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Minnesota's Winter Of Discontent

At various points in the offseason, Twins fans have had ample reason for optimism.

Shohei Ohtani? Not unthinkable. Yu Darvish? The stars felt aligned. Trade rumors have alternately connected Minnesota to Gerrit Cole, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer.

But up to this point, each rising balloon of hope has popped and deflated with a whimper.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
The Twins have been edged for the likes of Ohtani, Darvish and Cole by the very teams they're trying to join in the game's top tier. While the front office has openly tried to run with the big boys in pursuit of high-impact additions, they've repeatedly come up short.

They talk like a team that's ready to take the next step, at a moment of prime opportunity, but the Twins' actions haven't been compatible.

At his introductory press conference upon being hired as Chief Baseball Officer for the Twins, Derek Falvey spoke on multiple occasions of his intent to build a "long-term, sustainable, championship-caliber team."

Those first two descriptors appear to be ruling the team's strategy. It's been an unusual offseason to say the least, but the patience Falvey and his GM Thad Levine have shown borders on reckless.

They've addressed the bullpen nicely, yet with a clear focus on maintaining flexibility. They added Michael Pineda on a savvy, but presently unfulfilling, two-year deal. They evidently were not willing to pony up the prospects for Cole, or the years for Darvish.

Minnesota should theoretically be a playoff-minded team coming off an 85-win season. But if you want a seat at the table, you've gotta be ready to ante up. To this point, Falvey and Levine have been awfully protective of their chips.

Many opportunities and avenues remain, but with spring camp officially underway, the Twins have a piecemeal rotation, set to open the season without its lone proven horse.

Planning is made difficult by the enigmatic outlook for this unit. Once this season is over, it may well be obvious that Jose Berrios, Ervin Santana, Trevor May, Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson all deserve to be 2019 rotation members (the team will have optional control over all five). Then you've got Pineda, plus the litany of prospects and minor-leaguers who appear to be a year or less away.

While the front office leadership has changed, the franchise's guiding mantra has not. The model here is build from within, supplement from without. And, don't shoot the messenger here, but – the Twins might be placing a rather myopic focus on the former.

Such a view wouldn't necessarily preclude them from adding a starter on a multi-year deal, but I sense it'll only happen if an obvious bargain falls in their laps (a la Reed and Pineda). Otherwise, a one-year commitment looks likely.

In this category, an option known to be coveted by the Twins came off the board on Thursday. Jaime Garcia signed for $8 million with the Blue Jays, who will hold a team option for 2019. That contract is right up Minnesota's alley: good value, flexible, and a clear rotation immediate upgrade (at least over what's slotted for the back end). But once again they were beat out by a potential wild-card rival. Or else Garcia ultimately came up short of their discriminating taste. Either way, another day passes with no move to aide the rotation.

For fans, it's largely been a winter of disappointment and letdowns. I hold out hope that a pleasant surprise lies in store, but if they end up with someone like Chris Tillman as the lone infusion for this needy starting pitching corps, my developing faith in this leadership will be shaken.

Now is not the time to fall back into that comfortable, overly conservative mindset.

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102 Comments

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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 15 2018 08:06 PM

I agree 100%. I just wish the FO would read this and take this important, thoughtful message to heart.

    • Riverbrian, curt1965 and caninatl04 like this

I disagree.They can have Garcia - look at his record.Only 2015 was good.He is a filler, a replacement level.We can rotate minor league arms and be better off.I am pleased that he is gone.If we talk Lynn or Cobb fine, but Garcia is not an improvement.

    • birdwatcher and gagu like this
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Old Twins Cap
Feb 15 2018 08:18 PM

Well, happy to be a member of the proud minority then.

 

Bullpen has been added to, substantially.That was the highest priority over the last two seasons.

 

Starters are young and unproven.But, I like guys who need to earn it.And Twins have a lot of them.So, they have options.

 

The ridiculous thing was when the Twins had NO options to start, even in Triple A, back in 2013-14, God, what were their names?I have happily forgotten.

 

Happy for spring, bring on the games.If we lose to start, learn from it and get better.

