The Twins and third baseman Trevor Plouffe have avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $7.25MM, reports Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The former first-round pick and CAA Sports client had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to take home a $7.7MM salary in 2016 before filing for an $7.95MM sum. The team countered with a $7MM sum, meaning Plouffe’s ultimate salary will come in below the $7.475MM midpoint of those two figures.
Plouffe, 29, has somewhat quietly emerged as a strong contributor at third base over the past two seasons, during which time he’s batted .251/.317/.429 with 36 home runs for the Twins. While his offense performance dropped off between 2014 and 2015 (from a rate-stat perspective, anyhow), Plouffe appeared in a career-high 152 games and tallied a career-high 632 plate appearances in 2015, chipping in 22 homers and 86 RBIs — all of which factored into the $2.45MM raise he’ll receive over last year’s salary of $4.8MM. Formerly a shortstop that had to move off the position for defensive purposes, Plouffe has also turned himself into a solid to above-average defender at the hot corner, where he’s posted positive cumulative marks in Defensive Runs Saved (+5) and Ultimate Zone Rating (+8.4) across the past two seasons.
While many thought the team’s signing of Byung Ho Park would lead to a Plouffe trade by forcing Miguel Sano from DH to third base, the Twins plan to use Sano in the outfield and retain Plouffe at third base. It remains to be seen how the hulking Sano can handle the outfield (though his arm drew rave reviews from scouts), but for the time being, Plouffe figures to continue to serve as a key component of the Twins’ starting lineup in 2016. He’s under control through the 2017 season as a Super Two player, so he’ll be arbitration-eligible once more next offseason before qualifying for free agency. With Plouffe’s case resolved and Kevin Jepsen also signed to a one-year deal over the weekend, the Twins have now avoided arbitration with all six of their eligible players, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.