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Updated: September 9th, 2012 10:37pm
Mackey: Span is a fine player, but Twins showing they may not need him

Mackey: Span is a fine player, but Twins showing they may not need him

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by Phil Mackey

MINNEAPOLIS -- There usually aren't many epiphanies to be had while watching a mid-September baseball game between two teams that are a combined 46 games below .500.

That said, while Esmerling Vasquez was busy walking everyone with a ticket stub on Sunday, Minnesota Twins position players were showing why there are glimpses of hope for the immediate future.

Right fielder Chris Parmelee continued his torrid streak since being recalled with a two-out, two-strike, two-RBI single in the seventh inning that temporarily turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.

Center fielder Ben Revere stole two bases, raised his batting average back up over .300 and made a diving catch with two outs in the ninth inning to keep the game tied.

First baseman Justin Morneau clubbed his 18th and 19th home runs of the season -- the latter a walk-off with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

It all seemed to fit.

And notice how the absence of Denard Span felt almost natural...

That's certainly not meant to be a knock on Span, who is hitting .286/.349/.393 with 14 stolen bases, 32 doubles and solid outfield defense. His 3.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rank him third on the team.

But Span's current stint on the disabled list due to an injured collarbone has opened the door for Revere to roam center field with Parmelee playing right field, and, most importantly, playing every day.

If Span comes back from the DL this week, the Twins will have a logjam, which is a welcome problem, but also a bit of foreshadowing for next year. The Twins have seven players -- Morneau, Parmelee, Span, Revere, Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit, who also has earned every-day at-bats with his .283/.327/.460 line -- for six positions (three outfield spots, first base, catcher and DH).

Having Span and Revere in the same outfield has been a defensive luxury for the Twins this season, but it has gone mostly unnoticed because of how bad the pitching staff has been. According to plus/minus fielding data, the Twins outfield rates 23 runs above average, which makes them the third-best defensive outfield in baseball behind only the Los Angeles Angels (+48) and Atlanta Braves (+49).

Keep in mind, the Twins won 94 games in 2010 playing mostly Delmon Young, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer in the corner outfield spots. None of those three men would be classified as "rangy" outfielders -- quite the opposite, in fact.

The Twins have made no decisions about next year's roster, other than to say they'll be searching hard for starting pitching. But in order to acquire that starting pitching, it's possible -- if not highly likely -- the Twins will have to trade for it.

It's also hard to imagine that the Twins would open the 2013 season with five left-handed hitters in the order, which is another reason why a trade could happen.

There are plenty of reasons why it might make sense for the Twins to trade Morneau this offseason -- his $14 million salary, the injury risk, his age (31), as an asset that could bring back starting pitching, and also to open up more playing time for Parmelee.

But Parmelee seems pretty comfortable so far in right field. He doesn't have much range, nor does he have much experience out there, but it's a place for him to play while Span is on the DL.

With Willingham, Span, Revere, Darin Mastroianni and perhaps Parmelee, and especially with Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks both exploding in Double-A this season, the organization has a surplus of outfielders.

Plus, Morneau is on pace for his most productive full season since 2009, when he hit .274/.363/.516 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. He has been particularly dangerous offensively during the second half of this season, hitting .322/.370/.509 since June 29.

"I think my comfort level and confidence has grown," said Morneau, who has seemingly put concussion issues and his wrist surgery in the rear view mirror. "It's a long process, and it's something if you ask any hitter, they'll tell you they're working on something most of the time, but it's just hard work and battling every day and continuing to have a good approach. I'm a lot more comfortable than I was to start the year, that's for sure."

An offensive core of Mauer, Willingham, Morneau, Parmelee, Doumit and Trevor Plouffe, with Revere setting the table, looks pretty formidable on paper.

Span's contract is extremely team-friendly. He is owed just $4.75 million next year and $6.5 million in 2014, with a $9 million team option for 2015, so it makes no sense to just trade him for the sake of trading him.

But if the Twins can get quality starting pitching in return for Span this winter, the lineup -- as shown on Sunday -- would seem to be just fine without him.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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