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Standing Pat as a Strategy

'As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow.' – Horace

By all appearances, this is going to be a low-key winter for the Minnesota Twins. Coming off a season full of setbacks, the front office is reluctant to make firm commitments or chart a new course, with so much uncertainty permeating its existing core.

And you know what? I get it. It's a logical approach in the scope of long-term strategy. But that doesn't make coming to terms with this reality any less of a bummer.
Image courtesy of Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
To their credit, the Twins have been proactive in addressing their needs this offseason. Already they have filled their two clearest positional vacancies. Granted, they've done so by gathering up castoffs non-tendered by other organizations, but C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop are hardly scraps. They're legitimate starters and intriguing flyers for a rebuilding team.

It is that last part that stings. Every indication I've seen signals a conservative approach this offseason, as the front office continues to bide time and see how things shake out with its inherited volatile assets.

"The Twins have indicated that next season will be about allowing their young core to continue to develop," La Velle E. Neal III wrote in forecasting a quiet week at the Winter Meetings.

Derek Falvey himself echoed that sentiment during a Friday interview with 1500 ESPN.

"I do believe that you build championship teams around an internal core," Falvey said. "In our particular situation I think we’re really attentive to how we impact that core with complementary pieces."

"You have to be thoughtful, the more years out you go, how it impacts your club."

This isn't a new narrative from Falvey's baseball ops group, and the strategy thus far has aligned.

Schoop on a one-year deal allows the Twins to wait and see what happens next year with Nick Gordon, added to the 40-man roster last month. Gordon had an awful season in 2018 but he's 22, a former top-10 draft pick, and a fixture on national Top 100 prospect lists. Any kind of long-term answer at second base would have amounted to waving the white flag on this highly touted and talented youth.

As far as stopgaps go, Schoop's a damn good one. He's 27 and one year removed from an All-Star campaign that earned him MVP votes.

The Cron situation is similar. The Twins don't quite have a Gordon-level prospect coming up at first base but Brent Rooker looks like a player and could be ready by midseason. Minnesota also is accounting for the very real possibility that Miguel Sano will be relegated to first base in the near future. Cron gives them flexibility and offers a fairly high floor; he's almost certain to be a significant improvement over Joe Mauer v.2018. Plus, the Twins can control Cron in 2020, which will look great if he backs up his breakout campaign.

So, like I said, I get the rationale for these moves. They're very defensible. But they're not bold or particularly ambitious. They don't point to an outright aspiration for serious contention in the division next year. At best, the Twins are hoping they catch fire with these low-wattage additions while things coalesce elsewhere.

Even with solid returns on Cron and Schoop, and moderate improvements among the incumbent crowd, this position-player unit still doesn't look all that well designed. The offense is desperately lacking for on-base percentage. An infield alignment of Sano, Jorge Polanco, Schoop and Cron will likely be very poor defensively. Mitch Garver's status is basically a mystery at this point.

The team is caught in flux, and that's not really anyone's fault so much as just the way things have played out. Most other positions on this roster are similar to first and second base – unestablished at present, but with too promising or undecided an outlook for drastic changes in direction.

An offseason spent more or less standing pat makes sense for the Twins. But for fans – even those who fully understand and accept the thought process – it stinks nonetheless.

Cron and Schoop are logical in the rebuilding framework because they're young and capable enough that either could turn into parts of the go-forward vision – or at least deadline trade chips to further supplement the pipeline. But they are probably not the kind of decisive difference-makers who help Minnesota take the next step, in the event that Buxton and Sano rebound.

We all know they are at the heart of the matter – Buxton and Sano – and that neither of those outcomes can be fully counted upon, but it's almost as if the Twins are planning around it not happening, turning their gaze already to the next hot prospect wave led by Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff.

Which brings me back to that Horace quote from the outset about the unrelenting passage of time. "As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow." We can all hope Lewis, Kirilloff and the next group are up to the task of pulling this franchise from the dredges, but no one can be blamed for pessimism as we watch an endless rebuild carry on in perpetuity, with Buxton and Sano entering their theoretical primes.

Falvey and Thad Levine have made some nice moves with the coaching staff and behind the scenes (where some would argue the real war is being waged), but those moves don't put fans in the seats, nor do savvy buy-low investments like Schoop and Cron. The Twins drew their lowest attendance this year since 2004 at the Metrodome, and while that's partially attributable to weather, it also speaks to growing fan apathy, which I fear will only worsen in 2019 if Minnesota stays on course to field a low-payroll, low-profile club.

Fans have endured nearly a decade of mediocre or worse play at Target Field. Even if the current rhetoric and ensuing actions are perfectly reasonable and valid, the whole "building a sustainable long-term winner, eventually" model doesn't do much to energize or excite a base that could really use some energy and excitement.

