Exploring Much-Needed Bench Options for the Minnesota Twins

Eric JohnsonContributor INovember 23, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 9:  Some Minnesota Twins players sit on the bench and watch s the New York Yankees celebrate on the field after defeating the Twins during game four of the American League Divisional Series at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 9, 2004 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.The Yankees defeated the Twins 6-5 to advance to the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

What do Brendan Harris and Gene Larkin have in common?

In a perfect world, the answer would be simple: nothing (aside from having last names that sort of seem like they could be first names, but don’t completely seem like they could be first names).

The correct answer, however, is that both players were the best option off the bench for their respective Twins teams. For the 1991 Twins, this was a good thing. For the 2009 Twins, this was…well…less good.

Considering the 1991 Twins also had Randy Bush and Scott Leius/Mike Pagliarulo as potential pinch hitters, Pedro Munoz as the young-guy-who-gets-called-up-when-someone-gets-injured-because-he’s-in-our-future-plans-so-we-don’t-want-him-toiling-on-the-bench, and Al Newman as Al Newman, the bench was solid overall.

(By the way, when googling Randy Bush, I found out there is a moderately attractive French female singer of the same name. I don’t know what my point is; I just thought you should know.)

Unlike the 1991 version, the 2009 Twins bench was the furthest thing from solid. In fact, it was awful. Led by Harris—a bad hitter and even worse fielder—the 2009 Twins featured exactly zero players anyone was happy to see step in as a pinch hitter. I defy you to argue otherwise.

(If you are wondering, Nick Punto sported a better OBP than Harris, .337 to .310, while Harris sported a better SLG percentage, .364 to .284, for respective OPS’s (OPSi?) of .672 and .612. Translation? They both suck.)

Really, other than Carlos Gomez defensively replacing Delmon Young, there wasn’t a single guy who was an upgrade in any facet of the game over a starter. While backups are obviously on the bench for a reason, they should still have at least some value to their team. Brendan Harris, et al. did not.

Currently, the outlook for the 2010 Twins bench is equally bleak. The team looks something like this:

Span CF
Mauer C
Morneau 1B
Cuddyer RF
Kubel DH
Hardy SS
Young LF
Valencia/Harris 3B
Punto 2B


Tolbert/Casilla IF
Harris/Valencia/Whoever IF
Pridie OF
Morales C

Other than a mix-and-match of potential infielders, there really aren’t many other options for the 2010 roster.

Anyone else longing for Roberto Kelly, Darrin Jackson, and Chip Hale right about now?

I’m going to make a bold claim, and feel fairly comfortable doing so: As it stands, the 2010 Twins will have the worst bench in franchise history.

Depressing. I know.

So how can the bench be fixed? Well, fairly simply, actually.

For starters, the Twins should non-tender Harris. Someone, please, give me one compelling reason why the Twins should retain Harris for $1ish million in arbitration. Is there one?

I mean, I guess he kind of has nice hair.

As I stated earlier, Harris is a bad hitter and an even worse fielder. Honestly, he is one of the worst infielders I have ever seen. I am not exaggerating when I say I was at game when Harris missed a ground ball he literally could have fielded by taking one step. His reaction time is that bad.

If the ball isn’t hit right at him, Harris will not field it. (I don’t know if the defensive statistics back this up, because UZR and its fellow fielding statistic friends are pointless and arbitrary—although feel free to convince me otherwise if you disagree.)

One million dollars couldn’t be spent on something better than Brendan Harris? Color me skeptical. Actually, color me beyond skeptical.

For example, how about Eric Hinske and Rocco Baldelli for a combined $2 million (based on 2009 salaries)?

Hinske and Baldelli are exact type of players the Twins are lacking (and have been for several years, for that matter).

Look out how much better a bench with Hinske and Baldelli would be:

Hinkse 1B/RF
Baldelli OF
Tolbert/Casilla/Other IF
Morales C

Signing Hinske and Baldelli would give the Twins decent left-handed and right-handed hitting options off the bench (Hinkse and Baldelli), a speed guy (mystery infielder), someone who can allow Morneau to DH occasionally without moving Cuddyer to 1B (Hinske again), and a defensive replacement for Young (Baldelli again).

Any legitimate contender needs depth, and adding Hinske and Baldellig would give the Twins just that. And, while de-starting Punto would be preferable, adding a third baseman and a pair of hitters off the bench would be enough offense to make Punto’s lack of hitting irrelevant.

So, while creating crazy fantasies about obtaining big names like Roy Halladay is fun, adding depth this offseason is just as important. And far more realistic.

Gene Larkin won the 1991 World Series, after all.




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