How Long Can the Twins Keep Their Window of Opportunity Open?
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsMinnesota’s Front Office Philosophy
Thad Levine and Derek Falvey were brought together in Minnesota four winters ago. In that time, the front office has been able to rebuild an organization that had lost 92+ games in five of the previous six seasons. They have been shrewd to hang on to their top prospects with Brusdar Graterol’s trade being the lone exception and the Twins are likely happy with their return in that deal.
Having one of baseball’s best farm systems is a key to sustainable contention. Minnesota’s current crop of regulars was moving through the farm system back in 2015-16, which saw them ranked as one of MLB’s top-five farm systems. Since the new front office took over, the Twins have moved back into the top 10 with prospects like Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, and Jhoan Duran ready to make a big-league impact. Even with those players getting close, other key pieces like Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios can reach free agency in the coming years so it becomes a roster balancing act.
Entering the 2019 season, Thad Levine was asked about signing one of the big free agent options (Bryce Harper and Manny Machado), but he felt those moves are for teams trying to put their “foot down” and not “trying to wrench a window of opportunity open.” Last winter, the window was open, and the Twins spent big money on Josh Donaldson. Now the Twins can look to the not-so-distant past for a glimpse into their own future.
Kansas City’s Approach
Kansas City is a lower revenue team, and in recent memory they saw their window open and jumped at the opportunity. KC’s front office used a slash and burn approaching by trading away pieces from one of baseball’s top farm systems. The results are hard to argue with as Kansas City won back-to-back AL pennants along with taking home the 2015 World Series crown. As the old adage goes, flags fly forever, but what are the long-term costs?
Looking back on those seasons, Kansas City wasn’t sure how long their window would be open. “You owe it to your fans and your city,” said Royals General Manager Dayton Moore. “You owe it to your ownership and all the people who’ve worked so hard to get your franchise to a certain point.” He capitalized at the right time, but things haven’t gone as smooth in recent years.
Since their title run, Kansas City has yet to post a .500 record and things aren’t exactly looking bright for 2021. Their farm system ranks in the middle of the pack with some top tier talent, but they are still trying to rebuild after trading away pieces for their title run. Would Twins fans want the front office to follow a similar approach and go all-in for one or two seasons of success?
Baseball’s Harshly Cyclical Nature
Kansas City isn’t the only team to see their window close after multiple winning seasons but not all teams end up walking away with a title. Detroit won the AL Central for four consecutive seasons from 2011-14 and they made World Series runs in 2006 and 2012.
During that time, they handed out big contracts and traded away top prospects to keep their window open. The team was trying to end a title drought that stretches back further than the Twins (1984). Recently, Detroit has struggled to be relevant again as they have posted sub-.400 winning percentages for four consecutive seasons.
"At some point, some teams get into an all-win-now mode because they're right there," Tigers general manager Al Avila said. "It's very hard to get into the playoffs. It's very hard to get into the World Series, much more even to win it. When you feel you have that chance, you've got to go for it."
Toronto made back-to-back ALCS runs in 2015-16 with sluggers like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion anchoring their line-up. The Blue Jays added veterans like David Price and Troy Tulowitzki to try and get them over the hump, but they never made it to the Fall Classic. Since then, they have lost 86+ games for three straight seasons before finishing above .500 in 2020.
Forbes baseball writer Maury Brown believes MLB expects windows to be open for roughly five years. Low revenue clubs can expect to be a little shorter and higher revenue clubs can expect to be a little longer. Multiple prospects need to hit at the same time and the organization needs to make appropriate supplemental moves, but he feels confident the league likes to tout five years as a bit of a “standard.” Minnesota’s revenue is considered in the middle to lower end of baseball, so the time might be now for the Twins to act.
The Twins window is clearly open, but it might close faster than fans would like.
How long do you think Minnesota’s window will stay open? Should the team go all-in? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
- mikelink45, DocBauer, dbminn and 1 other like this