    • luckylager, Han Joelo, birdwatcher and 12 others like this

They can't go from Darvish to Tillman without repercussion. 

 

They would have been better off not even mentioning the name Yu Darvish. 

 

 

    • birdwatcher, diehardtwinsfan, Sconnie and 6 others like this

This will not be popular but I would be fine with Tillman and Vargas. Only 3 teams used 8 starters last year. Everyone else used more.The average was slightly over 11. I do not see Cobb or Lynn as enough of an upgrade. I would improve our pitching depth and see what the Twins situation is around the trade deadline. We needed Darvish but that ship has sailed.I hope we are not chasing Arrieta.

Fool me with Ohtani, shame on me.  Fool me with Darvish, shame on Yu.  Wait, what? The point is, I'm not getting fooled again this offseason.  Not getting fooled that the Twins are signing someone, or that if they do it will make much of a difference, given what is left.

 

I'd like to go skiing in the French Alps every damn year, but this year isn't the year to put in on a credit card.  Got to keep developing my little boys at the local hill, so when we go, we'll be able to really enjoy it.  Meanwhile, its been pretty fun skiing green runs with the little guys.

I'd be ok with Chris Tillman on an incentive heavy deal for the back-end of the rotation.Especially with Santana missing the early part of the year.He was at least solid as recently as 2016 and had injuries last year.If he pitches well he can maybe push someone else for their spot when Santana is back or May is possibly ready.If not, then you can send him packing when they're ready.Wouldn't be my only move, would sign or trade for one reliable starter in addition to taking a chance on Tillman.

    • DocBauer and howieramone2 like this
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TheLeviathan
Feb 15 2018 08:39 PM

This is well said.

Tunnelvision is the main problem. See Minnesota from another perspective.

 

The Twins had a nice rebound last season, but they fail to make the shortlist of viable contenders. Top dogs will pick a recent world series champ over a possible aberration almost every time. Or a top living location: So. Cal. vs. Minnesota? If you didn't grow up here, not a lot to get excited about. 

 

The Winfields, Molitors, Morrisses, and Steinbachs will come back home, or maybe an avid fisherman. 

 

The others, well, considering most ball players are southerners or from the Caribbean, let's not hold our breath.

    • terrydactyls1947 likes this
Nick, love your writing and this is one of your best posts lately. Why? Simply because you touch on both sides of the matter, shall we say, "fairly"?

But I am going to agree on Cap's side here. I don't feel a great deal of discontent. Disappointment in some ways thus far, but not discontent.

I don't live in the Twin Cities, so my knowledge of the culture is limited. But for various reasons, from what little I think I know, I just never saw Ohtani as a viable option. I did feel Darvish was a real possibility, and I'm mixed as to disappointed and angry we didn't land him. No excuses, but I'm still not certain we understand the full impact and details of contacts offered or how much true interest he had coming to us. And while there are no moral victories in sports, at least at the pro level, the fact we were in on Darvish at all is a HUGE change vs the previous administration.

The bullpen has had, IMO, a very nice upgrade with no compromise contractually. There are nice arms as holdovers, and some really nice ones on the way. Knowing they were out of the Ohtani sweepstakes, they traded "nothing", (meaning no prospects, just Monopoly money to acquire a couple of interesting prospects.

There was something I read today, forget the site, that mentioned the Twins were still looking at various extensions. I think that is very important. Further, with a largely young and still improving roster, I don't want the FO to be knee jerk. And Santana should be OK, you'd think, before the season gets too far along.

Now, I WILL reach the level of discontent if the next week or so doesn't bring in a viable, quality SP. It was already a need before the Santana surgery. We lost out on Darvish, but there are still some strong FA options available in a depressed marketplace. If we don't see a move there, I will be downright PO'd and move beyond disappointment.
    • Blake, Puckett34, gagu and 2 others like this

I'd be ok with Chris Tillman on an incentive heavy deal for the back-end of the rotation.Especially with Santana missing the early part of the year.He was at least solid as recently as 2016 and had injuries last year.If he pitches well he can maybe push someone else for their spot when Santana is back or May is possibly ready.If not, then you can send him packing when they're ready.Wouldn't be my only move, would sign or trade for one reliable starter in addition to taking a chance on Tillman.


