Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Possible Free Agents: 3B

And so we come to the first position where a number of Twins fans are likely to advocate for going after a free agent. The purpose of this post is not to discuss whether or not Nick Punto should be the Twins 3B next year; it's to look at the individuals who will be available on the market. I'm going to limit my reaction to whether the player would be a good fit in the Twins system, but my pro-Punto bias is likely to come through.

Rich Aurilia - Cincinnati Reds
If you didn't pay attention this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that Rich Aurilia was washed up. He had a terrible year in 2004, and a decent year in 2005, but he's 35 years old and not getting any younger. Nevertheless, he put together a great season for the Reds, hitting .300 with 23 HR and 70 RBI's in 440 at-bats. He got paid $1.3 million for this pretty solid level of production, and there is a mutual option at $2 million for 2007. I strongly suspect that the Reds will pick it up, because Aurilia looks like he's got some life left in him, and $2 million is a bargain if he can put up similar numbers next year.

David Bell - Milwaukee Brewers
Bell is likely to move on from the Brewers this off-season, after he was traded there in July. His production (.270/10 HR/63 RBI) is on the borderline for his salary level ($4.5 million), and at 34 years old his best days are behind him. Considering that 3B isn't the strongest position in the majors, someone will undoubtedly make Bell a multi-year offer in the same price range. I don't think he's a great option anymore, though - a team like the Twins should avoid him.

Geoff Blum - San Diego Padres
Strictly a backup, Blum hit .254 with 4 HR and 34 RBI's in 276 at-bats this season. He made $650,000 this year, which is affordable for a decent bench player like him. I don't think he's a good fit for the Twins, but he'll definitely get a job somewhere, and might even get a slight raise.

Aaron Boone - Cleveland Indians
Boone is on the wrong side of 30, playing for a team that has a young up-and-comer (Andy Marte) ready to take over at the start of next season. While a $3.75 million mutual option exists on Boone for 2007, there is no way that it is going to be picked up. Boone's .251/7/46 numbers from last year suggest that his utility is pretty low at this point, and his .264 career average wouldn't be encouraging anyway. Boone should be avoided unless he takes a one year deal and a major pay cut, and he shouldn't be viewed by any team as a starter.

Vinny Castilla - Colorado Rockies
Castillo is retiring, so there isn't much to say - he ended up with the Rockies after the Padres let him go, and went through ceremonies and everything. He's on this list only because he's eligible for free agency, and he'll probably file for free agency to keep his options open, but he isn't coming back.

Jeff Cirillo - Milwaukee Brewers
The 37 year old Cirillo actually had a pretty good season, hitting .319 with 3 HR and 23 RBI's in 263 at-bats. For $850,000 he provided veteran leadership, and I'd consider him a good buy at that price. As long as he can continue to get 200+ at-bats and hit around .300, he'll get attention. Not a good option for the Twins, because he's not capable of starting, and if Nick Punto remains the starter Cirillo wouldn't get enough at-bats to justify having around.

Pedro Feliz - San Francisco Giants
An intriguing player who has some power and can drive in runs, but has a dangerously low batting average. Feliz hit .244 this year, with 22 dingers and 98 RBI's. He cost just over $3 million this year, but will probably get a raise on the open market. I don't know what the Giants interest level in bringing him back is, but with a pretty weak 3B market, someone will turn to Feliz and give him a good deal, hoping that the average can be brought up.

Phil Nevin - Minnesota Twins
Hard to believe that the soon-to-be 36-year-old Nevin made $10 million this year. He put up a .239/22/68, worse numbers than Feliz, and made 3 times as much. Needless to say, Nevin won't be getting any more deals like that. In fact, Nevin will be lucky to make over $3-4 million next year. That said, someone will pick him up and try to use him as a bopper off the bench or DH type - you know, the role he unfortunately couldn't fill for the Twins.

Joe Randa - Pittsburgh Pirates
At some point, Randa is going to stop getting attention on the free agent market. After a season where he hit .267 with 4 HR and 28 RBI's in just 206 at-bats, that might just be now. Randa was pursued fairly heavily on the market last year, and the Pirates won out by giving him a $4 million deal. With Randa turning 37 this off-season, and with his productive years clearly behind him, he's probably only going to get attention as a back-up type player for seriously reduced money.

Aramis Ramirez - Chicago Cubs
Easily the biggest prize out there at 3B. Ramirez isn't even a free agent yet - his contract is good through 2008, with an option for 2009. It would pay him $11 million/year, certainly not bad. But Ramirez has the opportunity to opt out of the deal this off-season, and there are strong indications that he will do just that. If he hits the market, he will almost certainly get a $13-14 million/year, 3 or 4 year deal. After all, he hit .291 with 38 HR and 119 RBI's - heads and shoulders above the rest of the free agents at his position. That said, there is always some risk associated with voiding a deal, especially one that's worth $22 million guaranteed, and up to $33 million. I don't think there's a lot of risk, but there certainly would be some. While I would love to see Ramirez in a Twins uniform, it isn't going to happen. Some would argue that had the Twins declined Torii Hunter's option they could have gone after Ramirez, but that's not sound for a couple of reasons: 1.) the Twins weren't guaranteed to get anybody of Ramirez's caliber even IF they pursued them, and 2.) the Twins can't afford to get caught up in a multi-year contract with a guy like Ramirez right now, with Morneau/Mauer/Cuddyer heading into their arbitration eligible years. In the end, I think Ramirez will hit the market, and I think he'll end up making a whole heck of a lot of money.


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