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The end of an era in Minnesota

Jan 21, 2011, 9:50 AM EST

Nick Punto

Hey, it doesn’t have to be a great era. An era is an era, and that counts even for the Twins’ Nick Punto:

No Twins offseason would be complete without a Nick Punto discussion.

Some of us were convinced he would be the final puzzle piece, as General Manager Bill Smith assembled the spring training roster. Punto is still a free agent, but from all indications, the Twins won’t be bringing him back.

Gleeman and I chat all day and often I’ll ping him with something like “Hey — I’m making a joke — give me the name of some random weak hitter who is inexplicably esteemed by many so I can use him in the punchline.” His response is almost always “Punto — but maybe that’s too obvious.”

Punto was useful the couple of times his average was high, but he is a career .247/.321/.322 hitting utility infielder — albeit an overused one — who has made $4 million a year recently.  That’s a guy you cut bait on a long time ago in favor of a veteran who will take a minor league deal and maybe make a million bucks, max. It took the Twins a couple of years to figure that out, but now they have.

Fare thee well, Nick.

  1. iammaxa - Jan 21, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    YES.

  2. Jeremiah Graves - Jan 21, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    You give Bill Smith until Punto has signed elsewhere before we celebrate. If Matty Tolbert struggles or gets hurt anytime before June and Punto is available, Gardy will beg, plead and cry to get his favorite banjo-hitting midget back in the lineup ASAP.

  3. lar @ wezen-ball - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    If Punto can recognize that he’s not getting anything more than $1 or $2 million, then the Brewers need to jump on him quick. I’d much rather take a slick fielder with no bat in my lineup than a no-glove, no-bat player like Yuni…

    I hope the only thing that’s held the Brewers back is his asking price (though I suppose they could view him as Craig Counsell, and, hey, they already have Counsell…)

  4. Cavan - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    You used to be able to defend him with his fielding prowess (which was at times spectacular), but last season showed he’s definitely on the decline there, as well. No justification for a stumbling utility man for $4 million.

    Sad, though. He was/is a scrapper.

  5. sknut - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    I view Tolbert as Punto Lite. Although I will miss seeing weak fly balls to center and punto diving into 1st base. I think he got as far as his talent would allow though.

  6. BC - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    How old is he? Heck, I’m 43, can’t run, could probably hit .050 off major league pitching by sheer luck, and can throw the bleep out of the ball. Maybe I could make…. 15 percent of $4mil next year?

  7. Tim OShenko - Jan 21, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    What I don’t understand is why they didn’t try trading him to St. Louis. I mean, LaRussa likes scrappy grit hustlers, right?

    • dluxxx - Jan 21, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      Nice call.

  8. billtpa - Jan 21, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    I would love to have Punto back for $1-2 million. Yeah, he shouldn’t be making $4 million and probably shouldn’t be starting, but he’s a very useful piece to have whether he’s hitting for a high average or not. Good-to-great defense at three positions and an above-average career OBP…

    • AK47 - Jan 21, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      You’re nuts man….$2M for what?? I’ll give you his defense, that he has prowess with the glove, there is no doubt, but defense is only worth so much, he has to be able to hit for something.

      Oh and I agree with the earlier commenter who said, “You give Bill Smith until Punto has signed elsewhere before we celebrate.” Never underestimate the special connection between Gardy and Punto.

      • billtpa - Jan 21, 2011 at 12:13 PM

        Defense is only worth so much…and Punto’s defense is worth around $2 million. Especially when the guy you expect to be your regular at shortstop (Casilla) hasn’t even proven that he can be anything less than a disaster at second base.

    • iammaxa - Jan 21, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      I wouldn’t mind having Punto back at a reasonable price if Gardy could be counted on to deploy him (and similar infielders) in a reasonable manner. But that is very much in doubt, and so I don’t mind that the option of playing Punto is off the table altogether.

    • billtpa - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      Here’s my take in much longer form: http://www.platoonadvantage.com/2011/01/thoughts-on-end-of-nick-punto-era.html

  9. Old Gator - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    The “era” in Minnesota won’t actually “end” until the glaciers have fully receded and the elephants have finished shedding.

  10. Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    Punto punted? Twins Punt on Punto? Punting Punto?

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