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Blake Snell a trade target or not

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I would personally be happy to offer up Kirilloff and a few other prospects for him!!! What do you guys think he would cost and would you...
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Rosario Placed on Outright Waiver

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https://www.mlbtrade...ht-waivers.html So long, at least temporarily, old friend.
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Sherman: Thad Levine a "Player" in Phillies Baseb...

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Free Agency / Re-Signings 2020-21 Offseason

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Free agency is likely going to be a really slow burn this year, but I still think it's worth having a thread to discuss signings. ...
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Is Cruz a MUST signing? And what if he doesn't fit?

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Let me state I love Cruz and want him back if possible. I not only believe he brings class, experience, knowledge and leadership to the t...
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This Season Is a Culmination of the Front Office's Successes

With just one weekend left in the 2020 regular season, the Minnesota Twins are right where they want to be. They're 13 games above .500, on track for the division title, and all but assured home field advantage in the postseason's first round.

It's not by accident. Many of the driving forces in this team's success – and bright outlook – are directly attributable to the front office's masterful execution of a grand plan.
What we're seeing this year is the same thing we saw last year: an elite team, loaded with talent and performing at an extraordinarily high level. There's plenty of credit to go around, but it's hard to ignore the direct impact of moves made by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine over the past couple years. And I'm talking beyond their broader work building out the organization's infrastructure, and investing in innovation.

Here are five decisions that loom large as the Twins charge toward the postseason:

1. Hiring Rocco Baldell as manager and Wes Johnson as pitching coach.

The entire coaching staff seems quite effective, really, but these two stand out.

Baldelli was the deserving recipient of AL Manager of the Year in 2019, his first season at the helm, and he's in the running for it again. The Twins definitely took a chance on Rocco, replacing a local legend in Paul Molitor with a total outsider who became the youngest skipper in the game. Their faith has been validated at every level. Baldelli is a brilliant tactical manager with tremendous strategic vision, and his ability to connect with players – stuffing out drama and constantly maintaining an even-keeled vibe – is uncanny.

Selecting Johnson as pitching coach required a leap of faith on its own for the Twins. He became the first person ever to jump into the major-league role straight of out college, and Wes brought with him new-age philosophies. He was known at Arkansas as an instructor who could truly elevate performance, and he has translated this knack to the highest level. Roster-building has of course played a part (and we'll get to that) but under Johnson, Twins pitchers are throwing harder, dominating more, and consistently reaching their potential.

2. Building a power bullpen.

A deep and dominant bullpen was key to the World Series run from Derek Falvey's Cleveland Indians in 2016. When he took over the Twins afterward, the relief corps he inherited was a far cry. But over the course of these past four years, Minnesota's bullpen has been gradually upgraded and enhanced. The past year alone has seen a dramatic overhaul; consider that their Opening Day bullpen in 2019 consisted of Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, Ryne Harper, Martín Pérez, and Adalberto Mejía.

This radically reconstructed Twins bullpen is currently tied with Tampa Bay for first in the majors in fWAR. They're fifth in ERA, sixth in FIP, and fifth in strikeout rate. It's a top-tier unit by almost any measure, helping the Twins weather frequent bullpen games without much issue.

The origin stories vary for this collection of standouts, but each one has the front office's fingerprints all over it.

There was Sergio Romo, acquired at the deadline last year and re-signed as a free agent during the offseason. Caleb Thielbar was more or less talked out of retirement, and he has come back more effective than ever before. Matt Wisler was claimed off waivers, and has been reinvented as an overpowering weapon with his unsolvable slider. Jorge Alcala came over in a 2018 trade. Tyler Clippard was plucked from the rival Indians as a free agent. Tyler Duffey was an incumbent who finally unlocked his potential.

It all adds up to a bullpen that's been a phenomenal asset, and a crucial contributor to the team's success.

3. Signing Nelson Cruz

I think we can safely say it's the best free agent signing in franchise history. (A sentimental fan might point to Jack Morris, but I'd heartily disagree.) Cruz signed for a relatively modest sum two offseasons ago, and immediately became the heart and soul of this team, with his likability and leadership qualities somehow overshadowing back-to-back MVP-caliber performances on the field.

We're already seeing the impact of Josh Donaldson, who became the front office's new marquee signing over the winter, and I hope we'll continue to see it for years to come. But nothing can contend right now with the impact of Cruz. He's been an absolute revelation.

