Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buy Low

There’s only so much Nick Punto and Louis Rodriguez a man can take. At a certain point, one starts to long for a third baseman who is, you know, good at baseball and can actually contribute to (rather than detract from) a team’s chances for victory. To make matters even more frustrating, we’re currently in a bit of a Golden Age of major league third basemen; from Alex Rodriguez, to Miguel Cabrera, to David Wright (and I could go on and on), there are so many good players manning the hot corner today that the Twins’ lack at the position becomes even more glaring.

There’s always the chance that Joe Mauer ends up at third base sooner rather than later. In fact, I think there’s a decent chance that Terry Ryan intends this to be the long-term solution, which is why nobody has been brought in to fill the hole created by Cuddyer’s move to right. But putting aside that idea, there are a couple of tasty acquisitions the Twins could make mid-season that have a chance to pay off big-time.

Both Morgan Ensberg and Edwin Encarnacion are in the dog house for their respective teams. Ensberg has fallen into a third-base platoon in Houston thanks to a slow start, and people in Cincinnati have been grumbling about Encarnacion’s perceived attitude problem. In both cases, we have superb “buy low” opportunities that could fill a major hole in the Twins’ lineup.

Ensberg is the older player, by seven years. He’s now two years removed from 2005’s monster season in which he hit .283/.388/.557 with 36 homers, but his 2006 was nothing to sneeze at either. His batting average fell down into the .230s, but his on-base percentage actually rose by eight points to .396. This season, he’s mired in a pretty serious slump, hitting only .216/.369/.345. Houston seems fed up at this point, as he no longer has a full-time starting job. Houston could be a decent trading partner, as well. Houston is sitting 6.5 games back in the NL Central and they lost out on Roger Clemens; now might be the time for the Astros to blow things up and start over, and some of the Twins minor-league pitching might seem tasty (especially when Houston appears to hate Ensberg with the fiery passion of a thousand suns).

I like the idea of an Encarnacion deal even more, as it would represent a forward-thinking move on the Twins part that could add a potentially excellent young talent to compliment the Mauer/Morneau core. Encarnacion has been, in a word, putrid this year. A .220/.303/.284 line doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade. But in last years rookie season (at the young age of 23), he put up a very solid .276/.359/.473 with 15 home runs in about 400 at-bats. All reports out of Cincinnati seem to suggest that both sides of the Reds/Encarnacion relationship need to move on; this is a situation where a change of scenery could spark a major improvement. No one doubts his talent to be a good major league third baseman, but it’s unlikely to happen in Cincy. With Terry Ryan’s good buddy Wayne Krivsky running the show for the Reds, this seems like a good match. The Reds could make good use of some of the Twins’ pitching prospects, and the Twins could end up with someone to hold down third base for a good five years.

With very little hitting in the minor-league pipeline, the Twins are going to have to look outside to fix their attack; Ensberg and (especially) Encarnacion both give them a good chance at a serious coup. It’s time for Terry Ryan to take a bit of a risk for once, and buying low on these two players is a good place to start.


Anonymous said...

so what do you think it would take?

twins15 said...

A-MEN... if the Twins would get rid of Ortiz and trade for Encarnacion or Ensberg, that would be awesome.

WolvesGeek said...

Good analysis -- I disagree on Ensberg, though. He really has become a pretty soft hitter, akin to Punto, to be honest, and his defense is pretty damned subpar on a team that has ground ball happy starters. I guess I'm saying it's not worth giving up our minor league pitching depth for -- Encarnacion, on the other hand, could be a good idea, especially given the Krivsky connection.