By Joe Christensen
The Twins ranked 21st out of 30 major league teams in OPS at third base last season, at .730. Mike Lamb was just plain terrible before Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris eventually gave the Twins a serviceable platoon.
Still, Twins 3B combined to hit seven homers, ranking 29th in the majors.
The Twins were 24th in OPS at shortstop, at .648. Adam Everett was injured and even less productive than expected before Nick Punto took over, quietly turning in a bounce-back season from his miserable 2007.
With six homers from their SS, the Twins ranked 22nd in the majors.
Punto is a free agent, but the Twins are determined to upgrade offensively at both positions on the left side of their infield. Besides Garrett Atkins, they have targeted Casey Blake, J.J. Hardy and Yunel Escobar, as we learned Friday.
Kevin Kouzmanoff could very well be on that list, though no one mentioned that name specifically.
There are pros and cons to each player, but each is a righthanded hitter with pop in his bat. A quick thumb-nail sketch on each:
Age: 28 (turns 29 on Dec. 12)
Contract: Made $4.4 million this year in his first year arbitration, and will likely be in the $6m-$7m range next year. Will be eligible for free agency after 2010.
Stats: Batted .286/.328/.452 (.780 OPS) with 21 homers, 32 doubles and 99 RBI this year. Since 2007, he has batted only .244/.303/.415(.718 OPS) away from Coors Field.
Age: 35 (turns 36 on Aug. 23)
Contract: Made $6.1 million this year and will likely get a three-year deal on the free agent market.
Stats: Batted .274/.345/.463 (.808 OPS) with 21 homers, 36 doubles and 81 RBI this year for the Indians and Dodgers. He has averaged 596 plate appearances over the past six seasons, a testament to his durability.
Age: 26 (turns 27 on Aug. 19)
Contract: Made $2.65 million this year in his first year of arbitration and will likely approach $5m by next season. Will be eligible for free agency after 2010.
Stats: Batted .283/.343/.478 (.821 OPS) with 24 homers, 31 doubles and 74 RBI.
Age: 26 (turns 27 next Nov. 2)
Contract: Made $402,500 this year in his second major league season and will get only a slight raise for next year. A strong Super-2 arbitration candidate by next year at this time, but he won’t be eligible for free agency until 2013.
Stats: He batted .288/.366/.401 (.767 OPS) with 10 HR, 24 doubles and 60 RBI this year. As a rookie in 2007, he batted .326/.385/.451 (.836 OPS) in 94 games.
Age: Age 27 (turns 28 on July 25)
Contract: Made $410,000 in his second full major league season and won’t be arbitration eligible until after 2009. He’ll be eligible for free agency after 2012.
Stats: He batted .260/.299/.403 (.702 OPS) with 23 HR, 31 doubles and 84 RBI. Petco Park is tough on hitters. For his career, he’s batting .243/.290./.390 (.680 OPS) at home, and .282/.330/.488 (.818 OPS) on the road.