4. Drafting Ryan Jeffers

Many outside observers considered it a reach when the Twins used the 59th overall pick in 2018 to select Jeffers, a slugging college catcher out of UNC-Wilmington whose defensive skills were generally considered suspect. The Twins saw something different, and two years later they've been proven 100% correct.

Despite having zero experience above Double-A, and having had no opportunity to play in real games this summer, Jeffers stepped in after Mitch Garver got hurt and has looked like a natural. His smoothness and confidence behind the plate are shocking for a 23-year-old rookie, as his keen eye at the plate. He rarely chases outside of the zone and has shown the ability to absolutely decimate baseballs when he squares up. His pitch-framing ranks in the 85th percentile of all major leaguers according to Statcast.

Jeffers has instantly settled in as an above-average MLB catcher, and what he did as a rookie while both Garver and Alex Avila were sidelined should not be overlooked as a major factor in the team's success this year. Jeffers may very well start behind the plate for Game 1 in the playoffs.

5. Acquiring Kenta Maeda

Falvey and Levine set out this past offseason with one guiding mission: upgrade the rotation. That meant adding a pitcher better than José Berríos or Jake Odorizzi, who were both All-Stars last season, as well as Michael Pineda, who was also brought back with a savvy deal during the offseason.

Initially, Falvey and Levine set their sights on Zack Wheeler (wisely, it seems – he's currently 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA for the Phillies). When he chose to go elsewhere, they reportedly engaged with other free agents but weren't too aggressive. The Twins weren't going to commit a historic contract, or trade a premium talent, unless they felt confident in what they were getting back.

They felt confident in Maeda, and they have been rewarded.

By almost any worthwhile measure, the right-hander has been a top 10 pitcher in baseball. Already a dominant force against righty hitters, Maeda has unlocked a new level of effectiveness against lefties by tweaking his pitch mix, with help from the Twins (and Johnson).

He's been an ace under any definition of the word, and while it hurts to give up an arm like Brusdar Graterol, even there we find signs of a responsible, proactive front office. Alcala, whom they acquired as a prospect two years ago, has filled the role of young fireballer with the triple-digit heater and ferocious slider, and he's doing it equally well.

Maeda will be Minnesota's Game 1 starter in the playoffs. Alcala will be one of the first arms out of the bullpen. Jeffers might start behind the plate. Cruz will (hopefully) bat in the heart of the lineup.

Like I said, this front office's fingerprints are all over a fantastic 2020 Twins team that's well positioned to make some serious noise in October. Take a bow, Falvine and Co.

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41 Comments

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Richard Swerdlick
Sep 25 2020 01:09 AM

I couldn't agree more.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and wabene like this
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RochesterDave
Sep 25 2020 04:35 AM
Nick.. A great Five Points! However, IMO the very best attribute is that Falvine has gotten Jim Pohlad to buy into their vision! This Twins team is a LEADER in many areas: team design and budget, social awareness - a very generous $25 mil donation to BLM and zero firings of office staff and minor leaguers! I can’t be more impressed or proud to be a Twins Fan - from 1000 miles away. I always believed that the Twins were a good organization under Terry Ryan, but now they are leaders in many facets , and the present and future look bright. Great article Nick!
    • Brock Beauchamp, TL, DocBauer and 8 others like this

Great article, Nick. Couldn't agree more. Now can the Twins hang on to the four young men you talk about, Falvey, Levine, Baldelli and Johnson?

 

 

    • DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan and wabene like this

Excellent points. The stockpiling of young talent is also worth noting. We saw what Rooker could do when he was elevated - he was 'squaring up' pitches with the best of them. Still waiting in the wings are Lewis, Kirilloff, Gordon, Duran, etc. The future looks bright!

    • DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan, jrod23 and 2 others like this

This doesn't even talk about the smart extensions for key performers like Polanco, Kepler, and Sano. This FO has put the Twins in a position to win not just this year but to be a consistent winner. Hopefully they'll be able to get deals done with Berrios and Buxton to lock in a strong core for the next several years...and I'm not going to bet against this group.

 

They're handling team business with foresight and professionalism, and I really don't think there's much question that they're the best front office in Minnesota professional sports right now. (Wolves are on the rise, but the results haven't shown yet. Vikings have done a lot of things well over the past several years, but overall haven't managed the QB spot well and are now paying for it. Wild are in a transitional mode, too soon to tell)

    • DocBauer, wabene, arby58 and 2 others like this

Except for the manager, I agree with most of your opinions.4 out of 5 ain't bad!