Right now, the real focus is on 2020. At various points in the past, it's been on 2018, 2017, 2016, etc. No one wants or expects a rebuild to take eight-plus years, but here we are.

If you've been conditioned into believing as little as possible in the morrow, that's more than fair. Especially because of the unique window of winnability in the AL Central, which won't last forever.

At the same time, if you put yourself in the shoes of the team's decision makers, with all they must account for, hopefully you can see why – from their view – it's not quite time to seize the day.

But as we speak, cruel time is fleeing...

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240 Comments

Arg.This is both intriguing, and depressing at the same time. 

    • Jerr, Twins33, Platoon and 3 others like this

While not sexy the strategy is solid.Which players and how much would they have to pay them to be legitimate World Series contenders in 2019?Stay the course, develop the core, and don't block the advancement path of guys like Royce Lewis, Brusdar Graterol, Nick Gordon, Akil Badoo, Blayne Enlow, Lewin Diaz, Jose Miranda, Tyler Wells,Jaylin Davis, DaShawn Kiersey & Tyler Watson.Also need a little luck in hoping some of the young guys develop and hit the show and contribute a little sooner than expected.  

    • caninatl04 likes this

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ….. eh uh....Torreyes?!….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….ah huh....Schoop?!……..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….agh, eh...….Cron?!….. I said wake me up when we do anything of consequence!  

 

How many Yankee entrails does that make in the last 2 years? 

 

We should rename our team the Minnesota Yankee Pilot Fishes 

 

    • mikelink45 and tvagle like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Dec 09 2018 07:54 PM
Yes, they are kicking the can down the road, until Lewis is shortstop. The $100+ million payrolls are a thing of the past. If they can win in the meantime, payroll won’t matter, but that is to be determined. The present core certainly has the talent.
    • brvama likes this

Yep what are they gonna do give up on Rosario, Buxton or Kepler and Cave in the outfield?Give up on Sano or Polanco in the infield?Give up on Garver, Austudillo as catcher utility guys? It is too early to give up on those guys we have to hope they develop.

 

Pitching wasn't as bad last year and we have Slegers, Romero, Gonsalves Littel, Thorpe,Mejia and Stewart waiting for chances.We can't keep them in AAA forever.

 

The guys we have need to step up.I agree it seems like we have saying next year for the last four years or so and is getting old but at this point I feel resigned to the fact that we need more of a core before we start making moves.I am willing to give them another year to prove themselves. 

 

 

If guys don't improve then Lewis, Kiroloff, Rooker and maybe Gordon and Wade await their chance sooner rather than later.

    • brvama, woolywoolhouse, d-mac and 1 other like this
It doesn't point to competitiveness in 2020 either, since they will be relying on rookies like Gordon and whomever is replacing Cron, or more stop gaps.

If this is the plan, not trading Gibson is really stupid.
    • frightwig, Twins33, beckmt and 13 others like this

 

It doesn't point to competitiveness in 2020 either, since they will be relying on rookies like Gordon and whomever is replacing Cron, or more stop gaps.

If this is the plan, not trading Gibson is really stupid.

Yeah good point unless Rooker, Lewis or Kiriloff are great from the start we have to wait a year or two for them to develop as well.  

 

I just hope we can find or trade for some young front line pitching at some point.It feels like unless they find some super stars we are stuck in perpetual rebuild.

    • savvyspy, Twins33 and ChrisKnutson like this

One wonders if Falvey and Levine feel like the previous regime partially screwed up the development of Buxton and Sano, and feel they can do a better job with the next wave of prospects. I'm not saying they are giving up on Buxton and Sano (they clearly aren't), just that they maybe feel like Buxton and Sano are already a couple of years behind where their ability and potential should have or could have put them by now, and with only 3-4 years left in that window (absent extensions, which don't appear forthcoming), they don't want to sacrifice/undermine their "own" prospect wave by mortgaging it for the prior wave that they don't have complete ownership of or faith in.I don't know, that's just the sense I get.Part of it is what Falvey said in that ESPN interview about how the arms race has moved from "selection" to "devlopment." The sense I got from that part was that he (probably rightly) thinks the Twins had fallen way behind on development in the past 10 years or so. 

 

If it were up to me, I would extend at least Berrios (try to add 3-4 years) and Rosario (adding 1-2 years) this offseason (and maybe Buxton if the price were great, which it probably is not) so that they can be part of that next window. I don't see Sano, Kepler or Polanco being critical to that next wave. 

    • birdwatcher, Dman, d-mac and 3 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Dec 09 2018 08:15 PM

 

It doesn't point to competitiveness in 2020 either, since they will be relying on rookies like Gordon and whomever is replacing Cron, or more stop gaps.

If this is the plan, not trading Gibson is really stupid.

