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Kluber to the Rangers?

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2019 2020 (non-Twins) off season

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The Discard Pile

While it's true that the Twins pushed their payroll to unprecedented heights in 2018, it's not accurate to suggest the front office executed some sort of aggressive offseason plan that fizzled in practice.

Instead, they adhered to their "opportunistic" credo, jumping on players who were passed up by other clubs in hopes of surfacing overlooked values. It didn't really work out. And this winter, the Twins have more or less done the same thing.
You can make cases that C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Blake Parker and (to a lesser extent) Martin Perez are all logical, savvy additions. But you can't make the case that these players were in any kind of demand. Each was optionally let loose by his former team, and all those teams are looking to compete in 2019.

The Rays, Brewers, Angels and Rangers deemed these players to not be worthwhile at their projected (non-exorbitant) 2019 salaries, so each made the active decision to move on, via non-tender/DFA/declined option. It is essentially tantamount to the way Minnesota viewed Robbie Grossman.

Even Nelson Cruz fell to the Twins at a surprising bargain because the market was lukewarm on him, despite his monstrous offensive production. Seattle didn't show much interest in bringing Cruz back, and Minnesota ultimately found itself bidding against only one or two other teams.

And so, when fans question – or at least attempt to critically analyze – the front office's approach this offseason, it's not so much about the collective expense for these players, which amounts to less than $32 million at a time where the team theoretically had upwards of $50 million to spend.

It's more about the context of how they were acquired. The Twins have been drawing from the discard pile.

Does that mean these moves are all doomed to fail? Not by any means. Personally, I have enough faith in the team's current assembly of analysts and baseball minds that I'm inclined to get behind this strategy for the most part. I like the fact that they've added several players under 30, with every signing other than Schoop coming in the form of a one-year guarantee plus team option. Those are good, team-friendly deals that strike a reasonable low-risk/medium-upside balance.

What's been amiss is that clear, decisive upgrade to the pitching staff. Or that landscape-altering trade that charts a bold new direction for this perpetually stagnating franchise. I can't blame fans who feel underwhelmed with what's been acquired thus far – a collection of cast-offs and a 38-year-old DH who settled for less than almost anyone expected.

The Twins still have about four weeks before their first full-squad workout in Fort Myers, so there's time yet for further additions, but one gets the sense it'll be more of the same. For better or worse, Minnesota appears content to stand pat and roll with what they've got, mixing in mostly gambles and secondary role players rather than clear-cut difference-makers.

The upside is that whatever flexibility they end up preserving through these low-wattage free agent signings will potentially put them in an advantageous position around the trade deadline, should things play out as hoped in the first half. The downside is that they might be hurting their chances of reaching such a "buyer" position to begin with.

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183 Comments

It is pretty clear that Falvey & Levine are operating just like so many other "new breed" baseball executives. That is, to get their jobs, they convinced an owner that they're smart enough to produce a winner without spending more money than the owner is accustomed to spending, thus allowing him to pocket almost all of the additional revenues MLB teams are realizing.

 

It's as if they don't dare spend money, even if that's exactly what's needed to produce a winner. Because even if they WOULD win something by doing that, it wouldn't prove how smart they are.

 

Proving yourself smarter than all the other "geniuses" running MLB teams is more important than winning. 

 

And, of course, even if they fail long enough to get fired, the owner will just hire another self-proclaimed genius who will make the same promise of winning by being smart instead of spending the owner's money.

    • SQUIRREL, peterb18, adjacent and 19 others like this
One or two cheap moves is fine. But in three years, they have emphasized value as a principle. That's fine, but not spending money on them in return is a valid response. Until they show they are serious about winning, I don't know why anyone is paying them money.
    • SQUIRREL, peterb18, Twins33 and 9 others like this

Korn-Ferry.....that is all.

    • Lunger likes this

Great essay and so accurate.What is the move that lights the fire under the fans who are waiting for hope?Surely not anything so far and the Free Agent list no longer looks like it has pitching to help us and that is what we need.

    • Oldgoat_MN, KGB, caninatl04 and 1 other like this

Great essay and so accurate.What is the move that lights the fire under the fans who are waiting for hope? 