    • peterb18 likes this

I'll say again, every time this FO has made a move, drafted, or signed someone that left me skeptical, I've been proven wrong about 100% of the time.I'm still curious about the 2017 draft with Enlow and Leech, but man, I wouldn't go against these guys in Hammerschlagen.They hit it on the head almost every time.We're fortunate to roll with these guys.

The only question is how is Jeffers considered a top framer?I'm a definite fan of his, and have followed him from Elizabethton on up and have been impressed with his drive, determination, and improvement (especially defensively).That being said, when you watch him frame, he is lifting and pulling that ball back into the zone that any amateur umpire could recognize.If what he's doing constitutes a great framer, so be it.

    • Dman likes this
Pretty hard to argue their success. I would give most credit to their selection of coaches especially Wes Johnson. The Maeda trade is looking great and the Cruz deal is already. Drafting remains to be seen
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JoshDungan1
Sep 25 2020 08:51 AM

 

Excellent points. The stockpiling of young talent is also worth noting. We saw what Rooker could do when he was elevated - he was 'squaring up' pitches with the best of them. Still waiting in the wings are Lewis, Kirilloff, Gordon, Duran, etc. The future looks bright!

 

Hacks me off we don't get Rooker for the playoffs. Man I loved what he was doing at the plate, even if he wasn't that good in the field.

    • Twins33, arby58 and BeatTheRich like this

While not every move they have made has worked out they have done a really good job of revamping\updating the entire system.When other teams are poaching your coaches you must be doing something right.Player development has never looked better IMO.  

 

While they whiffed on the Anderson trade they have done a good job developing and grabbing bullpen help from castoffs and FA.Not all of their bullpen moves have worked but it is hard to argue with the results they have gotten this year.

 

Lot's people on this board wanted the FO to sign Cruz and while I thought he was an OK addition at the time he has truly been the heart and soul of this team which I did not see coming.Getting him to sign was a huge win for this FO.

 

I am record as not liking the Jeffers pick but it just goes to show Stats can only take you so far in evaluating players.Jeffers looks like a natural behind the plate and his eye and bat seem rock solid as well.They did well get him there as I don't think they had a third round pick that years and I think that is the round more in line with where he was projected to go.

 

While I didn't love losing 6 years of Graterol the Twins really needed better starting pitching and to this point the move to get Maeda has paid off big time. He has been our best pitcher which is what we so desperately needed and they got him at a bargain considering what he gives to this team.It hurt to lose that second pick in a short draft but again the FO has to be given kudos for getting what the team desperately needed.

 

I have to agree that I have been more often wrong about the FO moves than right.They most always make very solid moves and have this team in a good place right now.

    • DocBauer and wabene like this

Love what the FO has done, plenty of significant decisions coming this offseason. Some older players that their performance has fallen off somewhat. Would like to see an infusion of young players next year.

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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 25 2020 11:23 AM

Great article Nick. Thanks. I do have one minor point: Jeffers graduated from UNC-Wilmington, not UNC, which is my alma mater, and is located in Chapel Hill. 

    • TFRazor and Melissa like this
In the past a Twins transaction would invariably leave me shaking my head; while i continued to follow the team with chagrin. We'll that shake has become a happy nod. Maybe a shake with some Baldelli in game decisions... but let's face it is easy to second guess that stuff in hindsight. Let's go!
    • peterb18, Dman and rdehring like this

 

Great article Nick. Thanks. I do have one minor point: Jeffers graduated from UNC-Wilmington, not UNC, which is my alma mater, and is located in Chapel Hill. 

My son attended UNC too (Class of 2011) so this made me wince a bit, too.

 

But yes - a great article!

All this, plus a stable of very good prospects who unfortunately are having a somewhat lost season. 

    • arby58 likes this
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stringer bell
Sep 25 2020 01:35 PM

The Front Office has made good moves, no question. Another phase will be development of players. This will be key in keeping on top of the heap in the Central and perhaps all of baseball. We really haven't seen much of highly regarded pitching prospects at the major league level. If the brain trust can develop an elite starter or two plus a couple of top-end bullpen arms, I will be convinced 

    • DocBauer likes this

Which pitchers do you think have benefitted the most from having Wes Johnson as their coach?I have watched the last couple of years with interest when he jumped off my alma mater's team (Arkansas Razorbacks) to the big show.I would have thought he would have been better working with pitchers at AA or A ball, but I don't know as much about the game as those that hired him. 

 

JcS

Nelson Cruz is probably the best regular season free agent in Twins history. But to say he is better that a game 7 of the World Series 10 inning shut out. I think not.
    • Battle ur tail off likes this

 

Nelson Cruz is probably the best regular season free agent in Twins history. But to say he is better that a game 7 of the World Series 10 inning shut out. I think not.