Well that's the thing, they're not punting. I know the total payroll is going to disappoint people but they are set to pay like $30 million combined for Gibson, Odorizzi and Pineda. And I bet they ink Berrios to a long-term deal before the start of next season. They could've gone a lot more conservative than Schoop at second.

 

This team will have a chance if some things break right offensively, it's just not a real aggressive push. And the problem is that it's all too easy to see them in a very similar position a year from now.

    • birdwatcher, brvama, d-mac and 1 other like this
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Old Twins Cap
Dec 09 2018 08:18 PM

Not sure that Gordon's year can be characterized as "awful" -- a 22 yo moving to AAA, but, even without that, Schoop is an All-Star one year removed. He can field, hit and needs a good year.Rather Schoop than Dozier, easily.

 

Torreyes is, on a per-pound basis, the best player ever released by the Yanks. Wait until you see this guy play, or being tossed in the air by Sano.

 

And, on Cron, barring injury, Austin gets cut.Sure, we miss Mauer's OBP, but I won't miss a BA of loopers, dinks and hoppers that dump into LF. A guy who hit 30 HRs has potential to help.

 

Sign a reliever, maybe a LH DH/OF/1B bat and roll the dice. If still in it in July, hire a posse at the deadline and see what happens.

    • DannySD likes this
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108Stitches
Dec 09 2018 08:19 PM
There are legitimate superstars and stars in this farm system. Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, maybe Graterol (gonna need more proof before I label him superstar future) and I think Rooker, Diaz, Tyler Wells will be stars. I get the strategy instead of chasing shiny pennies looking to do it today. This COULD be a situation where a true rebuilding and actual successful development of a team occurs.
    • birdwatcher, brvama, Major League Ready and 2 others like this

Well that's the thing, they're not punting. I know the total payroll is going to disappoint people but they are set to pay like $30 million combined for Gibson, Odorizzi and Pineda. And I bet they ink Berrios to a long-term deal before the start of next season. They could've gone a lot more conservative than Schoop at second.

This team will have a chance if some things break right offensively, it's just not a real aggressive push. And the problem is that it's all too easy to see them in a very similar position a year from now.


Given that Gibson, Reed, Pineda, odorrizi, Castro, Cron, Schoop, and I must be missing someone, are all only here for one more year, yes, they will be in this position again. It's what happens when you have lots of holes and refuse to sign long term deals.

That's seven of their 25 man roster..... Five of whom are pitchers.
    • mikelink45, dbminn and Tomj14 like this
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ChrisKnutson
Dec 09 2018 08:41 PM

It doesn't point to competitiveness in 2020 either, since they will be relying on rookies like Gordon and whomever is replacing Cron, or more stop gaps.
If this is the plan, not trading Gibson is really stupid.


I’d be nice if we could get rid of Odorizzi as well, but if not this offseason, than at least we’re setting ourselves up for big-ish returns next summer at the trade deadline with Castro/Pineda/Schoop/Cron/ and Reed all being FA next offseason as well.
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notoriousgod71
Dec 09 2018 08:50 PM

JFC, by the time they figure out what to do Buxton, Sano, Rosario, and Berrios will be hitting free agency.

 

    • bluechipper, mikelink45, dbminn and 3 others like this

JFC, by the time they figure out what to do Buxton, Sano, Rosario, and Berrios will be hitting free agency.


Correct.
    • tvagle and Tomj14 like this
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TheLeviathan
Dec 09 2018 09:17 PM

 

Well that's the thing, they're not punting. I know the total payroll is going to disappoint people but they are set to pay like $30 million combined for Gibson, Odorizzi and Pineda. And I bet they ink Berrios to a long-term deal before the start of next season. They could've gone a lot more conservative than Schoop at second.

 

This team will have a chance if some things break right offensively, it's just not a real aggressive push. And the problem is that it's all too easy to see them in a very similar position a year from now.

 

At this point, I'm not sure why freeing up money should matter to us as fans?

    • Mike Sixel, adorduan, KirbyDome89 and 2 others like this
Standing pat has been this organization’s mission statement since 1961. This is another, “If absolutely EVERYTHING goes right they get destroyed by the Yankees in the playoffs, or more predictably, they go 74-88” team.
    • Mike Sixel, frightwig, Twins33 and 6 others like this
Given the amount of discontent shared, I am curious what the critics would do differently? All paths that I can see are fraught with seemingly highly volatile potential outcomes. I get the frustration as the losing gets old. So does the endless griping. I would love it if those harboring the better solutions would generously share with the rest of us the “right” way to go about this offseason.
    • birdwatcher, Blackjack, Major League Ready and 7 others like this

Given the amount of discontent shared, I am curious what the critics would do differently? All paths that I can see are fraught with seemingly highly volatile potential outcomes. I get the frustration as the losing gets old. So does the endless griping. I would love it if those harboring the better solutions would generously share with the rest of us the “right” way to go about this offseason.


