Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Little Wiggy Stayed Home

It’s only December 17, but already it seems as though this offseason has passed the Twins by. Several potential infield targets that had reportedly drawn the club’s interest have now evaporated from sight. Casey Blake signed with the Dodgers, Rafael Furcal signed with the Braves, Adrian Beltre has invoked a no-trade clause significantly lessening the likelihood that he’ll be dealt here, and reports indicate that the Rockies’ asking price for Garrett Atkins is off the charts. Meanwhile, many desirable free agent relievers have already signed elsewhere. The Twins entered this offseason with the specific goal of upgrading the left side of their infield and bullpen, and with the Nick Punto re-signing starting look like the only significant move Bill Smith will make, it seems that the team is content to simply hold steady.

There is one name that continues to be connected with the Twins on the rumor circuit. That would be Ty Wigginton, who recently became a free agent when the Astros declined to offer him arbitration. Wigginton is a right-handed power bat who would ostensibly fill the team’s hole at third base.

In theory, Wigginton presents an opportunity for the Twins to pick up what they missed when the Dodgers outbid them on Blake. Wigginton (who is five years young than Blake) is capable of manning several different positions, and he has a history of mashing left-handed pitching. He has averaged 23 homers and 68 RBI over the past three seasons, and actually tends to hit for pretty decent batting averages though he lacks patience at the dish.

The distinction between Blake and Wigginton is that while the former is a substandard defender, the latter is an absolute disaster in the field. Wigginton is among the worst defensive third baseman in all of baseball, which helps explain why he’s been shuttled between four different organizations in the past five years despite solid offensive production, and why he’s found himself playing in the outfield frequently. Using Ultimate Zone Rating, an advanced fielding metric which recently began carrying, we find that Wigginton has accumulated a UZR of -51.9 over the course of 4,239 big-league innings at third base, which is far worse than the -14.0 mark Blake has posted in 5,072 career innings at the position. Wigginton is so lacking as a third baseman that I’m rather skeptical the Twins would be willing to play him there on anything close to a full-time basis.

So now we’re left to decide whether it’s worth spending $6-$7 million dollars over a few years on a part-time righty slugger and bench bat. Seems to me that the Twins already have a player who fits that bill to some degree in Brendan Harris. While he’s pretty clearly an inferior offensive player, Harris is far more valuable in the field -- he plays a decent third base and is passable at the middle infield spots, which really cannot be said about Wigginton.

I don’t think Wigginton would be a terrible acquisition at the right price, but he doesn’t get me particularly excited. The Twins entered this offseason with a sizable surplus in their budget and it will be unfortunate if they end up sitting on their excess rather than using it to add players who can help them win, but having the money to sign Wigginton is not reason enough to sign him. When all aspects of his game are taken into account, I don’t think he adds much to this club. Even if it’s not particularly exciting, sometimes holding steady makes sense.


If you're not sick of me yet, you can check out the latest addition of the Twins Offseason Round Table series at Twins Territory, where as usual I answer questions alongside Alex Halsted, Jesse Lund and Seth Stohs. Or you can check out Seth's podcast from last night, where I was a guest along with Phil Miller of the Pioneer Press.