Offseason Primer: Twins Need to Be Prepared to Pivot from Buxton and Sano
Image courtesy of © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsNote: This is basically a B-side from the upcoming 2019 Offseason Handbook, which you can now preorder. If you like this piece, you’ll LOVE the handbook. Claim your copy today to get it before its official release.
Maybe the solution to getting the Twins turned around isn’t making big, sweeping changes as much as it is knowing when to stop pouring plate appearances into guys who are struggling. Logan Morrison (359 PA, 74 wRC+), Ehire Adrianza (366 PA, 82 wRC+), Ryan LaMarre (109 PA, 75 wRC+) and especially Bobby Wilson (151 PA, 40 wRC+) all got a lot more opportunities than the average team trying to compete would have provided to them.
Buxton and Sano were both very bad at the plate last year as well, but both have shown potential and still possess untapped upside. If the Twins intend to be contenders in 2019, the leash needs to be short, however, and the team needs to prepare itself with replacement options should things go poorly again.
The Twins appear to already have some viable backup plans if Buxton fails to blossom. Max Kepler has proven to be a capable center fielder and the emergence of Jake Cave creates some additional flexibility.
At third base, on the other hand, the Twins are paper thin behind Sano. Finding some insurance at the hot corner needs to be high up on the list of priorities for the front office.
Last offseason, Derek Falvey & Co. built in flexibility, creating a team that had the potential to contend, but at the same time would be easy to tear down in the event things didn’t go so well. They added some pieces in the short term without getting too tied down in the long term.
They may want to aim to set up a similar flexibility with Buxton and Sano.
It’s depressing to have to admit this, but at this point it would be foolish of the Twins to expect Buxton and Sano to realize their potential in 2019. Contingency plans need to be in place, but at the same time it may be equally as foolish to completely give up on those two or sell them off at their lowest value.
Everything should be set up to put Buxton and Sano in the best situation to succeed, giving them plenty of opportunities in the early going, but the team also needs to be built with the ability to pivot if those two come out of the gates slumping.
The baseball season is so long, so the “take it one day at a time” mantra is usually golden wisdom. Cliches become cliches for a reason. That line of thinking can be dangerous, however, as the games in April and May count every bit as much as those in August and September. Considering how early teams make their buy/sell decisions, one could argue that those early games are even more important.
Both Buxton and Sano possess a profile that provides potential flexibility. If Sano comes out slumping, there’s nothing wrong with him shifting to the bench for a spell. As a corner infielder who mashes lefties, it’s not like he’d be out of place as a bench bat/platoon DH. Similarly with Buxton, he could provide plenty of value off the bench as a late-inning pinch runner and defensive replacement. They both have specialized skills that would make them attractive even in a temporary reserve role.
We’ve seen plenty of players have several false starts on the road to becoming everyday players. It seemed like Eduardo Escobar flip-flopped from being on the bench to being counted on as a starter every other season. Aaron Hicks also experienced several failures to launch. Doug Mientkiewicz, Torii Hunter and David Ortiz are just a few of the many other names that fit into this category.
We’ve been talking about these two guys for years and have seen them up in the big leagues for several seasons now, but it’s so easy to forget that Byron Buxton is only 24-years-old and Miguel Sano is 25.
There’s no reason to give up, but the Twins would be wise to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
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