"Nothing thicker than a knife's blade separates happiness from melancholy."
— Virginia Woolf (Orlando)
Hudson's signing turns the Twins' offseason from an incomplete one into a success. Obviously, Hudson is past his prime and is unlikely to become anything approximating a dominant offensive or defensive force. His highest WAR was last year at 3.7, but that’s probably an outlier. He probably adds 2-3 wins to the Twins this year over what the Twins’ could expect to get out of Alexi Casilla, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, and Nick Punto.
Fig. 1 The afro would add 2 wins on its own.
The really terrific news lost in all of this is that Hudson’s signing pushes Punto to 3B and ends the Twins’ pursuit of a 3B upgrade. With Belte and Tejada safely tucked away in Boston and Baltimore respectively, there are no really good 3B left on the market, no one worth pursuing. Certainly, Joe Crede is a terrific defender (last year, his UZR/150 was 23.4) and can hit enough to contribute. The problem, as always with Crede, is that he cannot stay healthy (the Twins compounded this problem by not shuffling him to the DL, meaning they were burning a roster spot on a player who couldn’t play on any given day). This would leave the Twins with a half-season of production from Crede (good) and a half-season from some combination of Harris, Tolbert, and Casilla. That didn’t work last year, and it won’t work any better this time around.
Plus, putting Li'l Nicky Punto at 3B is a terrific idea. While Nick Punto has no power and has the frustrating ability to get lost at the plate for seasons at a time (and dive headfirst into 1B at every opportunity), he is typically a good line drive hitter with decent speed and average plate discipline. He is not a traditional 3B by any means, but he does have value as a league-average hitter because of his incredible defense at the hot corner. Punto has, remarkably, played between 1772 and 1788 defensive innings at 2B, 3B, and SS in his career. His defensive reputation has been well earned, but he particularly shines at 3B. According to FanGraphs, Punto’s career UZR/150 is 19.9. A 19.9 UZR would have made Punto the 3rd best 3B in the majors last year, just behind all-world defenders Adrian Beltre and Ryan Zimmerman. According to Fielding Runs Above Average data available on baseballreference.com, Punto contributes 18.2 runs per season at the hot corner. And while Crede was incredible last year too, he a) only could go half the time and b) had elevated his defense to a whole other level. Back when he was playing full seasons, Crede never had a UZR/150 above 13.6, suggesting that his incredible defensive performances in ’07 and ’09 were artificially high due to a low number of games played (46 and 84 respectively). So, despite Hudson’s decline, it’s hard to see this deal as anything but a major win for the Twins.