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Set to stay at third, Plouffe optimistic for 2016

Park takes over as designated hitter, Sano moves to outfield
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite reports to the contrary, the Twins never shopped third baseman Trevor Plouffe at any point this offseason, as they believe he's still a big part of the club's future despite the signing of Byung Ho Park and the emergence of Miguel Sano.

After the Twins won the bidding for Park, who will be the club's designated hitter, in early November with a $12.85 million posting fee, they contacted Plouffe to assure him he wasn't going anywhere and that Sano would make the move to the outfield. So while Plouffe saw some reports that he could be traded, he knew from what he had heard from the front office and manager Paul Molitor that it wasn't going to be the case.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite reports to the contrary, the Twins never shopped third baseman Trevor Plouffe at any point this offseason, as they believe he's still a big part of the club's future despite the signing of Byung Ho Park and the emergence of Miguel Sano.

After the Twins won the bidding for Park, who will be the club's designated hitter, in early November with a $12.85 million posting fee, they contacted Plouffe to assure him he wasn't going anywhere and that Sano would make the move to the outfield. So while Plouffe saw some reports that he could be traded, he knew from what he had heard from the front office and manager Paul Molitor that it wasn't going to be the case.

"I kind of just went about my offseason the way I always do, because from the end of the season on, I was told that they wanted me here," Plouffe said at TwinsFest. "Mollie was always adamant about that. I never heard anything different. So I've just focused on playing third and being here. So for me, it was nice to hear."

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Twins general manager Terry Ryan maintained throughout the offseason that the plan was to keep Plouffe, and he has kept his word. Minnesota and Plouffe agreed to a one-year, $7.5 million contract to avoid arbitration on Jan. 25.

"The fact of the matter is that [Plouffe] fits this club pretty good," Ryan said. "He led this team in RBIs, and he's really improved his defense."

Plouffe, 29, was known for his offense early in his career. He hit .244/.307/.435 with 22 homers, 35 doubles and a team-leading 86 RBIs in 152 games last year. And Plouffe has become a solid defender at third through hard work.

The Twins believe Plouffe is more advanced there than Sano at this point. Over the past two seasons, Plouffe ranks ninth among all Major League third basemen in defensive metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, per FanGraphs.com.

When it came time to ask a player to switch positions, it was decided that Sano will move from third base to right field, which shows how much confidence Minnesota has in Plouffe's defense.

Video: MIN@CLE: Plouffe doubles off Aguillar to end the 7th

"I know I've improved in that aspect of the game, but I feel like there's more room for improvement," Plouffe said. "I like the fact I've showed people that if you work hard, you can get better. So I'm proud of that."

Plouffe has also averaged 18 homers over the past four seasons, but he joked he has a new reason to be optimistic about his power this season. His wife, Olivia, gave birth to their first child, Teddy, on July 31, and Plouffe says he's stronger from lugging his son and his stuff around.

"I have my dad strength now, which is cool," Plouffe said with a laugh. "I realize now you get it from carrying a car seat, a stroller and a child around everywhere. I feel it, and it feels good."

Jokes aside, Plouffe has high hopes for the Twins in 2016, and he believes they can build on last season to reach the postseason.

"I don't know if happy is the right word, because we made strides and we feel like we're on the right path, but we're not going to be happy until we get into the postseason," Plouffe said. "We played better than we had the past four years, but that's not saying much. So we're not resting on anything."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins, Trevor Plouffe