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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

"Did Smith get fired for spending money or for spending money poorly?"

 

Exactly the point. Ownership has a track record. Shoddy play and low payroll? Management stays. Elevated payroll and shoddy play? New management. The GM can screw up on the low side for years and still have a job. Screw up spending money and you're out the door. 

 

 

 

Agree totally with #2. Berrios is our impact starter, and there is a long line of pretty good looking guys to back him up.

Truth #1
Pitching...quality pitching...remains the single biggest advantage for a team to win, win often, and legitimately contend.

Truth #2
Every team wants pitching, and everyone wants an ACE to lead their club with another impact arm behind him, and then it becomes a bit more cloudy 3-5.

Truth #3
A real and true ACE is hard to come by. (We've even had debates as to who and what is a true ACE). Hopefully you draft and develop one. Acquiring one via FA is very expensive, you have to at least somewhat overpay and assume risk, and they are also expensive prospect wise to acquire via trade.

I don't think anyone can really disagree with those "truths". But no matter what, its still a TEAM game. An outstanding, balanced and deep staff still won't win with poor defense and lousy offense. A great offense and tight defense still won't win with a poor/lousy staff.

The question becomes, how do you build the best overall TEAM to contend? Yes, I'd love the Twins to somehow acquire a real ACE, have Berrios take a step forward and Santana would be a stud #3. But is that practical? And if not, what can you do make the best roster? I'm not going to list all the names, we know them, but one more really good, really solid, quality SP deepens the rotation, allows for the upcoming kids to move up when ready, and increases your chances to contend and win, even without an ACE if the other pieces are in place and the bullpen is quality.

You sign a couple quality bullpen arms like Shaw and McGee...my top 2 targets...to go along with what you have, and what's coming up, you could have a really nice pen. You add that one quality arm, and suddenly you have a potentially deep and solid rotation, overall, lead by 3 guys who could/would pitch most days like a #2, with that new pen, quality defense and hitting, and you have a deep and well balanced team. You could afford extensions, and you still have your milb system intact for depth, promotion, and a big trade if available.
    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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Deduno Abides
Nov 03 2017 09:42 PM
One of the secrets of the Astros is that they kept payroll low until advantageous and timely opportunities came up to acquire expensive players like McCann and Verlander. They didn’t bother paying free agency rates for pitchers hoping to achieve 3 WAR. If they had, they might not have had the payroll room to take Verlander for the next few years.

Their second secret is that they didn’t look at players as finished goods or judge them on their reputations, which is what the Twins have done. This attitude allowed them to look at Charlie Morton and see what he could become, instead of looking only at what he was already.

Third is that they looked in volume, as opposed to saying they needed to get one pitcher who is just better than what they had already, which is a small increase in WAR and places all of your chips on one bet.
    • Nick Nelson likes this
I'm going to disagree w/you on #2. I'm not sold on Mejia yet and I've seen too much of Kyle Gibson to be a believer in him now.

I think the Twins need to add a medium-to-high-end SP to really be a contender.

My point was that someone like May or Romero could be the addition to the top. And keeping the door open for them maintains roster/payroll flexibility. As I mentioned, you can always add during the season when you have a better idea of how things are shaping up.


Wouldn’t adding to the top over the winter and hoping May or Romero prove worthy of being added during the season be a plan much more likely to succeed?
    • Thrylos, diehardtwinsfan, Twins33 and 2 others like this
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Original Whizzinator
Nov 04 2017 09:01 AM

Some of this falls into the grass is always greener realm. How did Darvish (the pipe dream) do in the Series? Roto/fantasy has made everyone a GM with an itchy trigger finger. Trades and FA are a crap shoot. One costs money and the other part of your potential future.Of course I would rather gamble with someone else's money. So we've gone that route recently when our rotation was a shambles. At the time my bar of acceptance was lower than now. Nolasco? Not excited especially because the mediocre stats were from the NL but thought he could be better than some we had with his track record. Result? Disappointed mild expectations. Hughes? I was excited. He had a pedigree and was a fly ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium. Might have something. Result? A little below what I expected with one year above and one below with the brevity leading to ultimate disappointment. Santiago? Happy to see Nolasco go and a little worried about Meyer but ultimately saw him as the opposite of a bulldog. What would that be a Shiatsu? Trembling Chihuahua? I thought Santiago was a slight upgrade from Nolasco. Busenitz??? Result? I see Busenitz as a better long term contributor than Meyer. Santana? Now this had me excited. This is the type of acquisition I can get behind. He has produced about what I had hoped. He is a solid piece and it is fortunate that we didn't trade him. 

I am hopeful the new regime will spend to the middle of the pack and make one SP addition on par with Santana. I think a little more depth is necessary. If these things don't happen then the Pohlads just reinforce the banker stereotype and stress my fandom. If they can't at least spend to a break even point and have to make even more cash then they just take all the fun out of owning a ballclub. Isn't some of this supposed to be fun?

 

Wouldn’t adding to the top over the winter and hoping May or Romero prove worthy of being added during the season be a plan much more likely to succeed?

I will be surprised if May comes back to pitch very many innings next year after having pitched none innings this year. (outside of pre-season)

I like Romero, but his 1.352 WHIP was a bit of a concern and his 8.6 K/9 in AA was good, not great. I believe he is a full year away.

I would be less surprised if Thorpe helped the Twins this year. Unfortunately he will probably be limited to about 120 innings this year.

Not as optimistic as some about these younger starters. I believe they are further away then is being bandied about. 

And I would be fine with being wrong about that.

    • USAFChief likes this

 

It's worth it to look at how crappy the teams the Royals beat in the playoffs were.

 

- The Astros had no hitting and barely above average pitching.

- The Blue Jays hit well but had poor pitching

- The Mets may have been the worst-hitting team to ever play in the WS

 

Every team the Royals faced in the playoffs had pitching at or worse than theirs.

2015 was a year where whoever got hot would win the WS, this happened to be an above-average but unexciting Royals.

 

This was a fluke year ... an outlier ... an exception ... thus it's not helpful to bring it up. You can't win a world series by betting on more exceptions happening.

And I also pointed out that the Giants won it with a pitching staff WAR of 9 and the Cards did it with an 8. Or the Astros relatively low 13 this year. It's not just the Royals. There are a lot of exceptions to whatever arbitrary line you are making. And the Dodgers and Nationals (and Tigers) have failed in the postseason with some of the greatest pitching staffs ever.You can win the World Series if your #1 starter is just a 4 WAR type pitcher. It's happened a lot over the last few years.

 

There are a lot of ways for the Twins to move from an 85 win team to 90+. Improving the bullpen and rotation seem like the easiest. That doesn't mean that the Twins need to waste 160m on Darvish (and we have 20 years of history that says we won't do that). Adding Cobb to our nucleus could be enough. Berrios looks like a stud in the making. If those are your first two arms and Santana is #3, that's not a bad rotation on paper. We have two top 100 prospects in AAA this year (Romero and Gonsalves) and a few other arms not far behind that are worth being excited about (Thorpe being a really intriguing sleeper) as well.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

 

And I also pointed out that the Giants won it with a pitching staff WAR of 9 and the Cards did it with an 8. Or the Astros relatively low 13 this year. It's not just the Royals. There are a lot of exceptions to whatever arbitrary line you are making. And the Dodgers and Nationals (and Tigers) have failed in the postseason with some of the greatest pitching staffs ever.You can win the World Series if your #1 starter is just a 4 WAR type pitcher. It's happened a lot over the last few years.

 

There are a lot of ways for the Twins to move from an 85 win team to 90+. Improving the bullpen and rotation seem like the easiest. That doesn't mean that the Twins need to waste 160m on Darvish (and we have 20 years of history that says we won't do that). Adding Cobb to our nucleus could be enough. Berrios looks like a stud in the making. If those are your first two arms and Santana is #3, that's not a bad rotation on paper. We have two top 100 prospects in AAA this year (Romero and Gonsalves) and a few other arms not far behind that are worth being excited about (Thorpe being a really intriguing sleeper) as well.

 

Yes, the Astros were a mediocre pitching team, but they may have had the best hitting in the league.

And as banal as the Astros pitching was, it was still +6 WAA from the Twins. The Twins have to add a lot of talent to get up to where the Astros are! Add three more Santanas and you are just about there.

The Astros were 6th in MLB for pitching fWAR at a robust 20.8 fWAR.They were also 2nd in K/9 IP, 6th in FIP and 3rd in xFIP.

 

I want that kind of mediocre pitching for the Twins, cause that's championship caliber pitching.

    • Broker likes this
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Rhino and Compass
Nov 04 2017 01:42 PM

I'd rather the Twins consider expanding their payroll, but I think the best way to do so is by extending the players they want to go the long haul with now.

Pitching free agency is such a dangerous minefield, I am always skeptical of those big contracts to free agent pitchers. It's such a gamble that can go so wrong. You need good depth to a rotation, and will investing a lot of money into one guy hurt the chances of building out a full pitching staff? I don't know.

 

The nice thing about extending players is you know which prospects will be blocked, and can decide which positions are positions of strength. Trade from a position of strength, acquire younger cheaper starters and win that way. 

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ashburyjohn
Nov 04 2017 02:02 PM

The nice thing about extending players is you know which prospects will be blocked, and can decide which positions are positions of strength.

Does making it obvious damage the trade value of the blocked prospects?

    • Rhino and Compass likes this

I think the Pohlads will spend whatever the FO guys want. I don't think money is an issue. Owning the Twins is a hobby for them not a business.

 

I think the Pohlads will spend whatever the FO guys want. I don't think money is an issue. Owning the Twins is a hobby for them not a business.


