Departures Don’t Change Twins Future
Image courtesy of © Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY SportsThere’s been plenty of hand-wringing over the decisions made by the front office over the past week. The reality is that each one of them were both the right and correct move. Flipping veterans set to become free agents for tangible assets usable down the line is a logical concept. Maximizing the peak value of a relief pitcher, one of the most unstable roles on a team, is also a good bet. There’s no denying that the Twins shed a lot of talent at the end of July, but the reality is that in September that same talent would have left and there’d be nothing to show for it.
Getting past the heartache of Dozier's and Escobar’s smiles being gone from the clubhouse, we can look toward the future. That’s where things come back into focus, and the reality is that for 2019 and beyond, the blueprint remains unchanged for the organization.
Coming into 2018, the Twins were fresh off a postseason berth and had added plenty of talent through free agency. Supplementing a developed core of players, the front office positioned the active roster for a season of competitiveness within a weak AL Central division. Looking ahead to 2019, that same formula remains.
The core for Minnesota will continue to revolve around players like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. The breakout of Eddie Rosario has been much welcomed, and the emergence of Jose Berrios continues. Getting more from Max Kepler is a must and picking up steam from a couple of additional guys like Jorge Polanco or Mitch Garver would be a nice boost. This collection of talent that has largely risen through the system together, will continue to be the backbone of any progress going forward.
You can’t recap the 2018 season without noting the frustrations circling around that established core however. Both Buxton and Sano experiencing lost seasons is a significant setback. Kepler failing to really break out is unfortunate, and Polanco missing half of the season due to poor choice is suboptimal. For all their faults and failures however, it’s because of those guys that supplementing and signing free agents even made sense in the first place.
Going into 2019, the same opportunity will be afforded Minnesota’s front office once again. There’s less than $70 million of committed money in the upcoming year, and the organization should be expected to nearly double that amount when the payroll hits it's ceiling. Whether going all in on a premiere name, or spreading the wealth around a bit, reinforcements should help to bolster what will once again be a talented group on paper.
Outside of the organization, the same positive factors will also be in favor of the Twins. While the Indians window of competitiveness should remain open, the rest of the AL Central will continue to be bottom feeders in the foreseeable future. Although the White Sox system is loaded, the talent is not yet ready to emerge. The Tigers remain in the middle of a rebuild, and the Royals have yet to start a very necessary overhaul. For a Twins team that should be well positioned to feast on poor competition, they’ll have plenty of opportunities presented to them over the course of their schedule.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the talent Minnesota has been banking on for years. Sano and Buxton are two of the highest rates prospects to ever come through the system and doing so at the same time should make them cornerstone pieces on a team that provides years of relevance. It’s probably beginning to get late a little early, but they are also just 25 and 24 years-old respectively. We aren’t at all past the point of no return, but there’s no denying that it will be a direct result of their efforts if this team takes the next step forward.
As Minnesota’s core has arrived together at the big-league level, it’s become time that spending finally makes sense. The front office, and ownership showed a commitment to that belief this offseason. They’ll get an opportunity to hit the reset button prior to 2019, and the trajectory of this team doesn’t need to change at all. From a year in which things fell flat, there’s a very real opportunity to make noise in the immediate future.
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