100%!

Sign Lynn to a fair deal. Then sign someone like Tillman, maybe Vargas, on a 1 year. You build a deeper, better rotation without huge numbers, parting with any prospects, and you even buy time for your prospects. The downside? A healthy Santana, May back, Gibson showing his second half wasn't an illusion, Mejia keeps getting better and builds on his rookie campaign and you have some nice, young pitchers at AAA getting close and you suddenly have too much pitching?

Oh the horror!
    • HitInAPinch, howieramone2, caninatl04 and 1 other like this

The $100/5 offer to Darvish, leaked to reporters, is indicative of a front office that either wants to put on a smoke show ("well, we tried to go big, see?") or really is hoping that a great bargain just falls into their laps. Because there just isn't any point in making that offer if they meant to put up a competitive bid against the Cubs. And Garcia's deal with the Jays really is a nice bargain. Strange that a team in the Twins' position wasn't interesting in topping that with an extra million or two guaranteed years.

 

We're left hoping that they can pull off a nice trade for someone like Archer--but that particular deal seems like a longshot, too. I mean, the Rays have no great motivation to move him, unless the Twins basically empty the farm. So that would hurt some, too.

 

I really hope that they don't get Lance Lynn for 4 years (of course that's the most likely outcome, then).

    • Carlos Figueroa likes this

I disagree. They can have Garcia - look at his record. Only 2015 was good. He is a filler, a replacement level. We can rotate minor league arms and be better off. I am pleased that he is gone. If we talk Lynn or Cobb fine, but Garcia is not an improvement.


Actually Garcia was not "replacement level" last year -- he was average, which has value and could be an improvement.
    • USAFChief, Sconnie, slash129 and 2 others like this

 

 

If we talk Lynn or Cobb fine, but Garcia is not an improvement.

 

Steamer projections:

 

Lynn 4.48 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 4.69 xFIP, 1.5 fWAR

Cobb 4.41 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 4.41 xFIP, 1.5 fWAR

Garcia 4.53 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 4.37 xFIP, 2.0 fWAR

 

The projection model expects them to be essentially the same, with Garcia having an extra half-win from making the most starts. And Garcia would've been the most attractive, IMO, because he came on a relatively inexpensive, short-term deal with a club option.

 

I'd be fine with Lynn or Cobb at $10M for one year + an option, but what are the chances that either signs for less than 3-4 years, or at a similar pay?

    • Sconnie likes this

"To this point, Falvey and Levine have been awfully protective of their chips."

 

Chips is a good comp, but we all must acknowledge that for several young minor league pitchers, the Twins do not yet know what color those chips are. 

 

Gonsalves, Romero, Jorge, Jay, and Stewart all sit in the Prospect List within the top ten. Each of these guys could become at least a solid major league pitcher, and any of them could debut in the 2018 season. After all the time we have waited and watched these young men earn their way up the ladder, it is time to start seeing what they, and other possibles, have to offer the major league club. 

 

A lot of people here at TD think that 2018 is the first year that the Sano/Buxton wave starts to reach its peak. To me, it's still a little early, which means it's too early to spend major bank on expensive free agent hurlers. The Twins FO risks stifling the progress of in-system arms while possibly wasting tons of money on FA's with a team that's still not quite ready to support them offensively and defensively. 

 

For comparison, I offer the 1987 Twins. The major pieces of that puzzle got to the majors in 1983, so it was four years before they suddenly made the quantum jump from worst to first. Meanwhile, the Puckett/Hrbek wave did show tons of promise, upsetting division rivals and causing trouble throughout the league with improbable comebacks and creative collapses. That is where this Twins club stands right now. They are going to show talent, but the results are going to be uneven. Into that mix, let us see if we can find the next Frank Viola. Maybe it's Gonsalves. Maybe it's Romero. Maybe somebody else. 

 

This is the year of the young stud pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. One or more of these minor league prospects is going to have to show why they're in the top ten. Eat yer Wheaties, boys. 

