Minnesota Twins fans finally have a mildly good reason to push the panic button.
It wasn’t that Scott Baker was leaving the team – without an option year, his value the year after Tommy John isn’t particularly meaningful. It certainly isn’t that (gasp) other free agent starting pitchers are signing elsewhere – especially when only a handful have changed teams and there are an inordinate number of good starting pitchers on the market
. And MOST OF ALL it isn’t that the Twins have dared to sign minor leaguers, which is business as usual for this time of year.
But if you want to push it, go ahead. Because yesterday, the Atlanta Braves agreed to terms for center fielder BJ Upton
. For Twins fans hoping for long-term upgrades to the Twins starting pitching staff, this is the worst news this offseason.
The Braves have plenty of young (and affordable) pitching like that
, and were in the market for 1) a center fielder and 2) right-handed power. What’s more, they had to be affordable, since the Braves are working on a corporate (inflexible) budget. Both Denard Span AND Josh Willingham had been floated in rumors from the Braves media entities, and it wasn’t out of the question that they could be attempting a blockbuster deal for both.
Upton IS both. He’s a centerfielder, who hits right-handed and has hit 51 home runs over the last two years. And they got him for about $14M/year, which is just a couple of million more than Span and Willingham would have cost. Upton was the linchpin of the offseason for the Braves; he was the one player available to fill both needs at a reasonable price without trading away their starting pitching.
The Twins and their fans will need to take solace in the cliché of the other broken-hearted: there are lots of other fish in the sea. There are. The Rays will need to replace Upton, the Phillies are actively courting center fielders and the Reds have been mentioned as a possible landing place for months.
But the Braves represented the big one that got away. They were the single best option this offseason when trading for major-league-ready, affordable, young, top-half-of-the-rotation starting pitching. If the Braves had missed out on Upton, the Twins and Braves would have made stunningly good fits for each other. Without them interested, the Twins didn’t just lose one name from the “demand” side of the equation, they also lost their best trading partner.
But at least Twins fans have found a reason to push the panic button in 3 …. 2 .... 1 ….