The 2008 season will bring about a great deal of change in the Minnesota Twins organization.
One aspect of the team persists, however, and that’s the question mark batting in the DH spot. With only a tradition of failure in this position, optimism is flagging—Rondell White anyone?
New GM Bill Smith continues to play the Terry Ryan role expertly, failing to secure a reliable power-option bat to fill the DH role, while signing former Twin killer Craig Monroe, who can only surpass expectations. This move further clutters an already uneven outfield, all this as the team tries to build toward 2010 and a new stadium.
Michael Cuddyer looks to continue playing his solid—at times spectacular—right field position. Newly acquired Delmon Young will play the majority of games in left, although he is a natural right fielder. Both Young and Cuddyer have exceptional arms, not surprisingly continuing the Twins emphasis on defense.
Also in the mix at the corner OF positions are Monroe and Jason Kubel, who will split time at the DH role. Centerfield is perhaps the biggest concern heading into spring training, with three inexperienced but attractive options.
In-house candidates Jason Pridie, Denard Span, and newly acquired Carlos Gomez look to fill the hole left by Torii Hunter, whose power bat, gold glove, and electric smile will be missed. Unfortunately, none of the potential replacements have significant major league experience (if any), and Manager Ron Gardenhire is typically cautious in his use of unproven players.
At this point it seems Smith’s main objective should be to weed out unnecessary players, focusing on a future with young yet professionally experienced players.
Other questionable moves include bringing in the left side of the Houston Astro infield with Adam Everett and Mike Lamb to take at-bats and playing time from players—including Brian Buscher, Alexi Casilla, and Brendan Harris—hoping to cement a starting role in the near future.
New SS Adam Everett is an exceptional glove man, but with lifetime averages of .248 BA and .299 OBP he does nothing to support the hope that last year’s anemic offense can be kindled.
Look for infielder Brendan Harris, acquired in the Garza-Young deal in December, to help right away. Harris poses a greater power-option at second than the Twins have had before, hitting 12 homeruns and batting .286 in 137 games last year for Tampa Bay. He seems to be a better option for the immediate future, as Casilla attempts to solve the mental miscues that plagued him throughout the second half of the 2007 campaign.
At this point it seems valid to assume the Twins can’t yet compete with division opponents Detroit or Cleveland. But as the team looks to build towards 2010 this summer should be an interesting one, perhaps exceeding expectations.
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