Do you have any evidence of this? Quotes, anything whatsoever that would suggest that?
The evidence we have, from prior spending, to statements about revenue to payroll philosophy, to direct quotes from the new FO regarding spending suggests the opposite- that it has been, and will continue to operate as a business.
    • gunnarthor, Twins33, jimmer and 1 other like this
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Rhino and Compass
Nov 04 2017 02:47 PM

 

Does making it obvious damage the trade value of the blocked prospects?

Not if you let it, I don't think. There is still a supply and demand principle at play for the top talent, even for prospect depth. If a team has two options, they aren't going to take the lesser just because the Twins don't need the players they are offering nearly as much. 

 

Do you have any evidence of this? Quotes, anything whatsoever that would suggest that?
The evidence we have, from prior spending, to statements about revenue to payroll philosophy, to direct quotes from the new FO regarding spending suggests the opposite- that it has been, and will continue to operate as a business.

On more than one occasion Ryan said the Pohlads never told him not spend. Also the Twins are minuscule part of the Pohlad's holdings. The Pohlads are worth billions. Business wise there is no reason to own the Twins. They aren't doing it for the money so I figure they are doing it for fun.

    • KGB likes this

 

One of the secrets of the Astros is that they kept payroll low until advantageous and timely opportunities came up to acquire expensive players like McCann and Verlander. They didn’t bother paying free agency rates for pitchers hoping to achieve 3 WAR. If they had, they might not have had the payroll room to take Verlander for the next few years.

Their second secret is that they didn’t look at players as finished goods or judge them on their reputations, which is what the Twins have done. This attitude allowed them to look at Charlie Morton and see what he could become, instead of looking only at what he was already.

Third is that they looked in volume, as opposed to saying they needed to get one pitcher who is just better than what they had already, which is a small increase in WAR and places all of your chips on one bet.

Morton has always been a very good pitcher when healthy.The Astros took amedium level risk and won.

 

On more than one occasion Ryan said the Pohlads never told him not spend. Also the Twins are minuscule part of the Pohlad's holdings. The Pohlads are worth billions. Business wise there is no reason to own the Twins. They aren't doing it for the money so I figure they are doing it for fun.

Business wise, what is the value of the franchise when they bought it versus now? Business wise it is one of the best returns they ever have. The set up does not lose money and just sits there and appreciates

 

Business wise, what is the value of the franchise when they bought it versus now? Business wise it is one of the best returns they ever have. The set up does not lose money and just sits there and appreciates

Twins president Jerry Bell once remarked the Eloise Pohlad—Carl’s wife, and undoubtedly the biggest Twins fan ever in the family—liked the team particularly because it was a family thing.

 

The value of the Twins is chump change for the Pohlads. Billions make millions seem small.

 

 

Does making it obvious damage the trade value of the blocked prospects?

Last Twin prospect of note traded that was blocked was Chris Hermann?My gosh, Kurt Suzuki was blocking Chris Herrmann.It might have been the best blocking of the plate he ever did in his career as a Twin.

    • ashburyjohn likes this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 04 2017 04:51 PM

 

Wouldn’t adding to the top over the winter and hoping May or Romero prove worthy of being added during the season be a plan much more likely to succeed?

Sure, and I'd be all for it. I just won't feel like the offseason is a failure if they don't do so. I think they have enough quality numbers. Though I do like the idea of swapping out Santana for a superior longer-term option, as outlined in the Handbook blueprint.  

 

On more than one occasion Ryan said the Pohlads never told him not spend. Also the Twins are minuscule part of the Pohlad's holdings. The Pohlads are worth billions. Business wise there is no reason to own the Twins. They aren't doing it for the money so I figure they are doing it for fun.

I tend to think that Ryan took a lot of bullets for the Pohlad family. We'll see what happens now.

 

One thing that has always bothered me about the ownership is that they had years where they 'saved' money by playing the young guys but they've never saved that money for seasons where going over was needed.

    • beckmt and Vanimal46 like this

 

 

Yes, the Astros were a mediocre pitching team, but they may have had the best hitting in the league.

And as banal as the Astros pitching was, it was still +6 WAA from the Twins. The Twins have to add a lot of talent to get up to where the Astros are! Add three more Santanas and you are just about there.

Sure, there are ways to improve other than pitching although that's the obvious upgrade. But they don't need us making Anibal Sanchez contracts. Would you agree that a rotation (ignoring the bullpen for a moment) of Berrios, Alex Cobb and Ervin Santana could be a good enough top 3 for a playoff team?

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Deduno Abides
Nov 04 2017 05:19 PM

Sure, and I'd be all for it. I just won't feel like the offseason is a failure if they don't do so. I think they have enough quality numbers. Though I do like the idea of swapping out Santana for a superior longer-term option, as outlined in the Handbook blueprint.


If the season is going well, it could be interesting to push some chips onto the table at mid-season and get 2018’s version of Cueto, Price, Darvish and Verlander.