Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trevor Plouffe Has A Home With Minnesota

Coming into the season, arguably one of the most head-scratching decisions the Minnesota Twins made was to load up on first basemen and designated hitter types. There was Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, and then the acquisition of Byung Ho Park. Given the scarcity of at bats to go around, more questions than answers were present in regards to how it would all work. Now nearing the end of the 2016 campaign, it seems the most likely to be moved of the bunch, may have a future role.

Trevor Plouffe has not had the 2016 season that Minnesota hoped for after a solid 2015 campaign. Owning a .244/.307/.435 line a season ago, bolstered by 22 homers and 86 runs batted in, this season has been nothing short of a disappointment. Slashing just .259/.295/.399 his .694 OPS is the worst mark he's put up as a pro. Plouffe has just seven long balls, and he's played in just 65 of the Twins 120 games this season.

Therein is the greatest issue for Plouffe during the second year under Paul Molitor however, he just hasn't been able to stay healthy. Having taken multiple trips to the disabled list, it's hard to imagine Plouffe finding any ability to get into a consistent rhythm.

With the idea that a mulligan can be placed on his 2016 season, it's going to be decision time as to whether or not the Twins bring Plouffe back a year from now. Making $7.25 million this season, and entering his final year of arbitration, I'd be more than ok with that happening. I was a big supporter of the idea that Minnesota should've extended Plouffe last season, buying out his final two years of arbitration and one year of free agency, likely saving themselves money in the long run. Having not done that, the Twins will end up spending a bit more through the arbitration process, but that shouldn't deter them from Plouffe being at Target Field to open 2017.

Considering the log jam that was created, we've been given some clarity as to how the Twins can manage the group due to what's taken place this season. Joe Mauer is having his most productive season in years, and the reality is that it's come with him getting more rest. Byung Ho Park has struggled with a wrist injury most of the year, and hasn't yet proven he's capable of catching up to Triple-A pitching let alone the big league level. On the Miguel Sano front, his position is third base when playing the field, but elbow concerns have that looking like something that may not be an every day scenario.

Where does that leave Plouffe and the rest of the Twins infield cast? Likely in a constant shuffle, but one that can be tweaked on a game-by-game basis. Despite having a better approach this season, I still don't see Kennys Vargas as much more than a bench bat. He'll be out of options, and likely not clear waivers, but Minnesota could try and move him in a package deal this winter. Jorge Polanco can be given the starting shortstop job allowing Eduardo Escobar to rotate in. Polanco has the ability to play third as well, and can find time there, or in spelling Brian Dozier at second when necessary.

To summarize what Plouffe's position boils down to is to suggest that he remain flexible. Knowing that 2016 isn't a reflection of the production that should be projected for him, keeping his bat on your 25 man roster is a good idea. Plouffe can rotate in at third, designated hitter, first, and even play some corner outfield if need be. Right now though, there's not an internal option for the Twins that is substantially more reliable than what Trevor Plouffe brings to the table.

I don't expect Minnesota to realistically compete in 2017. That means Plouffe could potentially be flipped over the summer if that's what ends up needing to take place. Going into the year though, he should be seen more as a solution, than a part of the once perceived log jam.

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