The middle infield needs complete renewal. Once again, Twins fans will most likely see Luis Rivas manning second base when the season opens.
Once again, many Twins fans will shake their heads and cross their fingers at that same fact.
When the Twins let Guzman walk over the winter, there was hope in Twinsville that Rivas would get his walking papers as well. Unfortunately, we were not so blessed.
The continuing presence of Rivas on the team is something of a mystery.
Statisically, Rivas does not seem to be any great improvment over Cuddyer. Their batting averages in 2004 were similar, and while Rivas' fielding percentage was higher in 2004, his 2003 percentage compares favorably with Cuddyer's 2004 percentage. It could even be argued that Cuddyer might commit fewer errors if he got the chance to play one position full-time. Using even more important numbers (from the Twins' perspective), Rivas costs much more than Cuddyer or any of the younger guys clamoring to play infield for the Twins.
Perhaps the Twins kept Rivas around to lend the infield some stability since they will open the season with a new shortstop and third baseman. Maybe they felt Rivas could show the new guys where to stand for particular batters in specific situations. Or, maybe Rivas has some particularly potent blackmail material about Twins management.
Yes, the Twins will field a generally young and inexperienced infield this year. With Morneau playing his first full year at first base and a new left side of the infield, Rivas all of a sudden looks a bit like a rock of stability. However, does it make sense to trot him out there for one year just to watch him get the boot during the next off-season?
I'd like to see Rivas replaced this year. That will most likely mean some botched double plays and mishandled throws as the infield gains experience playing together. That's the price we'll have to pay for several years of infield stability going forward.
These halfway measures rarely work out for the best. Let's suffer some short-term pain in exchange for a long-term gain.
This article originally appeared on the now defunct TwinsTerritory.com website.