Only three full days from Opening Day 2014, the Minnesota Twins’ 25-man roster is officially set. Hopeful to bounce back from three consecutive disappointing seasons, the Twins will first showcase their new roster against the Chicago White Sox on March 31.
Minnesota was busy this offseason, and had several questions to answer regarding starting jobs and roster spots. Now at preseason’s end, a lineup card has finally been determined, but in extremely questionable fashion.
The first of several puzzling final decisions came when the team released Alex Presley, allowing him to eventually be claimed by the Houston Astros. He entered Spring Training with the Twins favored to win a starting center field battle with Aaron Hicks. Presley struggled this spring while Hicks was impressive in a second straight preseason and seemingly took a small lead in their competition.
While it was expected Presley would still make the team as a fourth outfielder, he was surprisingly given the boot. He joins the Astros as a career .264 hitter who produced a .283/.336/.363 line in 28 games with the Twins last year.
To add to the confusion, Chris Parmelee was allowed to clear waivers, and was then optioned to triple-A on Thursday afternoon. Parmelee’s bat has been south of productive outside of a brief stint with Minnesota in 2011, but he was the only remaining backup outfielder on the Twins’ roster.
Joining Josmil Pinto and Eduardo Escobar, first baseman Chris Colabello and utility infielder Jason Bartlett will replace Presley and Parmelee, claiming Minnesota’s final bench spots. Jason Kubel was previously named to the roster as a DH and occasional outfielder.
The Twins will open 2014 without any reliable backup outfielders, specifically none who can play center field. This decision could prove costly for Minnesota as the team’s only current center field option, Hicks, hit .192 in 2013, including a 2-for-43 stretch to start the year.
Escobar and Bartlett are expected to split time at a number of different positions in the upcoming season, including all three outfield positions. This is despite the two having only 11 innings of experience as outfielders in 990 combined career games. Escobar is a career .228 hitter, and while Presley’s aforementioned poor spring seemed to factor into his eventual release, Bartlett’s .086/.158/.086 spring line was ultimately forgotten.
With only so many spots to fill, somebody had to go, but Minnesota may have made multiple, serious mistakes before 2014 even gets started. While the Twins look to increase production in several areas throughout the upcoming season, their offensive depth appears highly unlikely to improve.