Over the last year, the local writers and even some national writers have been calling Danny Valencia the Twins third baseman of the future. Valencia has hit at every level, and while he's far from an elite defensive player he's good enough to stay at third base long term. He's a solid prospect with a good amount of potential, and he should be a solid starting third baseman in his prime if he continues to develop.
However, fans and writers alike continue to say the the Twins should only sign a third baseman for one year to make sure there's not anyone blocking Valencia when he's ready. I disagree. Valencia isn't ready to start this year, in my opinion, and the team can't go into the season with Nick Punto or Brendan Harris starting at third until Valencia is deemed ready. My preference was for the team to sign Troy Glaus to play third base, and give Valencia some at bats in September, but with Glaus signing with the Braves that's no longer an option.
The Twins have been rumored to be interested in Kevin Kouzmanoff, reportedly offering Glen Perkins for him at the winter meetings. Almost everyone agreed that it would be a steal for the Twins to get Kouzmanoff for simply Perkins, which is also why the Padres needed more. I heard arguments from people that the Twins had no reason to offer more because Kouzmanoff would be blocking Valencia after this season. While I understand the reasoning behind that thought process, I disagree with it.
Valencia is not a sure-thing to make it, and honestly even if he does his highest projection seems to be as a solid starter. If the Twins are able to land an upgrade at third base for this coming season, they need to do it. If that means acquiring a reasonably priced Kevin Kouzmanoff for the next two or three seasons, than by all means do it. If Kouzmanoff struggles, the team can simply non-tender him following this season and give the job to Valencia anyways. The more likely result, however, is that Kouzmanoff would blossom away from Petco Park, and the Twins would have a solid starting third baseman.
It is definitely possible that Valencia plays extremely well in the spring, manages to win the third base job and becomes a better player from day 1 than most people think he's capable of. However, for a team hoping to make some noise in the playoffs they need to find upgrades in as many ways as possible, and relying on a prospect to be a major upgrade could prove to be a major mistake.
With Troy Glaus signing a one-year deal with Atlanta, my preference for a one year stop gap is off the market. I won't be too upset if the team decides to re-sign Joe Crede yet again, assuming they are planning to give Valencia the job when Crede is hurt, but I would prefer to see the team swing a trade for an upgrade or wait out Adrian Beltre's asking price.
Valencia is a solid prospect that appears to be valued too highly by Twins fans and writers. I think he could become a solid player, and obviously I hope he is even better than that, but if my job was to build a World Series contender for the 2010 season, I wouldn't want to know I let Kevin Kouzmanoff or someone similar go because I wanted Danny Valencia to start at third base in 2011.