It’s been less than a month since the Twins fired Bill Smith and replaced him with new GM Terry Ryan and after just two quick moves in free agency, the Twins roster looks to be a taking a different shape for 2012. The signing of Jamey Carroll and subsequent announcement of him as the team’s new starting shortstop put the incumbent middle infielders on official notice while the signing of Ryan Doumit sheds some light on the club’s confidence in DL regulars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and possible departure of other free agents. We’ve already had Dan Wade cover Carroll and the infield and Chris Cwik has given his thoughts on Doumit’s situation, but how about the team beyond? What does this mean for Mauer and Morneau? Does Doumit’s signing put an official end to Michael Cuddyer’s and Jason Kubel’s tenure in Minnesota? And finally, what does all of this mean for fantasy owners?
First things first — Doumit was not brought in just to be a catcher. His work behind the plate is definitely a factor, but he was brought in primarily as a right-handed bat who could also play first base, right field and act as a designated hitter. He’s not completely inept behind the dish, but defensively he is not the strongest and will not be relied upon to handle a substantial amount of work back there unless absolutely necessary. The Twins will not cast aside Mauer and would much prefer to have contingency plans in place rather than say that his health will keep him from remaining the team’s primary backstop. They also have no intention of ditching Drew Butera whose offensive skills may be lacking, but defensively, he’s a pretty solid option.
But Doumit will get his fair share of starts behind the plate, and probably enough to maintain his catcher eligibility in fantasy leagues in 2013. Mauer’s health will certainly play a factor all year and the club will definitely want him to take some time off from behind the plate but still keep his bat in the lineup. He’ll get some time at first again and should log plenty of at bats as the DH as well.
As with Mauer, Morneau’s health is going to play a major factor here. Between the super-slow recovery from a concussion and now late-September wrist surgery, there are a number of questions surrounding him. Similarly, the team doesn’t want to dismiss their former star first baseman, but would rather slot him in as the starter and formulate a contingency plan. If Morneau recovers in full from everything, then there’s little to worry about. He’ll play first and Mauer and Doumit will sit behind the plate and right field respectively while alternating time as the DH. If he doesn’t, then watch all three handle first base duties as well as DH responsibilities.
What the signing of Doumit also does is mark the probable end of both Cuddyer and Kubel as members of the Twins family. It was all but expected that Cuddyer would find a new home this offseason via free agency since he has been one of the most coveted right-handed bats on the market and now with the impending signing of the new CBA and the lack of compensation required to be given for Type-B free agents, Kubel should probably be on his way out the door as well. The Twins have plenty of young, outfield talent and with this new possible three-headed DH monster, he [Kubel] becomes expendable. Both will easily find work in 2012, just not in Minnesota anymore.
Fantasy-wise, there’s plenty of risk/reward in drafting these guys. Obviously there will be competition for Mauer and knowing how so many people draft on name alone, he will probably cost a fairly high draft choice. If the club does get him enough time off from behind the plate though, he could prove to be worth it. Morneau is still a major injury risk. He could turn into a nice 8th or 9th round bargain or he could become a waste of a draft pick. You’ll have to continuously check his offseason recovery and wait until Spring Training before making your final determination. And finally, there’s Doumit — as the Twins new Napoli-like, super-utility guy, ideally, he should finally get a full season’s worth of at bats and, if healthy, should prove to be a valuable fantasy commodity. If not, well, then it’s business as usual for him.
Downside — all three have health issues and no one is worth their draft position. Upside — all three stay healthy, have solid seasons and lead you to fantasy nirvana with multi-position eligibility and a boatload of great stats.