Many of their offseason moves centered around adding pitching, but the Minnesota Twins are left without a proven center fielder after trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere. There are some internal candidates for the starting job, including Darin Mastroianni and top prospect Aaron Hicks, but could general manager Terry Ryan look to a division rival to add someone else to the mix?
The Cleveland Indians have made some notable moves this offseason, among them trading outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and signing veteran free agents Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds. But perhaps their most notable move will be their last, as news broke Monday night the Indians have agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with free agent outfielder Michael Bourn. Bourn was one of the most notable names available on the free agent market, but his signing now leaves Cleveland with a lot of outfielders to find at-bats for. There is already speculation that Drew Stubbs could be traded, and there should be at least a few teams interested if he is made available. Would he be a good fit for the Twins?
Stubbs spent his first four seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, and was acquired by the Indians as part of a three-team trade that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks in December. His best season across the board came back in 2010, when he hit .255 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI and 30 stolen bases, and he has at least 14 home runs and 30 stolen bases in all three of his full seasons in the big leagues. He strikes out a lot (a National League-leading 205 times in 2011), which leads to him being a streaky hitter while playing a part in his drop in production over the last two seasons. But Stubbs does have 100 stolen bases over the last three seasons, even with a .312 career on-base percentage, so if he can improve his approach at the plate he seems to have some untapped upside.
Stubbs is also considered an excellent defensive player, which would make him a great fit for the Twins since they look likely to have Josh Willingham and Chris Parmelee manning the outfield corners on Opening Day. He is also theoretically in his prime at age 28, and is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player for the next two years.
The Twins also have questions about who will fill the first two spots in their batting order, and if nothing else Stubbs’ speed would make him able to ignite Minnesota’s offense if he is hitting ahead of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Willingham in the lineup. With some tutoring from new hitting coach Tom Brunansky, Stubbs may be able to become better-suited to a role at the top of the Twins’ batting order in terms of making more contact and drawing walks.
The Indians may not seek a major-league ready player in exchange for Stubbs, due in part to the depth they have built this winter, so the price could be right for the Twins. If nothing else he has more of a big league track record than anyone Minnesota currently has in the mix to win the center field job, and I think he is a nice potential fit.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.