Can't help wondering: Dave St. Peter is OK with this?

    • peterb18, Lonestar, mikelink45 and 3 others like this

Korn-Ferry.....that is all.

I’ve been thinking about that. Care to share any additional resources for reading up on what went down?

Since you're using a poker analogy, I'll ante in with some flawed logic.

 

In poker, a 2 of any suit isn't worth much. Yet if the Twins starting rotation had four 2's, they'd be in amazing shape. That's all we're asking...four #2 starters!

    • birdwatcher, h2oface, Monkeypaws and 2 others like this
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Old Twins Cap
Jan 20 2019 09:42 PM

They were in on Darvish last year till the end, and you see how that worked out.

 

A franchise can spend a ton on players and have it blow up in their face.

 

So, the best strategy is to hedge bets, spend what is prudent and pick up what looks like under-valued talent

 

The hope is the same with home-grown talent as what you pick up on the free market.

 

Twins will never win by out-spending New York, LA, Houston and Boston.

    • Ryan Atkins, Mike Frasier Law, PseudoSABR and 5 others like this

I'm sorry, but I am SO tired of people claiming that any of us who believe the Twins should make SOME attempt to put a more competitive product on the field are saying they should spend like NY, LA and Boston!

 

The bottom line is that there are multiple ways to add legitimate talent to your roster and, yes, all of those ways entail taking some risk. FAs can bust. But so can first round draft picks and guys you trade for. 

 

If the FO is so damn smart, they should be as good at evaluating mid and upper level FAs as they are young players. They shouldn't have to consistently take flyers on dregs and reclamation projects that their magic numbers tell them have the best chance of not sucking.

 

NOBODY expects them to spend like the largest markets, but that doesn't mean it's unreasonable to expect more effort than they're making this year. They're not only looking like they'll be pocketing the entire Joe Mauer contract savings, but millions MORE than that!

 

That is indefensible. Plain and simple.

    • SQUIRREL, ashbury, wagwan and 34 others like this

Maybe they are waiting on the price to drop on a couple more pitchers.If that does not happen and this is it then we do not have enough pitching.They still have money they could spend so they may not be done. I still think we have to wait until they are done before we can judge if going through the discard pile was the right approach. They have filled some holes and have not spent all their money.Hopefully the best is yet to come.

    • howieramone2 likes this

 

I'm sorry, but I am SO tired of people claiming that any of us who believe the Twins should make SOME attempt to put a more competitive product on the field are saying they should spend like NY, LA and Boston!

 

The bottom line is that there are multiple ways to add legitimate talent to your roster and, yes, all of those ways entail taking some risk. FAs can bust. But so can first round draft picks and guys you trade for. 

 

If the FO is so damn smart, they should be as good at evaluating mid and upper level FAs as they are young players. They shouldn't have to consistently take flyers on dregs and reclamation projects that their magic numbers tell them have the best chance of not sucking.

 

NOBODY expects them to spend like the largest markets, but that doesn't mean it's unreasonable to expect more effort than they're making this year. They're not only looking like they'll be pocketing the entire Joe Mauer contract savings, but millions MORE than that!

 

That is indefensible. Plain and simple.

 

 

The future of this team is the Lewis-Kirilloff-Berrios core with the hope that prospects from the set of Rooker, Gordon, Romero, Thorpe, Gonsalves, Enlow, Larnach, Jeffers, Arraez amongst others can play strong supporting roles. Then hope that at least a couple of the previous highly touted group Sano, Buxton, Kepler, Polanco can join Rosario to fill out that team. Make a smart trade here and there, find a gem in Rule 5, add a hustle guy like WIllians Astudillio and that is the team you hope has a chance.

 

If those prospects were selected well and we get some good luckwith the other players, then we have a chance to put together a competitive team.If they were not selected well and/or we have some bad luck, then it might be a continuation of the same. 

 

But, we are not going to build a team on these discards.That is what you wait for once you get your group of prospects established to fill holes.Using historical Twins, guys like Chili Davis, Carl Willis, Juan Berengar, Shane Mack, and Brian Harper.  

