The Twins sit withing striking distance of the AL Central Division Title. So far the team has been playing .500 ball, but the division is weak this year and a few adjustments could make the Twins strong enough to compete through the playoff race.
Unfortunately, the Twins aren't statistically savvy and the organization has a few mental blocks that get in the way of making difficult and often subtle decisions regarding personnel. So, if I could take the crown away from Bill Smith and be the Twins GM for a day, here are the moves I'd make:
-I would fire Nick Punto. Under normal circumstances the veteran utility player has some value if used properly. Punto can play every infield position, is a patient switch hitter who can force opposing pitchers to rack up a high pitch count and he's fast enough to be a threat on the base-paths. Altogether, he's slightly better than a replacement level player. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire doesn't see him as a useful utility player. Instead, Punto has started nearly every game at either shortstop or second base despite not having the level a talent necessary to be a MLB starter. The only way to stop this misuse of Punto is to fire him.
-Alexi Casilla would be sent down to Rochester and Steve Tolleson would replace him at second base. Tolleson recently got promoted to Triple-A Rochester and he may not be ready for the big leagues but he should be able to provide as much value as Alexi Casilla. Forcing Tolleson to face the tough MLB learning curve now will provide future dividends next year and in the future while Tolleson provides basically the same value as other options this year.
-Trevor Plouffe, who has basically matched his career minor league OPS in Triple-A in the last two years, would take over the shortstop position for the Twins. Once again, Plouffe would be forced to go through a steep learning curve in the Majors. As far as short term value goes, it's a lateral move. However, this move once again makes next year's team stronger without weakening this year's team.
-With two rookies up the middle and an aging Joe Crede at third base, Brendan Harris becomes extremely important as the team's utility player. Harris would likely play almost everyday somewhere and that's just fine.
-Mike Redmond would be offered a coaching position somewhere, but he'd be done with the Twins. Father time has finally caught up to Redmond, who has thrown out just 4.8 percent of runners trying to steal. Red is also struggling mightily at the plate, but this wouldn't be a problem is he was holding his own defensively. Jose Morales would take his place as the back-up catcher to Joe Mauer. Drew Butera, a low offense--high defense catcher, would take over as the third string catcher.
-An edict would be sent to Ron Gardenhire stating the following: Carlos Gomez would play everyday unless hurt or resting; No one with an OPS under .700 is to hit in the No. 2 hole; R.A. Dickey is not to come into the game with runners on base unless absolutely necessary; No more arguing with umpires except on day games.
So sayeth the King.
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