Sign players for more than one year deals. Bet on success, not failure. But if every year you fill your holes with one year deals, you have the same holes again. Or, I guess we can be happy with constant failure. That's also an option. Plenty of people have laid out their plans on this very site.
    • frightwig, notoriousgod71, bluechipper and 9 others like this

The smart play now is not really a popular play for the Twins. That would to basically do nothing right now and wait for the big FA's to sign and then take a couple of chances on guys desperate to land a contract and flip them at the trade deadline or earlier.

 

But, please don't sign any guys after Spring Training starts.

    • caninatl04 likes this

Sign players for more than one year deals. Bet on success, not failure. But if every year you fill your holes with one year deals, you have the same holes again. Or, I guess we can be happy with constant failure. That's also an option. Plenty of people have laid out their plans on this very site.


As stated above, I would love to hear specific plans. Sign “who” for multi year deals? Addison Reed and Jason Castro were multi year commitments by this front office. They didn’t seem to fare any better than the one year players. I understand your frustration and share it. I would just really like to hear some actionable ideas if not a 3 year plan
    • birdwatcher, VOMG, d-mac and 2 others like this

 

There are legitimate superstars and stars in this farm system. Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, maybe Graterol (gonna need more proof before I label him superstar future) and I think Rooker, Diaz, Tyler Wells will be stars. I get the strategy instead of chasing shiny pennies looking to do it today. This COULD be a situation where a true rebuilding and actual successful development of a team occurs.

Sano and Buxton were also considered to be legitimate superstars in our farm system a few years ago, and where are we now? Lots of stars in the minors don't become stars in the major leagues. Or don't become stars in the major leagues for many years. And the longer they take to develop, the older our current "core" becomes, and the more money they require, and the more of them leave in free agency. 

 

It seems like a lot of people (not you personally) will bring up not wanting to sign other good players to multi year deals in fear of blocking some prospect who might be here in a year. Or 2 years. Or 3 years. Or might never be above replacement level. Or might not even stick in the majors. Having too many good players is really not an issue. If you suddenly find yourself flush with multiple high quality players for the same position, then trade one to fill other needs. Too many good players at a position is a "problem" I'd love to have instead of a bunch of positions without any good players. 

    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, Jerr and 9 others like this

As stated above, I would love to hear specific plans. Sign “who” for multi year deals? Addison Reed and Jason Castro were multi year commitments by this front office. They didn’t seem to fare any better than the one year players. I understand your frustration and share it. I would just really like to hear some actionable ideas if not a 3 year plan


The site is littered with people's specific plans. You want a random poster to lay out a three year plan? I'm sure someone will, maybe. Well, they've been in charge for three years.... How's it going? How long until fans should expect winning at a high level? I said I'd give them three years to improve the major league team. Not one player they've added to the major league roster is signed past this year. So far, not impressed. YMMV, of course, and that's cool with me. But I'm not laying out a three year plan.
    • USAFChief, Jerr, Ex-Iowegian and 2 others like this
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Winston Smith
Dec 09 2018 11:09 PM

27 years, one playoff series win and 6 playoff games won. I'm getting way to old for more wait until next year.

Building something requires that you add some players that could be around to build with. All these one year contracts make no sense if you are trying to build something long term.

Next winter what do they do about starting pitching when they start with Berrios and ? 

Looks to me like the marching orders are keep the payroll way down and no long term contracts. Spend the money on radio stations, malls or car dealerships instead.

    • USAFChief, Jerr, Mike Sixel and 11 others like this

From the article: "To their credit, the Twins have been proactive in addressing their needs this offseason. Already they have filled their two clearest positional vacancies. Granted, they've done so by gathering up castoffs non-tendered by other organizations, but C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop are hardly scraps. They're legitimate starters and intriguing flyers for a rebuilding team."

 

I think ownership should simply rename their team, "The Intriguing Flyers." That has been their go-to roster move for a decade or more.

 

A couple of weeks ago, when people were still talking about the Twins having $60 million or so to spend this offseason to reach the $128 million level of 2018, I predicted it would be more like $100-105 million. Now, it looks like it will be closer to $85 mil than $105 mil.

 

What a crock.

 

And to consider it defensible, as a fan, is nothing short of being an enabler.

 

Going hard after a corner IF and a middle IF with real upside, on a multi-year deal, along with one SP with at least a realistic #2 potential, then picking up a couple of decent relief arms, wouldn't have been unrealistic and would absolutely NOT have jeopardized their precious "core" of young players.

 

2 infielders out of other teams' dumpsters and now we aren't allowed to expect anything to speak of for top half of the rotation help?

 

Schoop and Cron were decent pickups IF your intent was merely to add fallback guys in case your December-January efforts to obtain better options don't pan out. But we all know, now, that's not the plan.

 

 

    • ashbury, Steve Lein, USAFChief and 18 others like this

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