Thursday, September 8, 2016

If This Is It, Thank You Trevor

Recently, Paul Molitor announced to the media tasked with covering the Minnesota Twins that Trevor Plouffe is dealing with both a strained oblique and an intercostal strain. The unfortunate reality is that he'll need at least a handful of weeks before feeling back to playing condition. With just 22 games left in the 2016 season for the Twins, Plouffe's 2016 could well be over. That also means it's worth wondering if we've seen the last of him as a Minnesota Twin.

Signed to a one year, $7.25 million deal this season, Plouffe will be entering his final year of arbitration this winter. Given the expected salary increase, Minnesota will likely be on the hook for something like $10 million during 2017 if they so choose to tender him a contract. For a 31 year old third-basemen who's posted a .731 OPS since 2013, that's a tall ask. To complicate things further, the organization also has Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas, and Byungho Park all vying for time in similar roles. The writing may be on the wall. It's very possible he's played his last game with the Twins.

Now, with that all being said, it's a tenure that ends with a touch of sadness.

Trevor Plouffe was a first round draft pick out of Crespi Carmelite High School way back in 2004. He rose through the farm system and made his major league debut on June 16, 2004. Starting at shortstop, then moving into more of a super utility role over his first three professional seasons, Plouffe found his footing at the hot corner in 2013.

Showing up first in 2012, Plouffe established himself as a capable power slugger. His 24 long balls that season will go down as his most in a single year with the Twins. Over the course of his 723 games played for Minnesota, he has landed just four homers shy of the century mark. That total ties him for 18th in Minnesota Twins history. Never an All Star, Plouffe had plenty of seasons that qualify his as a quality piece on the Minnesota 25 man.

Playing the bulk of his Minnesota career during seasons in which the club lost 90 or more games, Plouffe didn't get to experience the highs of the Twins division championship seasons. Most notably during his career however has been the intense work ethic that allowed him to transform his ability with the glove.

I think Plouffe would be among the first to admit his time at shortstop in the big leagues, and initial venture over to third base, didn't go well. He posted a -12 DRS at short in 2011, and was -8 at the hot corner in 2012. From there however, he pushed his total to league average in 2013 and then was worth a career high 6 DRS in over 1,110 innings during 2014. Increasing both his DRS and UZR (6.7), it was in 2014 that Plouffe flashed the best of himself at third base. He became a legitimate asset at the hot corner and was incredibly far removed from the guy that needed to acclimate to a big league infield.

Over the past couple of years, Plouffe has been bit by the injury bug and missed time here and there. When healthy however, he's shown he's capable of being a good big league hitter, and has a place somewhere in the middle of the Twins lineup. While the latest malady may sap the rest of 2016 from him, Plouffe went out on a high note slashing .302/.365/.523 with five homers over his last 21 games.

Whatever happens from here, both the Twins and Trevor Plouffe are better off because of each other. The California kid grew up into a very solid big leaguer, and the Twins solidified the extreme left side of their infield thanks to the work ethic of a guy who was determined to give the club more.

From here, whether in Minnesota or elsewhere, the only thing to say is thank you Trevor. Thanks for being a part of Twins Territory. Thanks for committing to your craft. Thanks for always giving Minnesota the best you had to give. Thanks to you, Olivia, and Teddy for calling Minnesota home. Whatever the next stop on your journey, you will always have a place in Twins Territory.

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