By single season Twins free agent fWAR, Phil Hughes 2014 actually beats Cruz. Odorizzi, Morris, and Tewksbury are right around him too.

 

Among position players, Cruz prevails. #2 is Willingham, then Davis, Thome, Hudson, Molitor, Pagliarulo...

    • Joey Self likes this
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IndianaTwin
Sep 25 2020 06:31 PM

What I'm impressed by is that the strategy seems to generally eschew the blockbuster move that tries to move the needle in a big way (but often hampers the team if it doesn't) in favor of making multiple moves that nudge the needle each time and don't back themselves into a corner. 

    • Danchat, DocBauer, wabene and 2 others like this

Nick wrote a very good article. The front office has created a good product both on and off the field.  The one thing I question is Morneau as an announcer. Probably the worst that I’ve listened to...too much non-stop talk and too much analysis. Bert had some humor and color. I put the sound down so that it is mumbled.

This would not be a problem for most people but when you watch all the games........?

    • MNTWINSWINAGAIN likes this
What I love most about this OP is 5 bright points WITHOUT even going in to depth about all the milb and developmental and analytical changes.

While not every move has worked out...and they never all do...I feel like this FO has a career BA of about .600 at this point! LOL

Even when the 2018 FA moves didn't turn out, they were smart moves on the surface.

Draft moves, I have reservations at this point, though I never expect miracles. So few make it, much less become stars. But it's also WAY too early to make any determinations on that regard. But Jeffers is huge and a great sign.

I wish Rocco would embrace a little situational or small ball here and there when the offense is struggling, but I have zero complaints overall.

I won't pass judgement on anyone's overall performance after a 60 game season which is 1/3 of a normal year, coming off an interrupted/abbreviated pair of ST...think Garver, Kepler, Marwin, etc, a LOT of players and teams...but I am mildly concerned about the loss of a handful of really good coaches and still being unsure about their replacements at this time.

Going in to tonight's game against the Reds, the Twins are on a 99 win pace if this were a normal year. With that said, and my previous comment, this team wouldn't be where it is without Marwin, Adrianza, Avilla, etc, etc. Meaning some of our guys may have disappointed, but they are still better and helped more than the other team's guys. And that shouldn't be forgotten in this discussion.
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operation mindcrime
Sep 25 2020 07:21 PM
In Falvine we trust!!!!!
    • DocBauer likes this

What I'm impressed by is that the strategy seems to generally eschew the blockbuster move that tries to move the needle in a big way (but often hampers the team if it doesn't) in favor of making multiple moves that nudge the needle each time and don't back themselves into a corner.

Great post!

When this FO took over they spoke about building an organization that would achieve sustained success and competition. Great lip service, right?

But while we can't fully judge their drafts for another couple of years, all signs seem to point to success there as well as development thus far.

They HAVE forayed into the FA market and been turned down a couple of times. But they also have brought in Cruz and some other signings that have really contributed. And they've made some very smart trades, even if there is pain for what they gave up. So far, not sure anyone can truly complain about gains made.

There will be hard decisions in the near future. It's simply the economics of baseball. The Twins just don't have the finances to compete with NY or LA, just for example. But they have shown intelligence,development, moxy and some financial guts to make certain moves.

While it would be outstanding to have Wheeler, for example, they may be better off with Maeda and Donaldson.

As I stated in the game thread, this team is on pace for a 99 win season coming in to the Reds series. You can blast certain guys for having bad seasons in a crazy year. You could single out a guy like Marwin for 2020, just for example and not to pick on him. But how much better has this team been in 2019-20 by having him, and others? In other words, our guys, our depth, even with some struggles, have done better and contributed more...offense and defense...than other team's guys.

This FO is aggressive, progressive, intuitive and smart as hell. And ownership and FO have stepped up financially and socially to really build something here, from the ML level on down. We talk about extensions for players, but maybe we should also talk about extensions for non players.

Indiana talked about a lack of moves that move the needle in a big way. I understand and agree, though Donaldson and Maeda were, in different ways, needle movers. Big movers! But I understand his point. Instead of 1 or 2 massive moves, this FO would rather have 3 or 4 smaller moves that move the overall needle 7 spots instead of 5. Who can argue with that?
    • IndianaTwin and jrod23 like this

Hmmm. I'll wait until they win a playoff game.... series..... advance, before I jump on this wagon. That is the proof of the success.