Keeping The Outfield Packed / No More Punto?

It was announced earlier today that the Twins have decided to exercise Jason Kubel’s $5.25 million option for 2011, while declining the $5 million option on Nick Punto for next season. In doing so, the Twins will pay Punto $5oo,000. For some reason, many people believe this is the end of Punto’s tenure with the Twins, but is this really true?

Usually when an option is declined, it does mean that a player will not return. However, I doubt that the Twins are really willing to say goodbye to Punto so fast. After a very good 2008 season, the Twins signed him to a 2-year, $8 million contract, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he could have played at his 2006 and 2008 levels consistently, rather than alternating bad-good-bad-good seasons from ’05 to ’08. It turned out that Punto’s ’09 and ’10 seasons would match his ’05 and ’07 campaigns, so declining next year’s option was an easy decision (though I’m sure some of us were worried that Gardy’s love affair would allow the option to be picked up).

Punto has provided very good defense for the Twins, and he’s a very good utility infielder when healthy. Therefore, I bet the Twins will offer him a much cheaper contract, most likely for either one or two years. I would be happy if the Twins offered $2.5 million per year for Punto.

As for Kubel, picking up his option creates an interesting situation. Last year, the Twins started the season with Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, and Jim Thome fighting for the 2 corner outfield spots and DH. Eventually, Cuddyer shifting to 3rd base and Justin Morneau’s concussion allowed for all four players to be in the lineup at the same time. Now that Thome is a free agent and Kubel’s option was picked up, we have to assume that Kubel, Cuddyer, and Young are basically assured of manning the corner outfield and DH. Maybe Thome will come back to be the pinch-hitter he was originally going to be in 2010, but I have a feeling that his great 2010 means that he will be offered a full-time job somewhere else for 2011.

I think we saw the extremes of Kubel’s hitting ability over the past 2 years. Last year, we saw him at his best, and this year we saw him at his worst. I bet we’ll still see another 20 HR season, and hopefully it’s accompanied by a .270/.330/.475 line.

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One Response to “Keeping The Outfield Packed / No More Punto?”

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