Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA TodayMariners GM Jerry DiPoto had a pretty wild quote last week. He said that in the game right now, "You could argue there is more competition to get the No. 1 pick in the draft than to win the World Series."
And well, there's a lot of truth in that statement, which surely makes MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred bristle. Agent Scott Boras lamented earlier this week that a "non-competitive cancer" is "ruining the fabric of the sport."
Dramatic and biased? Yes. But that doesn't mean he's completely off base.
The "loser bug" is certainly present in the AL Central, where three teams are making virtually no effort to contend.
Ron Gardenhire's Tigers are coming off a season in which they finished last and traded away their best pitcher and hitter. Barring remarkable turnarounds from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, along with some major rotation breakthroughs, Detroit appears destined for 90-plus losses.
It's tough to expect much more from the Royals, who earlier this week dumped slugger Brandon Moss and standout lefty reliever Ryan Buchter in exchange for Jesse Hahn, who sadly has a decent shot at a rotation spot. Earlier in the same day, they'd settled for another year of Alcides Escobar at short, agreeing on a one-year pact. Kansas City may still have another big move or two left in the tank, but seems resigned to its fate as an also-ran in 2018. Keith Law recently ranked the organization's farm system as the worst in the AL while Baseball America pegged it second-worst in baseball.
And of course, the White Sox are only one year removed from an epic teardown. They've got plenty of young talent, and could surprise by surpassing low expectations, but Chicago is in no way a legitimate threat in the division.
Cleveland remains the de facto favorite, with good reason, but even the Indians haven't done much to separate themselves this off-season. Not yet, anyway.
How often is it that three-fifths of your division is simultaneously rebuilding? Not very. And in this case it surely won't last long. The White Sox are already bringing along some of the key youngsters netted in their fire sale. You can't count on KC or Detroit staying down and out for too long.
But right now, you can make a case they are the three worst teams in the American League on paper.
This puts the Twins in a seriously advantageous position, not only removing barriers in their quest to take the AL Central, but also – potentially – padding their win total for a run at a wild-card spot.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine talk often about looking at the big picture. They won't sacrifice the long-term vision for short-term gains. Many front offices are of the same mind at this time, obviously.
But the big picture is this: the division is as ripe for the taking as it has been in years. The league is in a strange state of flux. And the Twins have a coalescing young core that improved by 26 wins last year.
I highly doubt the new front office expected to find itself in this position so quickly, but the time to strike is now. Windows don't stay open forever.
- mikelink45, Sconnie, tarheeltwinsfan and 4 others like this