Sunday, January 16, 2011

Twins Trade Jose Morales

I kept meaning to write this piece and just never did, so now, two months later you're finally getting it.

In a move that got little attention, the Twins traded backup catcher Jose Morales to the Rockies for Paul Bargas. A converted catcher, Morales has had some success with that bat at the Major League level, posting a .297/.370/.354 triple slash in 181 plate appearances spread out over three seasons. Unfortunately, injuries have kept Morales from being able to establish himself as the Twins primary backup and the Twins chose to go with Drew Butera as their primary backup to Joe Mauer last year.

With Morales out of options and without room to carry three catchers to open the season, the Twins were in a move-him-or-lose him position and so the move was made. In return, the Twins get Bargas. As a 22 year old Bargas had a strong season for the Rockies class-A affiliate, posting a 3.59 ERA and a 2.82 FIP with solid strikeout (8.51) and walk rates (2.53).

The Twins like strike throwers and Bargas seems to fit that profile. With repeatable mechanics, Bargas works in 88-90 range with decent sink on his fastball and a slider in the high 70s that Baseball America says breaks too early to profile as a put-away pitch at higher levels. His stuff seems to profile more like that of a LOOGY than a long-term rotation option, and that's what I project him as. But the metrics still like him and if he can make progress with his slider and develop his changeup - two things the Twins minor league coaches are known for doing well - he could have Brian Duensing-like upside.

In all likelihood the Twins will have Bargas open 2011 at AA New Britain and we'll get a chance to see how his stuff translates against more advanced hitters.

What this means for the Twins immediate catching situation is a bit unclear. Obviously they made a strong commitment to Butera in 2010 and they love his defense, but beyond Butera, the options are thin. The Twins did make a pair of minor league signings, bringing in Steve Holm and Rene Rivera, but neither have ever hit and in the event that Mauer were to get hurt, the Twins would have a gaping hole in their batting order that couldn't begin to be dented with the current group of internal options.

But hey, at least the Twins didn't make a heinous decision to trade Wilson Ramos for a reliever so they can always turn to him...

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