanup hitter, Plouffe went through issue. In 68 starts from the four-hole, he slashed just .223/.284/.400, launching eight of his homers. At his best, hitting from the five-spot in the lineup, Plouffe slashed .274/.332/.489 with 11 of his homers.

Dropping in the lineup behind the likes of 2016 power hitters, Sano and Park, Plouffe is given an opportunity to see pitches in a more ideal situation. Allowing Plouffe to hit in a lesser lineup role in the year ahead could foster the same type of early season production the Twins saw from their third basemen, but allow them to benefit for an entire 162.

At the end of the day, Plouffe wasn't going to net the Twins much more than a relief arm. Considering the benefit to the lineup as one of their best hitters, keeping him and pairing his bat with the likes of Sano, Park, and Brian Dozier should help the Twins to create offensive opportunities in an abundant fashion.

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