Monday, October 17, 2011

Punto should be left off of Twins' wish list

Fans of the Twins have seen numerous Twins alumni find success in the cool of the October Postseason. Delmon Young was a home run hitting machine for the Tigers before their elimination over the weekend. Carlos Gomez has played a defensive role with the Brewers and provided a spark off of the bench. Kyle Lohse and Nick Punto have been part of the amazing run of baseball as the Cardinals have fought their way into the World Series.

Is it possible for the Twins to be considering bringing one of these players back for the 2012 season?

As the Twins are searching for the best solution to a 99-loss season, there are numerous areas to address on  and off of the field. The team struggled with many of the players who were placed in the middle infield for the Twins. The defensive circus taking place behind the pitcher was a headache for all of those who were watching the debacle unfold. Finding some way to sure up the middle infield is high on the list of priorities for the coming offseason.

During his time with the Twins, Punto showed his tremendous defensive ability at multiple positions on the field. There are flaws on the offensive side of the ball but the Twins could be in the market for a defensive specialist who does not necessarily need to be an offensive force. Besides Alexi Casilla's so-so season that was shortened by injuries, the organization struggled to find any stability from the men who manned shortstop and second base. The players the Twins used this year were not good at the plate or in the field so it would be an improvement to get a player who could just managed to succeed in one of these areas.

The Twins allowed Punto to leave last offseason as a free agent because the front office was satisfied with the options left on the table. There were also some injury concerns surrounding Punto after he missed a good portion of the 2010 season. As a 33-year old, Punto got into even more injury problems this season with the Cardinals. He spent more time on the disable list than off of it in 2011 and only managed to appear in 63 regular season games. The list of issues includes a sports hernia, a forearm flexor problem, and a strained oblique muscle.

Punto would have been a fitting part of the Twins this year in a season where the team saw most of their 25-man roster end up on the disabled list. Along with letting Punto go, the Twins traded JJ Hardy after injuries hampered him for chunks of the 2010 campaign. The team was right to let Punto move on and in hindsight, the Hardy trade looks like a very poor move. In some ways, the Twins were trying to get rid of injury concerns and plenty of injuries still found the club in 2011.

Ron Gardenhire was always a staunch supporter of Punto and the attributes he brought to the Twins. The relationship between the player and managers makes it easy to foresee a scenario in which Gardy would welcome his security blanket back into the fold. There are other options who could be available for cheap on the free agent market. The free agent shortstop class of Punto-esque players (good defense and limited offense) includes names like Clint Barmes, Rafael Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, Jack Wilson, Ramon Santiago, Yuniesky Betancourt, John McDonald, and Ramon Santiago.

The Twins are tied into about $84 million for next season and the expected payroll should be over $100 million for 2012. This means the team has a fair amount of capital to spend on creating the roster for next year. Punto still has a cult following among some fans in the Twin Cities but to bring him back would be  like waiting for an accident to happen. Ozzie Guillen is out of the AL Central and bringing back one of the lead piranhas would not be right.

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