The Twins' Outfield Dilemma

Josh JohnsonCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 26:  Denard Span #2 of the Minnesota Twins of the Minnesota Twins watches the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angels Stadium on July 26, 2009 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Ron Gardenhire recently talked about his logjam in the outfield and what he plans to do with it in 2010.

Gardenhire admitted that it's been a challenge this season to give everyone enough playing time and said that he's tired of shifting leadoff hitter Denard Span around the outfield.

Thus far, Span has logged 1,126 1/3 innings in the outfield this season (39 percent in left field, 43 percent in center, and the final 18 percent in right). All in all, Span has a UZR/150 of 0.6, down from his UZR/150 of 3.9 in 2008.

Offensively, Span is very valuable and there's a reason Gardenhire is feeling the need to give him a "set" position. He is 10th in the American League with a .389 OBP, which also ranks him third in the majors among leadoff hitters. Span also takes (on average) nearly four pitches per plate appearance, which is near the top among leadoff hitters.

There's no question that Span is an integral part to this ball club's success. The question is, where do you play him?

Gardenhire reportedly hinted at leaving Span in center field next season, but he quickly mentioned that it'll depend on who is still with the ball club, leading us to assume that either Carlos Gomez or Delmon Young will be traded this offseason.

Over the last two seasons, I've let my "favorite" be known.

But right now, I'm having a hard time choosing between which I'd prefer to keep. While I still believe one player has more potential than the other, I also recognize that one provides a valuable commodity to this ball club that is useful regardless of his putrid offense.

It seems as though many of Young's problems stem from poor mechanics. That he hasn't fixed those mechanics leads me to believe that he's not going to turn it around unless I use the age old excuse that he still has a lot of untapped potential.

Young is now three full seasons into his MLB career and is regressing instead of progressing. Obviously, it's too early to abandon ship on a recently turned 24-year-old, but it's getting harder and harder to support him.

As for Gomez, his defense is the reason the Twins traded for him, fully knowing his offense is very (very) raw. I have thought for a while that Gomez should be sent back to Triple-A to work on pitch recognition and just the 'basics' at the plate (as in not swinging at a pitch coming near your head, how to lay down a bunt, etc.).

But that obviously wasn't in the Twins' plans and they now have wasted an entire year for both Young and Gomez. What exactly has either of them gained from sharing at-bats and starts this season?

At 23 years old, they should just be reaching the Major League (a problem that was out of the Twins' hands). But the Twins felt it was more valuable to have both play only three days a week while the other just sits...and does nothing.

Although Gomez had a solid triple-slash line this spring, the Twins were delusional if they felt that he had completely turned the corner after last season. Even so, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt since nobody knew how Span would play after a terrible spring and seemingly came out of nowhere this year.

But don't you think that after the month of April in which Gomez hit .195/.250/.293 in 16 games was enough to finally make the (right) move?

Of course not.

Instead, the Twins have made both young, raw, yet gifted players sit on the bench and learn the game by watching. Unless they're trying to mold these guys into coaches, I don't see much benefit from a hitter sitting on the bench and not getting regular at-bats.

Gardenhire throwing them batting practice is not enough, especially for aggressive hitters like Young and Gomez.

The Twins shouldn't be even faced with this dilemma.

Instead, they should have let Gomez and Young both have the playing time they deserve and after the season, move one of them. It's likely that one of the two would have stepped up if given the proper opportunity. Instead, the Twins are now faced with deciding on which one to give up on.

If both played great, we'd still likely have to move one, but it wouldn't be near the dilemma it is now. This is an especially difficult situation now because both have little trade value and the Twins will be abandoning ship on a young player with little-to-no return value.

The Twins shot themselves in the foot on this one.