For reasons that are far beyond my merely mortal powers to comprehend, the Minnesota Twins have once again delayed bringing down the hatchet on the Twins career of Alexi Casilla. Instead, to make room for newly signed second baseman Orlando Hudson, the Twins placed outfielder Jason Pridie on waivers . . . and promptly lost him to the New York Mets. Because everyone knows that to make room for a second baseman, you don’t cut another, completely superfluous second baseman — you instead cut the leading contender to be your backup center fielder. Totally logical.
This move doesn’t upset me so much as annoy me mildly. There are several reasons for this. First, I happen to be a big fan of Bill Smith. I met the guy once, had a chance to chat with him for a couple of hours in Florida (and got a chance to watch him and Terry Ryan running some numbers about the value of Cristian Guzman’s having hit 631 at-bats in 2000 — why they were doing this in March of 2001, I don’t know). Heck, when he saw me getting ready to call a cab (the ballpark was miles from my hotel), the guy gave me a ride. So yes, I am a Bill Smith apologist. Anything I would mock an opposing GM ruthlessly for, I would only shake my head at if Bill does it.
Second, I have a hard time getting too worked up over the loss of Jason Pridie, a player who I thought should have been cut back in November to open up a roster spot. The Twins obviously didn’t value him too highly, or they would have called him in September. Why keep him around if they thought he was useless? Needless to say, his continuing presence on the roster surprised and baffled me a bit, as did all of the talk since the Carlos Gomez trade that he was likely to be on the big league roster this year as a backup. Of course, it made some sense — Jason Kubel isn’t going to be giving Denard Span a day off anytime soon, after all. Still, I never bought into the idea of Pridie on the Twins roster in 2010, so now that he definitely won’t be I don’t care that much.
Third, the departure of Pridie actually makes it much more likely that Casilla could claim a spot on the roster. I still think it’s a stretch — his lack of real versatility makes him an inferior choice to Matt Tolbert if the Twins decide to carry 7 infielders, 4 outfielders, and 2 catchers on the roster. But if the Twins truly are going to give it a go with 4 outfielders, and if Casilla manages to put together a solid spring . . . well, anything is possible. My previous arguments in favor of ditching Casilla all centered around the notion that he had no chance to win a job. Now, he has very little chance to win a job. That’s a step in the right direction for Casilla, and makes the decision to keep him less bad.
In the end, though, I still have this sinking feeling that the Twins are going to carry Casilla through the spring, find themselves with nowhere to stash him, and end up losing him on waivers. If the club needs to make room for someone on the roster (just for fun, let’s say Jacque Jones, who today was re-signed to a minor league deal) then it’s no harm, no foul — the Twins would have had to remove a third player (counting Tolleson, Pridie, and the new one) from the roster anyway, so it would have worked out equally. But this seems somewhat far-fetched — the players in Spring Training with a legitimate chance to make the big league team are already on the 40-man roster and it’s unlikely the Twins would need to open up another spot. The upshot? Casilla is still likely to have to be waived, with no one to replace him on the roster. It could very easily end up as a bit of a wasted move, in other words. In the end, of course, everything will even out — even if the Twins lose Casilla in April with no immediate player to replace him, it’s not like they LOSE that roster spot. They’ll just have an open space available the next time someone gets added to the roster. It just seems much less tidy to me.
But now, we’ve surely come to the bitter end, right? Casilla may have won a stay of execution this time . . . and last time . . . and in December when he could have been non-tendered . . . and in November when he could have been cut to make room on the roster. But surely, with the end of Spring Training will come the inevitable. And if not, then perhaps we’d best start wondering whether Bill Smith has the same kind of mancrush of Alexi Casilla that Gardy has on Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert.