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Front Page: Minnesota’s Top Regression Candidates

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:30 PM
Minnesota surprised much of the baseball world on their way to a 101-win season and an MLB-record 307 home runs. Plenty of players had br...
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Free Agent Pitching

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:24 PM
Gleeman on The Athletic ranked the top 20 Free Agent Pitchers. Odorizzi at 6 (behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, Age 33) Pineda at 8 and Gibson at...
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Front Page: Offseason Blueprint: Building a Bullpenner

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:39 PM
If we're being honest with ourselves, the Minnesota Twins probably aren't going to go out and sign Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg this...
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Danny Salazar for the Twins?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:36 PM
He could be another buy low candidate that could be 2020's version of the Martin Perez signing. Health has been an issue with him for the...
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Front Page: Bumgarner V. Wheeler: Who Should the Twins Pu...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:07 PM
Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler headline the second tier of the starting pitching free agent class, representing realistic Twins targe...
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Can the Twins Become the New Astros? Part 3

In the final installment of this three-part series comparing the Twins to the Astros, we will look into the role that an important veteran has played in shaping and mentoring some of the emerging young talent on both teams. We’ll also take a look at free agency and how Minnesota would do well to emulate Houston in the starting pitching department. Finally, we’ll end with the looming threat of losing valuable coaches and front office personal, which has already happened in Houston and is likely to affect the Twins sooner rather than later.
Image courtesy of © Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Click here for Part 1 of this series.
Click here for Part 2 of this series.

The Veteran Leader

Much has rightly been made about Nelson Cruz’s veteran leadership on a fairly young Twins team. At times, immeasurable variables like “team chemistry” and “veteran leadership” are probably over-valued, but in the case of Nelson Cruz, there is little doubt inside or outside of the clubhouse as to how valuable Cruz has been to this team. Cruz has been heralded for his work ethic, preparing himself not only physically, but also mentally for the challenges of playing at a high level as a 39-year-old. Whether in the weight room, the batting cage, or studying video, Cruz always seems to be applying himself to his craft and his younger teammates cannot help but notice.

One of the beneficiaries has been Miguel Sano. Twins fans have long dreamed of what Miguel Sano could become, but after a sensational rookie season in 2015, Sano never quite returned to form. 2018 was a disaster filled with injury and off-the-field distractions, but 2019 has been a revelation for Sano. Sano worked hard to get in shape in the offseason and also claimed that he suggested the Twins sign Cruz in the offseason in an interview with FSN’s Justin Morneau. Sano has seemed to work harder than ever to improve his game as can be seen by his willingness to change his swing in-season and the results that have followed (.271/.376/.618 from June 28th to the end of the regular season). There is little doubt that Nelson Cruz has played a large role in Sano’s success.

The Houston Astros had a similar veteran addition to their 2017 championship team in Carols Beltran. Beltran was a 19-year MLB veteran who wanted a last chance to win a World Series and Houston was looking to add a veteran to supplement its young core and improve team chemistry. Like Cruz, Beltran loved studying video and was instrumental in breaking down pitchers and passing the information on to his teammates. In Astroball, Correa talked about how much Beltran taught him in regard to viewing video and identifying when pitchers were tipping their pitches. Beltran also helped to identify when hitters like George Springer were developing bad habits at the plate, and Beltran made it clear to his teammates that he was there to help early on:

“My friend, I am here to help you. Even if it looks like I’m busy, you won’t bother me. If you sit down next to me and ask me a question, I would be more than happy to give you the time that you need.”

Having veterans like Cruz and Beltran on your team is akin to having another coach on the bench who younger players not only trust but can emulate. Cruz has also provided in one area that Beltran didn’t – Cruz has put up really big numbers while Beltran struggled in his final season. Beltran hit just .231/.283/.383 as a 40-year-old for Houston, whereas Cruz has been one of the MLB’s best hitters at age 39, slashing .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs. Regardless of the results, Cruz’s leadership would have been valuable to the team, but when combined with his elite production he may well be the team’s MVP.

Free Agency and Starting Pitching

In their first two years in Minnesota, Falvey and Levine had a bit of a mixed record in free agency. Catcher Jason Castro turned out to be a pretty good three-year signing, but last year’s last-minute bargains, Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison were pretty much a disaster as they seemed unhappy to be in Minnesota playing for less money and years than they had hoped for. Pitcher Michael Pineda was also signed before last season but was really signed for the 2019 season as he sat out 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The FO seemed to learn their lesson and have had much greater success with this year’s signings, which include the previously mentioned Cruz and utility man Marwin Gonzalez, who came over from the Astros organization. Both have played well and have brought a winning attitude to Minnesota. Minnesota was also able to add second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the team. He has had an up-and-down year but has provided some pop, is well-liked by his teammates, and could have been essential to the team’s postseason roster, depending on rookie Luiz Arraez’s availability due to an ankle injury.

If the Twins do hope to emulate Houston, upgrading the rotation would be the next step in the process. The Astros feature three of the best starters in baseball in the aforementioned Verlander, Cole, and Greinke. None of the three came from within the organization so the Astros needed to do two things that the Twins should be able to do as well. The first was to be willing to give up some of their prospect capital to acquire starting pitching. While the Astros had to give up good prospects in all three trades, they were able to do so without giving up anyone on quite the level of Lewis or Kirilloff. The Twins certainly have the prospect surplus to make some trades. Secondly, Houston was willing to take on some salary. Verlander and Greinke were under contract for large amounts and Houston went on to extend Verlander and reliever Ryan Pressly.

With a lot of salary coming off the books, the Twins should theoretically have a lot of money available, and could definitely make a run at one or two of the top free agent starters if they so choose. With Jose Berrios as the only current starter due back next season (although Randy Dobnak may be in next year’s rotation), it will be interesting to see what the FO does to address starting pitching. Some big name free-agent starters will be available, led by Houston’s Gerrit Cole. The Twins got good years out of Michael Pineda and Jake Odorrizi, but they are set to be free agents along with Kyle Gibson. With this year’s team breaking the competitive window wide open, there may never be a better time to add an “ace.”

Brain Drain

Although Houston continues to succeed, finishing with the best overall record in 2019, they have had to deal with other teams luring talented front office staff and coaches away from the organization. When an organization finds success, especially with a new approach, other teams are sure to take notice. Gone from the front office are Sag Mejdal and Mike Elias who were poached by the Baltimore Orioles, and Mike Fast joined the Atlanta Braves. Bench coach Alex Cora famously became the manager of the Boston Red Sox and led them to a World Series victory in 2018.
With the success of the Minnesota Twins is 2019, other organizations are sure to take notice, and Minnesota would be extremely lucky if everyone remained in place for 2020. Coaches such as Derrek Shelton and James Rowson will likely draw interest and members of the front office and analytics department are likely to be hot commodities as well, not to mention minor league coaches and staff.

With the right philosophy in place, Minnesota may be able to plug in great new minds and continue to succeed as Houston has. However, the teams that are plucking employees may soon bridge the gap as the Twins (and others) have done to the Astros. The best teams will need to evolve, always on the lookout for new hidden advantages, and the process will continue as it always has.

Here We Go

The Twins didn't reach the World Series this season, but regardless of the result, it’s hard to view the season as anything less than a resounding success. The Twins will obviously blaze their own path going forward, but if there is a ballclub to emulate, you can’t do much better than the Houston Astros. As Minnesota’s young core continues to mature, with most of the team returning for 2020 and plenty of intriguing options inching closer from the farm, the best is hopefully yet to come.

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12 Comments

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Richard Swerdlick
Oct 19 2019 06:08 AM
I believe that Falvey will try to build the pitching staff from within the system, maybe adding one up and coming starting pitcher from another organization. I think of Cleveland this year which at the end of the season was starting 3 pitchers from the 2016 draft. Pohlad's money will then be safe.

