It is with great anxiety and a self-made Hoover Dam holding in my sadness that I must face the harsh reality:
Trevor Plouffe is on the trading blocks.
This news is not exactly new, his name has come up for a couple years now, especially with the man-child known as Miguel Sano looming large. But things escalated quickly on November 9th when the Twins were revealed as the winning bid to negotiate with Korean slugger-extraordinaire and first-baseman/designated hitter, Byung-ho Park.
Park’s signing meant that the already busy lineup got even more polluted. A typical team keeps 12 batters and 13 pitchers, and keeping that in mind, along with positions currently mastered by those on the roster, things get messy and confusing WITHOUT a trade.
Joe Mauer – 1B/DH (rumors of outfield, but never proven)
Trevor Plouffe – 3B/1B/DH (played in the outfield – left-field – in spring training of 2013)
Miguel Sano – 3B/1B/DH (told to practice in right-field in Dominican league this winter, but not proven)
Kennys Vargas – 1B/DH (still a fringe player and not necessarily a 25-man roster spot)
Byung-ho Park – 1B/DH (if he doesn’t start in the MLB, it’ll only be a few weeks until he cracks the lineup)
So there you go, FIVE guys for 3 spots. Only one of them is a legitimate bench guy (Vargas) and the other four are definitely starters. This makes things scary enough. I could get into money/contract terms to also prove that Plouffe is probably the odd man out, but that is well documented (so search for “Plouffe trade rumors” on Google). The only piece that could have given me hope was potential flexibility in the outfield. Surely someone could master those skills or at least become serviceable and make up for it with their bat (*cough* Delmon Young, Ryan Doumit, Michael Cuddyer *cough*)…
But even the outfield is crowded – and that’s after the announcement of Torii Hunter’s retirement. The Twins have a young, speedy outfield, and a couple of them could even be decent trade chips, but probably not near as proven or valuable as Plouffe. There are plenty of guys who can fill in an outfield hole in the league, and while a guy like Aaron Hicks might get a middle prospect in return, you have a hell of a time finding an everyday third baseman available that could not fetch that same return – and Plouffe is older with less club control remaining in his arbitration eligible years.
Byron Buxton – CF (sure, he could start in AAA next year, but he is the potential face of the franchise)
Aaron Hicks – CF/RF (can play all spots and is flexible with switch-hitting abilities)
Eddie Rosario – LF (originally a middle-infielder, I’m guessing he is pure OF now)
Oswaldo Arcia – RF (hard to give up on him yet; the power can excite, but the defense is… yeah)
Max Kepler – RF/1B/DH (he may still be a minor leaguer for a good portion of the year, but we saw him in 2015)
So while it is very conceivable that the Twins have only THREE outfielders for sure on their roster right now, making any of the guys mentioned above in the 1B/3B/DH conundrum are super-utility guy who is also your fourth outfielder seems like a stretch. It is very likely that the position of fourth OF is taken by Arcia/Kepler in just a couple months anyway.
So why the long-winded explanation of “dead man walking”? Because that is the first step in all of these rumor fears…
Legitimize the rumor
If you see your favorite guys’ name but it is a far stretch in hopes of receiving a prized trade-deadline candidate? Take that news with a grain of salt. If my favorite guy was Joe Mauer and the trade was a late-July acquisition of David Price, I’d remain quite comfortable. But as I have proven above, Trevor Plouffe is expendable and provides the Twins with a decent trade chip over the offseason.
Check with local and national beat-writers and bloggers
The Twins have a ton of guys “in the know” and many others that have substantial credibility. The writers for the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, and bloggers Aaron Gleeman, Twinkie Town, Twins Daily, and Puckett’s Pond all are great resources. Many have theories and have provided the feedback from Paul Molitor, Terry Ryan, and even get the pulse of what other clubs and GMs are saying. Oh, checking MLB Trade Rumors also doesn’t hurt. Once you see it on MLB Trade Rumors, that kind of sets off the “this is real” alarm.
Take a step back and think about what it means to you, personally
This is the portion that is the most confusing part. You start to reminisce about the good times that player gave you – the game-winning hits, the incredible plays, the funny commercials, etc. Then you think about how they might not be there ever again, at least wearing your team’s jersey. Those personal interactions will be gone or severely limited – the autograph you wanted may never come to be, your cheering during “crucial” at-bats will cease to be heard by said player, and seeing them at community functions (like TwinsFest) may never happen again. Your happy past is squashed by the potential unpleasant future.
And then you start to think about it from their perspective…
Take a look at it through the eyes of the player
That player has given a large part of his time to that team, to that city, to that community, and in some cases, it is the only club he knows. To be caught in these rumor mills and have that be YOUR name?! Your personal sadness and anxiety pales in comparison to the player’s. He may be dealt to a team he hated as a child, or to a town that he doesn’t want to move his family to, or maybe he was perfectly happy with his current place of employment. Then there’s the fans… *Insert favorite player here* has tons of fans that call themselves his #1 fan. He has developed a relationship with that community and those people that support him, so that must also suck to have taken away from you. (Sorry, *player*, not all your fans will cheer for you once you are wearing a different uniform.)
Let it go…
Damn it. No. Not the song from Frozen. I repeat… NOT THE SONG FROM FROZEN!
No matter the strength of the rumor, things are never certain until they are finalized and announced to the public. We saw a nasty case of that with the Brewers and Mets (Carlos Gomez and Wilmer Flores), where even the strongest of rumors (near-confirmation?) fell apart at the last hour. Your player’s fate is sealed by the GM. He will keep the negotiations private and leak just enough to get good value. Your actions (whatever they could be) mean exactly SQUAT. Freaking out, being superstitious, or writing a letter to the team will not amount to any productive change in the fate. The good news? It takes two to tango, err, trade. Sometimes the trade doesn’t happen, no matter how hard your GM tries.
And in a perfect (albeit broken) world? Your favorite player comes back even after he is traded.
While I am not suggesting Trevor Plouffe is the same as Torii Hunter, he could still be in a similar situation years down the road and want to come back to the place where it all began. Heck, even Gordan Beckham came back to the White Sox after being traded to the Angels and playing with them for a half a year.
“Crazy things happen.” –Baseball
This is part one of a potential three or four part guide. If the writer (also editor in this situation) has to face the reality of Trevor Plouffe leaving the Minnesota Twins, he will also be doing:
Part 2: How to react to the news of your favorite player being traded
Part 3: Life after the trade, supporting your team and/or favorite player (aka: What do I do?)
Part 4: The return of your favorite player… to the stadium of ‘your team’