    • birdwatcher, Blake, DocBauer and 5 others like this
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ChrisKnutson
Feb 15 2018 09:48 PM

I still think a Chris Archer trade could still happen if we offer Sano, Gordon, and Graterol (or Gonsalves) (or Mejia). Losing Sano would hurt, but I'd say (I know) Archer holds more value since he's a pitcher.

 

To offset the possibility of this, the Twins could bring back Carlos Gomez (still has that power/speed blend) to play LF, moving Rosario to starting DH/4th OF, and installing Eduardo Escobar at 3rd (he deserves it). Then sign a RH handed bench bat like Danny Valencia

 

Imagine.

 

1. Chris Archer

2. Jose Berrios (if he progresses)

3. Ervin Santana

4. Trevor May (I believe he'll put up numbers similar to Lance Lynn) 

5. Kyle Gibson

 

 

 

Darvish was never coming to Minnesota. Not for a 7yr/$175M. Why would he? He could take a deal with the Cubs and pitch for a better team in a bigger market.

Same with Ohtani. Why would he choose Minnesota?

If you’re blaming Falvey, Levine, or the Pohlads on either of those “misses”, I think you’re fooling yourself.

I think Falvey and Levine are building for 2019. 2017 was fun, but the Twins are just at the beginning of their window. I’m no apologist for the front office, but I can understand and respect the strategy they’ve shown this far.
    • birdwatcher, jimbo92107, DocBauer and 4 others like this
I thought you couldn't have a long term winning team, that small market teams went in cycles?
    • USAFChief, Tomj14 and caninatl04 like this

Tunnelvision is the main problem. See Minnesota from another perspective.
 
The Twins had a nice rebound last season, but they fail to make the shortlist of viable contenders. Top dogs will pick a recent world series champ over a possible aberration almost every time. Or a top living location: So. Cal. vs. Minnesota? If you didn't grow up here, not a lot to get excited about. 
 
The Winfields, Molitors, Morrisses, and Steinbachs will come back home, or maybe an avid fisherman. 
 
The others, well, considering most ball players are southerners or from the Caribbean, let's not hold our breath.


Actually, as someone who has been forced to live a peripatetic life style, I vote Minnesota as having the nicest summers anywhere.
    • USAFChief and IndyTwinsFan like this
ESPN recently posted an article suggesting that Cleveland’s success is not sustainable due to mid market economics. Again, this points to planning for 19 rather than 18. This suggests shopping for an ace next year. Of course, the big players will be out of luxury tax hell next year, so prices will be MUCH higher.
    • HitInAPinch likes this
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drivlikejehu
Feb 16 2018 12:25 AM

I don't necessarily disagree with the OP, but it's worth keeping in mind that Falvey and Levine are almost certainly operating under fairly severe payroll limitations due to classic Pohlad cheapness. 

 

This is really the only explanation that makes sense - for instance, Falvey and Levine gain nothing by offering under-market deals to free agents . . . it just makes them look clueless. But the Pohlads do gain something, because Jim can say that they were 'willing' to pay significant amounts to free agents but, aw shucks, it just didn't work out. It's not outside the realm of possibility that ownership is even opposed to extensions for the Twins' young core.

 

Of course, one could argue that Falvey and Levine should get a trade done instead, for a starter with a cheap contract (e.g., Archer). But the payroll issue impacts this option almost as much, because trading away prospects carries the additional risk that future holes won't be fixable in free agency.

 

Though I disagreed with a lot of his decisions, I always thought that Terry Ryan's apparent reluctance to sign free agents was really a cover for ownership, who wanted payrolls even lower than the alleged ceilings (which were still pretty low). Bill Smith's seeming willingness to spend is more easily explained by the fact that he was GM when the team moved into the new stadium and ownership's promises regarding payroll were most fresh.

 

If the front office is mandated to remain within the bottom third of MLB payrolls, not just in 2018 but perpetually, there wasn't really a good way to address the rotation. This is not to absolve the organization, since ownership is responsible for what happens, but the criticism of Falvey and Levine strikes me as unfair under the most realistic assumptions.

    • Carlos Figueroa likes this

 

"To this point, Falvey and Levine have been awfully protective of their chips."

