By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS — Nick Punto’s days in a Minnesota Twins uniform have officially come to an end.
The versatile infielder has signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, the contract is worth $700,000.
The Twins declined Punto’s $5 million option back in October, paying him a $500,000 buyout instead. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wanted to bring back Punto, 33, to use in a utility role and to give the team protection in the middle infield in case of injuries, but the club appears to have reached its payroll limit after signing veteran starter Carl Pavano this week.
In seven seasons with the Twins, Punto batted .248 with a .323 on-base percentage, 12 home runs and 89 stolen bases. But Punto’s value came primarily from his defense and Gardenhire often proclaimed that Punto was his best defensive infielder at whatever position he played — whether it was second base, shortstop or third base.
The Twins have other options for their utility infielder role, including Matt Tolbert who is a switch-hitter like Punto and can play the same three defensive spots. Tolbert is quick, although he doesn’t possess the same defensive prowess as Punto, who was considered to be one of the best defensive infielders in baseball.
Along with Tolbert, the Twins also have Trevor Plouffe as an option at shortstop should the team need a steady fill-in at that spot. Another potential option could be infielder Luke Hughes, who had a short stint with the team this past season.