In baseball, it’s not always easy to find the answers.
To this day it seems that almost no pitchers have found the answer to Albert Pujols’ bat and no hitters—except Chase Utley—have found the answer for CC Sabathia’s left arm.
Today, however, there is one question that can be answered unequivocally.
Who should be the second baseman for the Minnesota Twins in 2010?
For months we speculated over whether or not the club would make a key acquisition at the deadline. Names like Felipe Lopez, Freddy Sanchez, and Dan Uggla were tossed around, but nothing ever came to fruition.
Since the season ended we’ve wondered if Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, or perhaps a returning Orlando Cabrera should handle the keystone corner next season.
Minnesota fans have looked upon the free agent class and asked if veterans such as Placido Polanco, Orlando Hudson, or Mark DeRosa were the solution.
Now all of the speculation can finally come to an end, because we’ve got our answer.
Brandon Phillips is the answer.
It was announced yesterday that the Cincinnati Reds are looking to shed payroll next season after watching attendance at Great American Ballpark fall fifteen percent in 2009.
Cincinnati general manager, Walt Jocketty said Tuesday that he might have to move some high-salaried players to meet the club’s 2010 goal.
Sources are saying that the projected 2010 goal is roughly $65-70 million, not a far cry from the $71 million payroll the club had last season, but given the significant raises due to many members of the roster, it will be necessary to move some of the club’s larger salaries.
With that having been said, the Twins have found their second baseman of 2010 and—hopefully—well-beyond.
Brandon Phillips, 28, hit .276 with 30 doubles, 20 homers, 98 RBI and 25 stolen bases last season while playing his typical stellar defense.
Needless to say, Phillips would be a significant upgrade over the Punto/Casilla/Tolbert/Harris quartet that manned second base in 2009.
Phillips wouldn’t come cheap in a trade; most likely costing the Twins a top-level pitching prospect, Glen Perkins, one of either Ben Revere or Aaron Hicks, and potentially a few lower-level prospects.
That price, however, is worth paying for one of baseball’s premier second baseman.
Since becoming a full-time player in 2006, Phillips has hit a combined .276/.324/.452 while averaging 22 home runs, 86 runs batted in, and 26 stolen bases per year.
That level of production from second base would allow the Twins to shift light-hitting Nick Punto to third base—his best defensive position—to serve as the place-holder for top-prospect Danny Valencia.
In acquiring Phillips, a 2008 Gold Glove winner, the Twins would have arguably the best defensive infield in all of the Major League Baseball and one of the most dynamic offenses as well.
Neither Phillips or recent acquisition J.J. Hardy constitute a typical two-hole hitter, but adding both would allow the Twins to shuffle the lineup, perhaps moving Joe Mauer to the two-spot to increase his at-bats and break up the lefty parade at the heart of the lineup.
In addition to his defensive prowess and offensive skills, Phillips also comes with a reasonable contract. He is in the middle of a four-year, $27 million deal with a $12 million option for 2012.
He made $5 million in 2009 and will earn salaries of $6.75 million and $11 million in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
That is big money, but the Twins have made it very clear that they’re ready, willing, and able to add salary going forward.
Additionally, Phillips figures to be worth every penny of that deal, as he will be just 30-years-old—still in the midst of his prime—when the decision needs to be made regarding his 2012 option.
Beyond his offense, his defense, and his salary—beyond all of that—Phillips is the answer for another very large reason—Joe Mauer.
The Twins want to sign Mauer to a long-term extension this offseason and—in doing so—the front-office is making large strides to prove that the club will be a contender for the foreseeable future.
The next move appears to be acquiring a veteran arm for the rotation, not an easy task—given the dearth of topflight talent available—but one that figures to get completed.
All of those moves figure to make the Twins a competitive team, but would they be enough to convince Mauer that the club can be a long-term contender? Maybe.
If Phillips were added to the mix, there would be no doubt about it. The Twins would be competitors, period.
With Phillips in the fold, the Twins would be fielding, arguably, the best team in the club’s history on a nightly basis and that might be what it takes to convince Mauer to stick around for the long haul.
With all of that in mind, Brandon Phillips is the answer.