Time to go get an ace.Whether it be Cole or Strasburg, I don't get, just get one of the two, QO and resign Oderizzi, resign Pineda if the price is right (he seems to like it here), and then you only have to fill the 5 slot, which can be done with a revolving door or one rookie stepping up.It is hard to tell how good some of Cleveland's pitchers are, given the Central Division is not that good.This season should be a better test.

    • Huskertwin and JDubs like this

Great Job Patrick,

 

IMO... I'm not sure everyone sees the importance of watching the other organizations.

 

Actually, I'm pretty sure most are not watching other organizations.

 

However, I am happy that our front office seems to be watching the other organizations.  

 

All 3 of these articles are must reads. 

 

 

    • birdwatcher, diehardtwinsfan, brvama and 3 others like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 19 2019 08:13 AM

 

I believe that Falvey will try to build the pitching staff from within the system, maybe adding one up and coming starting pitcher from another organization. I think of Cleveland this year which at the end of the season was starting 3 pitchers from the 2016 draft. Pohlad's money will then be safe.

That's definitely the goal, but I think that also takes time. If they want to do some one year temporary deals, then QO Odorizzi and resign Pineda... but I still think they need an ace to anchor it, and there's not one ready and waiting in the org at the moment. 

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tarheeltwinsfan
Oct 19 2019 12:19 PM

Maybe the Twins could imitate Houston and trade for Ryan Pressly.

    • USAFChief, Mike Sixel, Platoon and 2 others like this
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Tom Froemming
Oct 20 2019 05:54 AM

 

Maybe the Twins could imitate Houston and trade for Ryan Pressly.

Why would they want a guy who has a 13.50 ERAand has yielded a batting line of .529/.556/.588 (1.144 OPS) to the 18 batters he's faced this postseason? ;)

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birdwatcher
Oct 20 2019 06:20 AM

 

Maybe the Twins could imitate Houston and trade for Ryan Pressly.

 

Good idea, they should try a deadline trade like that. Probably wouldn't cost more than, say, Diaz, Berroa, and Teng.

 

Maybe the Twins could imitate Houston and trade for Ryan Pressly.

Would the Twins ever give up Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino for a relief pitcher?

That's definitely the goal, but I think that also takes time. If they want to do some one year temporary deals, then QO Odorizzi and resign Pineda... but I still think they need an ace to anchor it, and there's not one ready and waiting in the org at the moment.


I'd guess Pineda gets a multi- year deal and Odo declines the QO and goes to free agency. Probably signs after the draft. We likely get nothing.

I don't think it helps to try to emulate another team or pretend you are the next "other team". Its also hard to think pitching, pitching, pitching when they were the home run record setting team in the regular season and then the offense went into a coma in the playoff sweep. They could have had Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax and still lost. A team that won 101 games can't expect to improve much; at least in the standings. 2020 will be a tough year simply because they may go crazy trying to improve in one area and end up being worse in the W-L column. Just be very careful on who they sign and don't expect miracles.

I don't think it helps to try to emulate another team or pretend you are the next "other team". Its also hard to think pitching, pitching, pitching when they were the home run record setting team in the regular season and then the offense went into a coma in the playoff sweep. They could have had Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax and still lost. A team that won 101 games can't expect to improve much; at least in the standings. 2020 will be a tough year simply because they may go crazy trying to improve in one area and end up being worse in the W-L column. Just be very careful on who they sign and don't expect miracles.


It's also going to be worse in the W-L column because most likely 3 teams in the AL Central will be competitive instead of 2. Don't sleep on Chicago... They seem positioned to make a splash this winter and end their losing ways.

Detroit and KC? Yeah, probably still losing 100 games in 2020.
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Battle ur tail off
Oct 21 2019 01:34 PM

 

 Just be very careful on who they sign and don't expect miracles.

 

Yep, keep being "careful". 20 straight games without a postseason win will sound great at the end next season. 

 

I'd say now is the time to be BOLD, not careful. Go for it for once. In a couple years this core is gonna outprice the Twins budget. Right now they have lots of payroll space and lots of production that costs pennies baseball wise. 


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