 

Chips is a good comp, but we all must acknowledge that for several young minor league pitchers, the Twins do not yet know what color those chips are. 

 

Gonsalves, Romero, Jorge, Jay, and Stewart all sit in the Prospect List within the top ten. Each of these guys could become at least a solid major league pitcher, and any of them could debut in the 2018 season. After all the time we have waited and watched these young men earn their way up the ladder, it is time to start seeing what they, and other possibles, have to offer the major league club. 

 

A lot of people here at TD think that 2018 is the first year that the Sano/Buxton wave starts to reach its peak. To me, it's still a little early, which means it's too early to spend major bank on expensive free agent hurlers. The Twins FO risks stifling the progress of in-system arms while possibly wasting tons of money on FA's with a team that's still not quite ready to support them offensively and defensively. 

 

For comparison, I offer the 1987 Twins. The major pieces of that puzzle got to the majors in 1983, so it was four years before they suddenly made the quantum jump from worst to first. Meanwhile, the Puckett/Hrbek wave did show tons of promise, upsetting division rivals and causing trouble throughout the league with improbable comebacks and creative collapses. That is where this Twins club stands right now. They are going to show talent, but the results are going to be uneven. Into that mix, let us see if we can find the next Frank Viola. Maybe it's Gonsalves. Maybe it's Romero. Maybe somebody else. 

 

This is the year of the young stud pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. One or more of these minor league prospects is going to have to show why they're in the top ten. Eat yer Wheaties, boys. 

the baseball world has changed since then. Right now the Twins are burning up arbitration years (or pre arb years) of this young core with a good chance that a few of them leave in FA just as the team is getting established.

In addition there are now 5 playoff teams instead of just 2 from each league and if you have a >.500 team then you make moves to win now (not necessarily selling the entire farm for mediocre vets). Waiting until the perfect time to make a big move was exactly what doomed the good but not great Twins teams of the 2000's.

    • Twins33, DaveW, markos and 2 others like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Feb 16 2018 06:31 AM
My confusion (frustration) is not being able to figure out what the plan is?!?! The Twins had opportunities to land the biggest fish among starting pitchers this offseason. They took what appears to be a check swing, while not swinging for the fences at what might have been a once in a generation opportunity the way the stars were aligned this offseason. I guess they now are going with their present roster or are looking to sign a free agent starting pitcher during spring training. There is a wall of secrecy around the dealings of the new front office. While they don't owe the fans an explanation and don't want to tip their strategy, it would be nice to at least know what the big picture vision is. It seems when Falvine speak, they say a lot of neat and catchy phrases without really telling us much. There is still time to make this offseason a success, currently it is neutral - which is disappointing considering the 2017 wild card berth.
    • DocBauer and ken like this

I don't blame the Twins for Ohtani. Fact is, he didn't want to come here. I'm not sure the Twins could have changed his mind on that. 

 

BUT, I do blame them for Cole and for Darvish. The Twins definitely had the prospects to serve up for Cole. And they could have beaten the Cubs' offer for Darvish. They did neither. 

 

I was hopeful that this new front office would be more aggressive in a situation like this than their predecessors. Instead, we get the same old, overly conservative approach. 

    • USAFChief, Oxtung and Tomj14 like this
I like a lot of the things Falvine is doing in general. Draft, develop, orginisational changes, metrics adoption*, and at first glance the additions to the BP. I am in essence a build from within guy. That makes life easier because the Twins can't logically compete with the big markets year to year for FA. Now, here comes the but. Almost all major sports rely on filling in your roster with an important piece or two if you are in a playoff window. The Twins are in one, or very close. That's when you roll the dice. And yet they have not, when it's obvious the SP is not playoff caliber. I think Falvine, and in all honesty Ryan are/were in a bad postion. They get judged by the fans on how many games the team wins. They get judged by JP on the annual P&L. Those two criteria are counterproductive. I never expect them to make any money oriented splashes. All I hope for is they can make up for their owner implied restraints by putting together an extremely solid year to year operation.

* While not a metrics afficianado, I realize that like the switch to the internal combustion engine, times do change! :)
    • LA VIkes Fan, DocBauer, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this