Busting 3 Myths About The Twins Offseason
On the surface, these suppositions may feel plausible, if not resoundingly true. But each of these three Twins offseason myths is driven by faulty reasoning, and here's why.
MYTH #1: The Twins won't significantly increase payroll.
It's understandable that this is the default position. The Twins franchise has a long history of spending less on the roster than many fans would hope or expect. Even our own Offseason Handbook fuels the fire on this myth, with John writing that 2018 payroll will likely top out at $110-115 million – he even considered that "optimistic."
It's certainly possible this will be the case. But I urge you to keep a few things in mind:
A ) There's a new front office in place. Granted, we've been given no reason to think Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are going to be handed a blank check, but the general belief is that Terry Ryan would often spend far less than he was able.
Is that still going to be the case? Let's not forget that the first major move from this new leadership was a fairly aggressive free-agent spend (Jason Castro).
B ) The Twins have a long way to go before they're even in the middle of the pack for spending. Levine acknowledged in his interview with Baseball Prospectus this summer that when it comes to payroll, the Twins are "not going to be in the top 10, and we're fine with that."
But here's the thing: he can add quite a bit and still be nowhere near the top 10. Minnesota's Opening Day payroll this year ($108 million) ranked 22nd in the majors. The 15th-ranked team was Kansas City, at $140 million. Is there really any reason the Twins shouldn't be able to reach that level? Especially when you consider that...
C ) They are competitive now. Know what happened the last time the Twins planned for a season with true championship aspirations? They set a franchise record for payroll, under Bill Smith, at $113 million. That was in 2011, when they were coming off their last playoff appearance.
When accounting for market inflation, that same $113 million would check in over $120 million today – maybe well over. The Twins ranked ninth in payroll in 2011; this year, the ninth-ranked Nationals spent $167 million.
So let's not just assume this team won't see a significant bump in spending, especially with a number of contracts set to come off the books following 2018.
MYTH #2: The Twins need to add an impact starting pitcher.
Sure, it'd be nice. And now that we've dispelled the first myth, it certainly feels accomplishable. But the Twins don't necessarily NEED to add a top-tier starter via free agency or trade in order to enter the 2018 season as legitimate playoff (and even World Series) contenders.
They will likely be bringing back four pitchers who made 20-plus starts in 2017, and there's reason to believe it could be a very capable group.
Ervin Santana: Coming off a career-year, has been a steady workhorse in three seasons with MN, posting a 3.47 ERA over 500 innings.
Jose Berrios: Former top prospect found his comfort zone in the big leagues and posted a 14-8 record, 3.89 ERA at age 23. Could (should?) take another big step forward.
Kyle Gibson: Finally looked in the second half like the version we've all been waiting for. Posted a 3.55 ERA with markedly more whiffs in August and September. Contrary to another popular myth, this wasn't just another typical fluctuation for the notoriously inconsistent hurler; he made several noticeable changes to drive the improvement.
Adalberto Mejia: His first season as a major-league starter was a relative success. He has the build and the stuff to succeed. With better control he can become a reliable mid-rotation piece. Young pitchers often improve this facet in their second year, and Mejia has a history of throwing strikes in the minors (2.1 BB/9).
I'm feeling somewhat bullish on this group, and the Twins will have numerous options on hand to fill the fifth spot. Their projected season-opening rotation at Rochester includes Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, Zack Littell, Felix Jorge and Aaron Slegers, who could all be poised to contribute early on if not right away. At least a couple of them have top-of-rotation potential.
As a placeholder until one of those prospects is ready, the Twins could roll out Trevor May as the fifth starter, give Tyler Duffey another shot, or a sign a lower-level free agent.
And then, once the 2018 season is underway, the opportunity is always there to make in-season additions.
MYTH #3: The Twins must add more padding to the outfield walls to protect Byron Buxton.
I keep seeing this suggestion again and again, for some reason. It's not going to happen, nor should it.
First of all, the Twins already bulked up the padding on Target Field's outfield fences, back in 2014. The "Covermaster" surface now in place is eight inches thick, built to absorb and disperse impact force. It cost "six figures" to install.
At a point it becomes impractical to do much else. They're not going to cover the walls in pillows, or anything that significantly affects play (you can't have line drives flying into an ultra-soft surface and then just dropping onto the warning track).
Look, we all recognize that Buxton's style of play entails certain hazards, and we were reminded of that in the final game of the season, where he suffered a cracked rib in a collision with the fence in New York. But that's part of the package. He'll never dial down the all-out effort and aggressiveness (we can only hope), so the best hope to avoid injuries is for Buxton to continually improve his situational awareness and not allow that wall (or another outfielder) to blindside him. He did seem to get better about that this year.
But at the end of the day, there's just a certain risk you run (so to speak) when hurdling through the outfield with mythical speed.
- BigSkyTwinsFan, Oldgoat_MN, gagu and 1 other like this