July 11, 2005

The Boone Trade

The Mariners designated 36-year-old second baseman Bret Boone for assignment earlier this month, meaning they had 10 days to trade or release him. Much like the Vikings on draft day, Seattle ran the clock down to the last moment yesterday afternoon, before finally trading Boone to the Twins for a Player To Be Named Later.

I wrote quite a bit about the possibility of acquiring Boone last week, so I won't rehash all the details. The short version is that Boone has declined significantly over the past two seasons, going from an excellent player both offensively and defensively to average, at best, in both areas. In particular, his batting average, power, and range defensively have all dropped off a cliff, which is of course why the Mariners were so willing to let him go.

In addition to that, the Twins have, for the first time in recent memory, a decent collection of second basemen. Unless you think Boone can find a time machine for the second half, Nick Punto, Luis Rodriguez, and Michael Cuddyer are each likely able to provide similar all-around value at second base, and arguments could certainly be made that one or more of them are better bets.

With all of that said, trading for Boone carries very little risk as long as the PTBNL is no one significant. If all the Twins are sending to Seattle is a live Single-A arm or perhaps a Triple-A spare part -- and I have enough faith in Terry Ryan to believe that's the case until proven otherwise -- this amounts to little more than claiming a player off waivers for the second half.

Or, as Ryan put it yesterday:

This is a high-reward, low-risk situation. I don't think there's any downside.

I have no confidence in Boone being able to return to his level of play from 3-4 years ago, but it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. If he can find the fountain of youth for even 70 games' worth of .260/.320/.440 hitting and avoid being completely overmatched by the Metrodome turf, he will represent an upgrade to the Twins roster at a very minimal cost.

Again, as Ryan put it:

I'm not saying that Bret Boone is going to be a savior, but he might be a guy that can help.

And even if Boone is as done as his declining statistics all suggest -- and if so, things could get ugly in a hurry -- the Twins will only have risked about 300 plate appearances, a minor leaguer, and $150,000. There are better risks for a team to take, particularly considering the other options the Twins have at second base, but this is certainly a decent move.

If Boone can somehow find a way to provide average defense at second base and some power at the plate, he will allow the Twins to mix and match the aforementioned second-base options at third base, while adding another right-handed bat to the predominantly left-handed lineup. And if adding Boone means more playing time at shortstop for Punto, that's even better.

Which, interestingly enough, brings up an issue that I would guess will be addressed by Ryan within the next few days. At the moment, the Twins' 25-man roster contains middle infielders Boone, Punto, Rodriguez, Luis Rivas, and Juan Castro, and another infielder, Cuddyer, is on the disabled list. That is, at the very least, one infielder too many.

That means a) Cuddyer's stint on the DL will be much longer than expected, b) the Twins are willing to completely ignore the strength and versatility of their bench, or c) Ryan is working on another move. As I'm sure you can guess, if another move is coming I'm hoping it will involve Rivas, who in addition to having a horrible season (and a horrible career) is now completely superfluous on the roster.

Whatever happens, here's hoping we see plenty of this in the second half ...

UPDATE: Torii Hunter is clearly a big AaronGleeman.com fan:

Twins center fielder Torii Hunter was hooking up Internet service at his mother's home in Pine Bluff, Ark., on Monday when he clicked on a website and read the news.

Hi Torii!

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Win Shares at the All-Star Break (by Dave Studeman)
- Sociology of the MLB Player: 1940 (by Steve Treder)

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