As soon as the Twins called up Brian Dozier to start at shortstop and shifted Jamey Carroll into a utility man role it was clear that Danny Valencia and Alexi Casilla were on some very thin ice.
Carroll has started each of the past three games at second base, but apparently that was due mostly to Casilla being limited by a shoulder injury and instead Valencia is the one on the chopping block after serving as Minnesota’s starting third baseman since mid-2010. Last night the Twins demoted him to Triple-A.
Valencia was never a top prospect and a modest minor-league track record made it obvious that his strong half-season debut was largely a fluke, but he’s declined even further than expected since then both offensively and defensively. He’s played 266 games in the majors and hit just .262 with a .699 OPS, which would be poor production from a shortstop or a catcher and is downright awful for a third baseman who’s mediocre defensively on a good day.
On the other hand he’s 27 years old with more than 1,000 plate appearances in the majors, so a demotion to Triple-A furthering his development seems like wishful thinking. Valencia is what he is at this point, and that’s simply not a quality regular because he can’t hit right-handed pitching. With that said, he’s a career .325 hitter with an .859 OPS against left-handers and that type of production certainly has a place on a major-league roster if used correctly.
Francisco Liriano is at a career crossroads five months from free agency and Valencia may beat him out the door if the Twins can find a taker willing to trade even a mid-level prospect for him. In the meantime Minnesota will turn to some combination of Carroll, Casilla, and Trevor Plouffe at third base, which isn’t likely to be much of an upgrade.
The Washington Nationals, fresh off signing Stephen Strasburg to a $245 million deal, are now turning their attention to their third base hole. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that they have made inquiries to the Chicago Cubs about trading for Kris Bryant.
Emphasis on the word “inquiry” because it’d be premature for the Cubs to trade Bryant at the moment, even if they are reported to be considering the possibility.
Bryant and the Cubs are awaiting word from an arbitrator about Bryant’s years-old service time grievance. If Bryant wins, he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. If the Cubs win they control him for two more years. The team may or may not choose to trade him in either case as they are reportedly trying to cut payroll, but the price for him will vary pretty significantly depending on whether or not the acquiring club will receive one or two years of control over the former MVP.
For Washington, this would be a means of replacing free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon. Or, perhaps, the inquiries are a means of creating a tad more leverage for the Nats as they talk to Rendon’s agent about re-signing him.
Which, in the past, the Nats said they could not do if they also re-signed Strasburg, though I suspect that’s just posturing too. They may not want to spend big money to keep their World Series core together, but they can afford it. They’re going to see, I suspect, an eight-figure uptick in revenue by virtue of being the defending World Series champs. They are poised to receive a significant payout as a result of recent rulings in their own multi-year dispute with the Orioles and the MASN network. They are, of course, owned by billionaire real estate moguls. All of that taken together means that, if they choose to, they can bring back Rendon. Assuming he chooses to come back too.
But, if that doesn’t happen, they appear to be giving themselves options at the hot corner.