If the Milwaukee Brewers are going to bring in a new position player this winter, the most logical spot on the diamond given the current construction of the roster would appear to be at third base. We’ve already looked at a couple of possibilities - free agent Luis Valbuena and trade target Chase Headley - but another player became available over the weekend who could be a potential fit for our local nine. On Friday, Trevor Plouffe entered the free agent market after he was outrighted by the Minnesota Twins and could be a player worth kicking the tires on.
Plouffe was the Twins’ first round draft pick back in 2004 and he came up as a shortstop through the minor leagues. He debuted with Minnesota in 2010 but thanks to defensive deficiencies at short, Trevor became a full-time third baseman by 2012. He spent the better part of the last five years manning the hot corner on an everyday basis for our neighbors to the west and had a pretty good run, too.
On the whole, Plouffe has been roughly a league average hitter during his parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, batting .247/.308/.420 with 96 home runs across 723 career games (98 wRC+). He doesn’t walk a ton (7.5% career rate) but he also doesn’t strike out too often either (20% career rate), at least not compared to some of the other players around the league these days. Plouffe is a bit of a power threat who has topped 20 home runs twice in his career and carries a .173 ISO, though had he played his home games somewhere other than Target Field those numbers may look even better.
Plouffe’s best seasons came from 2014-15, when he slashed a combined .251/.317/.429 in 1,214 plate appearances with 36 home runs (106 wRC+). Combined with some solid defensive work (5 DRS, 8.4 UZR) Plouffe was valued at roughly six wins above replacement during that timeframe, depending on whose WAR metric you prefer.
Unfortunately Plouffe had an unproductive 2016, which lead to the Twins cutting bait in order to play Miguel Sano full-time at third base going forward. Trevor posted a .260/.303/.420 slash with 12 home runs (91 wRC+) but managed to play in only 84 games due to a variety of injuries. That’s been sort of a theme for Plouffe throughout his career, too - he spent at least one stint on the 15 day disabled list in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. Defensive metrics were down on Plouffe’s reduced work in the field last year as well, leaving him as roughly a replacement-level contributor. The Twins deemed that he was not worthy of the $8.2 mil that MLB Trade Rumors had projected he would receive during his final year of arbitration eligibility and allowed him to hit the open market.
Plouffe’s not exactly old at 30, so there’s reason to hope he can bounce back in 2017 once he fully regains his health. His hard hit rates have only fluctuated within about a one percent range in the last five seasons and his 33.1% rate was above the league average in 2016. Trevor’s contact rate of 81.4% last season was the best of his career. His injuries (intercostal strain, fractured rib, and strained oblique) may have contributed to his defensive woes and there’s reason to believe he can still be an average (or slightly below) glove at the hot corner.
Plouffe figures to receive some interest on the open market but he’s unlikely to command a king’s ransom. In terms of other the other free agent third baseman available he’s probably a step below even Luis Valbuena at this point and way behind Justin Turner. I could see the right-handed slugger settling for something like a one-year, $5 mil deal, perhaps with a $7 mil club option for 2018 and a $500k buyout. Hardly a sizable commitment in today’s financial landscape around the league.
Plouffe’s right-handed bat may not fit as well as the lefty-hitting Luis Valbuena’s would in Milwaukee’s lineup, and he probably doesn’t offer as much potential upside as the former Astro (who has historically been better at the plate), either. But Plouffe should come at a much lesser price, and if Valbuena signs elsewhere it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see Slingin’ Stearns make a run at the former Twins’ slugger.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs