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Busting 3 Myths About The Twins Offseason

The World Series is over. The offseason is about to rev up. You can explore its many possibilities by ordering and immediately downloading your copy of the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook.

As we gear up for many weeks of in-depth Hot Stove coverage here on the site, I thought I'd address three pervasive myths I've seen floating around in Twins Territory. Let's set the record straight on these misleading talkers.
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.

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90 Comments

What are Falvey and Levine going to bulk up spend by 24 to 44 million (96 mil up to 120 to 140 mil) on, if not an impact starter? Starting rotation still has woefully little depth or ceiling.

Yes they need an impact reliever too, but it seems possible they already have them in the minor league system.
    • Mike Sixel, Dantes929, beckmt and 3 others like this
Outstanding! I couldn't agree more with your "mythbusting" analysis!

Myth 1:

I was thinking 2010 was the big payroll year, but I was probably thinking about coming off that year. Regardless, they could easily be at $120-125M and still not hit the ML mean. And again, even more payroll will be coming off soon, or adjusted downward even if Mauer and Dozier were to be re-signed as they would come in lower than their combined totals. (Hughes and Santana also come off in the next couple of seasons). However, I feel Falvey and Levine are pretty smart cookies, have a plan, and won't outsmart themselves by just handing out deals. They won't be frugal the way Ryan was, but they won't spend just to spend because they can.

Myth 2:

In principal, I agree with you. Despite some doomsayers here and there, there is absolutely no reason to expect Santana's arm to just fall off. Secondly, Berrios has wicked stuff, a great bulldog mentality, and will only get better. Not only did Gibson make some major changes, but his sample size is roughly half a season and not just a short stretch. Mejia's problem is not ability, just better consistency. There were several times I watched him get ahead but just couldn't finish the batter off.

Where I will disagree, however, is not in regard to making the big splash, but I really think you need one more, quality, proven SP. There are injuries. Gibson could still fall apart. I actually like Slegers a little bit and love some of the other kids, but they may not be quite ready just yet. Lots of hope and belief in May, but to be real, he's still coming back from surgery.

I have stated for some time I prefer a nice, solid FA addition over trade. Not only can they afford it now, and the next few years without blowing up the books, but it allows them the luxury of keeping the system intact for depth, development, and maybe that big splash during the season.

I also think this applies to the pen. We have some good arms, and room for improvement. There is arm talent to work with and sort through, both here as well as close. I would love a guy like Shaw, and maybe a flier, and call it good for now.
    • Sconnie, sploorp, gagu and 2 others like this
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Winston Smith
Nov 02 2017 08:01 PM

MYTH #1: The Twins will significantly increase payroll.

 

I think you default to the "won't" until proven otherwise.

 

MYTH #2: The Twins need to add an impact starting pitcher.

 

I think nearly every team would like to add an impact starter. 

 

MYTH #3: Buxton's speed is real not "mythical".

    • kellyvance likes this
Will the front office, or the Pohlads , be the biggest obstacle to the rise of this franchise? You wonder if they really have the required interest. Many would say no. We are a mid-level franchise but pay like a small market team. Yes, I feel the Pohlads are the key to the future.

Yes IF Santana has another career year AND Berrios improves AND Mejia improves markedly AND Gibson's last two months were for real AND a young arm does emerge AND there are no injuries whatsoever THEN yes you could get away without adding an impact starter.

 

That doesn't mean you should! 

    • USAFChief, ericchri, Siehbiscuit and 9 others like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 02 2017 08:54 PM

I'm guessing myth 3 was a bit tongue in cheek... but myth 2??? they don't need SP????They have way too many questionmarks there. Yes, all those guys could pan out. They could also refute myth 1 and 2 in the same stroke... and then DFA or trade the guy they got to protect against 2 if by some chance you happen to be right.They need 5 starters... the likelihood of walking out of ST with 5 sure things next March is very VERY VERY low.

    • USAFChief, Thrylos, beckmt and 7 others like this

 

I'm guessing myth 3 was a bit tongue in cheek... but myth 2??? they don't need SP????They have way too many questionmarks there. Yes, all those guys could pan out. They could also refute myth 1 and 2 in the same stroke... and then DFA or trade the guy they got to protect against 2 if by some chance you happen to be right.They need 5 starters... the likelihood of walking out of ST with 5 sure things next March is very VERY VERY low.

Absolutely. In my opinion the Twins do need to add an impact starter. I find it unlikely that Santana will be able to repeat his very lucky 2017 season. He is prime for regression. I also don't trust Gibson whatsoever. Mejia is just a #5 starter right now with the potential to improve.

 

The Twins cannot go into 2018 with Santana, Berrios, Gibson, Mejia, and May/Gonsalves for the rotation. I don't see a team with this rotation making the playoffs again.

    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, sploorp and 2 others like this
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Deduno Abides
Nov 02 2017 09:07 PM
Need more padding! Attached Image: AF5A45F5-649A-4D4F-AA22-93D9217D85D6.jpeg
    • USAFChief, Craig Arko and tarheeltwinsfan like this
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nicksaviking
Nov 02 2017 09:19 PM
It's hard to see this team knocking off CLE, HOU, NYY and BOS without significant rotation upgrades. Even if Berrios does what we hope he does, they're still way out-classed. 35-year-old Santana who got by on smoke and mirrors last year is sure to disappoint anyone who's counting on him to be more than a low end #3.

I agree you don't have to get today's big-time starters, but then you better be able to identify and acquire tomorrow's.
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
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Deduno Abides
Nov 02 2017 09:21 PM
In all seriousness, it’s not a myth that a healthy Buxton is very important. Mike Trout was once a highly rated centerfielder, but now he’s only pretty good, even though he’s just as good an athlete as he was. Someone may have told him to back off, because a good fielder who plays 150 games and hits like Mike Trout is more valuable than a great fielder who spends several weeks on the DL.
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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 02 2017 09:25 PM

I'm still not quite convinced that Buxton can hit like Mike Trout for more than a month or two :)

 

But yes, he does need to stay healthy. Not sure what the answer is there, but he's young enough that he shouldn't be pulled from a playoff game mid-game due to back issues from wall collisions...

Myth #1The Twins will significantly increase payroll acquiring truly useful players.

 

Myth #2The Twins don't need multiple good, starting pitchers.

 

Myth #3 The Twins don't need any more good hitters.

    • USAFChief, Thrylos, beckmt and 2 others like this
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TwinsWonWithHunter
Nov 02 2017 10:52 PM
On Myth 1,2010-2011 were outlier years rather than the norm. And the Twins had just moved in to Target Field, so there was that boost. The Twins continue to count pennies by doing things like leveraging Park's finders fee against each season's payroll. This team has also never--never--publically stated what the following season's payroll will be. There is no real basis that I can see for an expectation of a sizeable leap in dollars.

On Myth 2, we absolutely need (I think!) a frontline starter, but because we don't spend top dollar, it makes acquiring one quite the challenge. There are not any Jack Morris's willing to take a hometown discount for the privilege of pitching for us for one year.

Finally, 2017 was less a career year for Santana than one of his typical good ones. He would need to go about 19-5 to have a career year. 15-8 or so is good but not any defining, singular statement.
    • Dantes929 likes this
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TwinsWonWithHunter
Nov 02 2017 11:01 PM

I would also add that the last 2 aces we developed -- Viola and J Santana -- we traded away when they became too "expensive" by team standards. Those two combined to win three Cy Youngs for us (and the former was a WS MVP).

 

Not to quibble with what we received for Viola, but to rather say that we have at least a 30-year history of not even keeping our own aces, and with the exception of the Morris signing, which was something of a fluke, we've never gone out and bought one.

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TwinsWonWithHunter
Nov 02 2017 11:02 PM

Amendment: E Santana

 

His stats for 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2017 are all but identical: 32-33 starts, 16-17 wins, 200+ innings.

 

2017 does not really stand out for E Santana other than to punctuate his consistency for more than a decade. It certainly qualifies as one of the better years of his career—in the top 4 using these standard stats at least. But not an over-the-moon career year.

 

Those types would be more the domain of Puckett ’88, Viola ’88, Radke ’97, J Santana ’04, Morneau ’06, and Mauer ’09.

    • Doomtints likes this
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TwinsWonWithHunter
Nov 02 2017 11:05 PM

Last amendment, what we received for Viola ... (Aguilera and Tapani; and David West, who pitched well in the '91 ALCS for those who delve into the arcane) 

    • spinowner likes this

You know what happens when you rely on unproven prospects to fill an MLB spot in the rotation?

You get Adam Wilk, Tim Melville, broken Phil Hughes, Nick Tepesch, Felix Jorge, Aaron Slegers, Dillon Gee, Nik Turley, and Big Sexy starting games for you.

Sign a gol dang impact SP.

    • Steve Lein, USAFChief, birdwatcher and 10 others like this

From the original post, perhaps the biggest myth written in it is the paragraph that basically says Kyle Gibson has finally figured it out.

 

As far as Buxton goes, hopefully he'll stop slamming into walls.A healthy Buxton who plays aggressive yet smart is more valuable than a Buxton who makes a great catch and then has to sit out weeks because he tried to run through a wall.  

    • rghrbek, sploorp, Vanimal46 and 1 other like this
All I can really agree with is Myth 3.

As far as #1, there is almost nothing to support the notion that the Twins will spend money. I think the "myth" would be that the Twins will start spending now that the window is open. This wasn't the case through much of the early 2000s. Their payroll didn't reach the heights it did (if you can call it that) until they had to sign Mauer to a large deal. Take that outlier out, and you're right back to where you historically are. They had to do that to avoid a PR nightmare. They knew it, Mauer and Mauer's agent knew it. No way they give that deal away to a traditional outside free agent.

Also. They'll have a lot of young guys that'll need big contracts. I wouldn't think they're going to go beyond a modestly priced 2-3 year deal on anybody.

#2 I think is also a fallacy. Sure, they don't "need" one to physically play baseball, bur they sure do to realistically compete with teams like Houston and Cleveland. Expecting Santana to repeat what looks to be a semi-anomalous season would be a mistake. Gibson had a nice run towards the end, and I like his stuff, but banking on him being that pitcher for 200+ innings going forward is another mistake. Mejia is virtually totally unproven. Berrios is the only one I'm looking at and think we're set there going forward.

Sure, that rotation could theoretically put it together. But, so could any mix of pitchers on planet earth. But, if you want to confidently go into 2018 as a contender, some quality rotation help is necessary, IMO.
    • sploorp likes this
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terrydactyls1947
Nov 03 2017 07:57 AM

Sign a gol dang impact SP.
Which one would you like? Kevin Correia, Vance Worley, Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey???? It's not that the Twins haven't tried, but it's a big crap shoot. And you don't just sign somebody. There has to be a mutual agreement between a player and a team. I'm not convinced Yu Darvish would come to Minnesota regardless of the money offered. I think he would accept less money to be in a community with a significant Japanese influence. or return to the Rangers where he felt very comfortable. At the ridiculous salaries offered to free agents, what's a few million?

According to estimates on www.statista.com, the Twins took in around $249 million in total revenue - which ranked 23rd in the MLB. The Yankees, at the top of the list were estimated at $526 million and the Rays, at the bottom were estimated at $205.  

 

The Twins estimated major league salaries in 2017 were $104 million (Baseball Reference). Assuming the club plans financially for 2017 from 2016 income, the Twins would have spent 42% of their 2016 income on 2017 MLB salaries. This ranks 19th overall - similar to the percentages spent by the Indians, Cardinals (42%), Giants & Cubs (41%). The Padres were the team that spent the least percent of income on salaries (19%, $49 million in payroll, $259 million in income) while the Rangers spent the most. (70%, $207 million in payroll, $298 million in revenue) The team with the least income, Tampa Bay, spent about 39% on MLB salaries ($79 million) while the team with the highest income, the Yankes, spent 35%. ($192 million) Overall, the league average is 44%

 

For fun - let's say the team that spent the largest percentage, the Rangers, made zero profit and that the 30% of their revenue not spent on MLB salaries is then the expense for funding the rest of their baseball operations - travel, minor league salaries, corporate and administrative staff, scouting, Domican facilities, ballpark upkeep, etc. That works out to around $90 million in total other expenses. If the same $90 million were deducted from the Twins revenue minus their MLB salaries, there'd be $50 million left over.

 

How much of that $50 million would you say is available to be spent on salaries, if needed, and how much of that would you say is untouchable?I'm going to say at least half is untouchable - paying back the Twins Target Field contribution or reserved for the owners. Still that leaves about $25 million in potential wiggle room.

    • markos, Sconnie, Doomtints and 2 others like this

Myth 1 isn't a myth. Ownership is not going to add much. I'd be stunned if we were over 115m and I agree that number is optimistic. We have 20+ years of proof of the Pohlad's spending habits. Ryan wasn't the problem. The Pohlads didn't want to spend money in Latin America - Ryan begged them for 1.5 to get Cabrera! - they didn't spend on the draft - which is why we drafted guys like Revere and Span - they don't lock up our own guys at market rates (except for Mauer whose contract coincided with the taxpayers giving them a new stadium) so we lost guys like Hunter and Santana.That's why the 2000s were so amazing, the players and FO were competitive despite ownership, not because of it.

 

If the Pohlads were going to change they wouldn't have hired Falvey, a young kid who would work cheap and came from an org that didn't spend much on free agency. We've already had Levine talk about payroll remaining low.Ownership won't sign a big free agent now because doing so would harm our chances of locking up the young core in the future. Of course, they won't do that either but they'll wait a few years to drop that bomb on us.

    • peterb18 and sploorp like this

 

You know what happens when you rely on unproven prospects to fill an MLB spot in the rotation?

You get Adam Wilk, Tim Melville, broken Phil Hughes, Nick Tepesch, Felix Jorge, Aaron Slegers, Dillon Gee, Nik Turley, and Big Sexy starting games for you.

Sign a gol dang impact SP.

I'm not entirely with you on the premise. Every successful or impact SP was an unproven prospect at one time that some one promoted to fill a spot in the rotation. World Series contention is what happened when Cleveland relied on Salazar and Kluver to fill spots in their rotation and I could probably come up with dozens of other examples but you get the drift. Of course there are plenty of examples of going the other way. I am still on the Cobb band wagon and think he could have a very big impact on our rotation though don't know if he would fit your definition of impact SP.If he does then I am completely on board with your last sentence. 

 

If the Twins came out of the gate with that signing like they did with Castro a year ago I would immediately rate their off season a B+. 

 

As far as myths go I agree with Sconnie. If you think myth 2 is not a myth then myth one becomes pointless.  

    • Vanimal46 likes this

Myth #1 is real and the place for the Twins to spend that money is signing their young core and perhaps extending Mauer a few years. That could easily account for the payroll gap.

 

I'm conflicted about #2. So many of the elite free agent pitching contracts turn out poorly and a look at the elite starting pitching doesn't show anyone I feel super confident about. Darvish and Arrieta both have had some health issues. Lance Lynn is more exciting but he's going to be expensive and is 31. Johnny Cueto is super scary if he opts out. I don't know that I want the Twins to go that route.

 

Myth #3: Buxton will mature and get better at this. He's also going to naturally bulk up and that will help some too hopefully.

How well has not signing good pitchers worked out the last seven years or so? It's not like relying on AAA or cheap pitchers has worked.
    • beckmt, Oldgoat_MN, Sconnie and 5 others like this