The Twins' Cheapness Isn't The Problem; It's The Symptom
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA TodayOn the one hand, I agree and sympathize with that point. After all, no amount of realistic free agent spending would have helped from 2011-2014. It is, indeed, far too easy to pin all the team’s struggles on their refusal to spend like the team in a mid-sized market that they ultimately are.
Especially since the Twins did open up their wallet in both the 2013-2014 offseason and the 2014-2015 offseason. But they only opened it wide enough for Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana. And as great as Hughes’s 2014 worked for all involved, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the reasonable expectation for all three starters was that they’d be acceptable mid-rotation starters at best. All told, the Twins are going to spend $34.8 million, or roughly a third of their payroll, on these three pitchers with limited upside. And they paid essentially the going rate for all three of them.
Now, don’t get me wrong, signing Hughes or Santana or, hell, even Nolasco isn’t enough to hamstring even a team that pretends they can’t spend money, like the Twins. However, Minnesota stacked these signings on top of one another, reducing their flexibility this year to the point where there isn’t room for more than one of higher-upside, lower-salary guys like Tyler Duffey, Trevor May or Jose Berrios in the starting rotation (and, even then, it probably necessitates shifting Nolasco to the bullpen).
The inherent problem with the Twins’ spending isn’t the lack of it. It’s the systemic problem that seems to pervade the organization: complacency. The Twins have a profound lack of ambition in virtually everything they do.
Rather than doing something radical and difficult, the team invariably takes the path of least resistance. Instead of attempting to sign a single free agent starter with a higher upside at some point over the last three years (like a Jordan Zimmermann, a Jon Lester or a Johnny Cueto), and maybe a relative lottery ticket in Hughes, the Twins took small bites at the apple. Rather than attempt to bolster the club at the trade deadline last year with a big acquisition, they only acquired Kevin Jepsen (which, admittedly, worked far better than it should have). Rather than preparing themselves for another season as a contender in 2016, the Twins held pat, adding two players while leaving the bullpen almost entirely untouched. Rather than exploring the market for Trevor Plouffe, they just move Miguel Sano to a position he’s never played before.
I don’t know what causes this kind of complacency. Maybe it’s having an undemanding ownership, though I certainly prefer the Pohlad’s silent leadership to Jeffrey Loria or Arte Moreno’s meddling. Maybe it’s having such a stable front office, where everyone holds onto their jobs and the only way to move up is when someone else leaves for another organization. Maybe it’s a media landscape and a fan base that’s more eager to criticize players than the leadership which doesn’t put them in a position to succeed. But ultimately, it will prevent the club from seizing opportunities available to it. Maybe that's a postseason berth in 2016, or a chance to be a World Series favorite in 2018, or the ability to stay relevant as the window of contention begins to close sometime in the distant future.
Anyway, in response to Bill, I don’t feel particularly compelled to “show my work” when it’s not at all clear that the Twins are doing much of their own.
- Nick Nelson, Bill Parker, Paul Pleiss and 4 others like this