    • DocBauer, ChrisKnutson, tarheeltwinsfan and 4 others like this
Preach SD Buhr! To build on all that, the geniuses in the FO should also be able to evaluate talent not currently on the market—those that could be acquired by {gasp!} trading some of our “can’t miss” prospects. They should be able to evaluate our home grown talent well enough to know which are over-valued by outsiders and use them to acquire actual/established talent. Put an actual team together, not an organization made up entirely of lotto tickets. That means an appropriate mix of prospects, vets, trades, quality FAs, and even the occasional dumpster dive
    • Oldgoat_MN, bluechipper, dgwills and 2 others like this
I'm pretty sure that the group of Schoop, Cruz and Cron would have been picked up by someone had the Twins not done so already. But Perez, I'm not so sure? I'm sort of perplexed by that one. Because to me they don't need another 5th starter, they have a bunch of those, what they don't have is a #1 or an established closer. In the first half of the season last year I think the Twins lost like 23 games by 1 or 2 runs. Im going off of memory here but I think their record at the break was like 44 - 50. If they had pulled out 10 of those 1 or 2 run losses they would have been 54 - 40???? I think they have the hitting to do that this year. What they don't have is the bullpen to finish off the wins that some of those hitters can provide. Now if they are well more than a few games above .500 then they should at the deadline go out and rent an Ace for the remainder of the season to make that push. But right now they can prob stand pat if they can just solidify the bullpen.
    • mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan, Minny505 and 2 others like this
To me it says they are in the belief that their core is strong enough to just add pieces. I'm not sure I agree with that. It's a book or bust scenario for me.
    • Dman likes this

To me it says they are in the belief that their core is strong enough to just add pieces. I'm not sure I agree with that. It's a book or bust scenario for me.

In my now cynical and less hopeful eyes, I think it says they don’t think this core will do it so they are adding just ‘hoping for some lightning’ players to fill the roster. Until the next wave comes through. Same old story. And what does it say to this core? If I’m this core I’m going to do as well as I can, biding my time until I can get out from under such a winning mentality. (In case anyone didn’t catch it, my winning mentality comment was sarcasm.) If Im this year’s core I’m thinking that’s one huge Sisyphusian goal they’ve been given.

This FO has built a team that might be barely competitive ... competitive, not winning ... in the AL central, and the AL central only ... and that’s if all the ifs come together. Remember how excited we were last year? Yeah, fool me once ...

While I’ve been very vocal about signing Machado, because I felt that could be done without breaking the bank, I also felt it could be done while gathering a few other GOOD pieces through FA and/or trade. I mean, even the best of the RP, we could have signed one or two of those as well and still kept to a similar budget as last year. With their budget last year, which they did fine with ... by fine, I mean, did they lose money last year? No? Even with such poor play, they managed? Hmmm. They have had opportunity this year to add really good pieces to the in-house talent that wouldn’t break the bank, that would have kept them in the realm of last year’s spending, that wouldn’t have put them over the top in the realms of Boston, LA, New York spending, that could have garnered a team that would have been competitive in all of the AL and NL. Instead we have eked out one huge possibly, keep your fingers crossed, maybe, if we get lightning in a bottle, super budget team that in all probability puts us in .500 range.

Count me in the hugely disappointed, hugely uninspired, this is going to be a very long season camp. I guess our new window is when Lewis and Kirilloff get here. Same old story.



And I’m hoping that my outlook is very wrong.
    • USAFChief, peterb18, adjacent and 9 others like this
In the free agent arena, everything is relative. Meaning, the Twins signing of Schoop, Cruz and Cron and last years free agent gets, is no different than the signings they have made in the past. Relatively speaking. In the 'old' FA days these players would haver garnered more interest, and the Twins would have been outbid. In today's market, the fact of the matter is the players costs have sunk to the Twins level, not vice versa. This FO is not berift of good doings. In the old regime, Molitor is still our manager. For fans who are of an analytical bent, this FO has increased that focus numerous fold. They have moved some pending FA at the breaks getting something what was to become nothing. It ain't perfect, but what is. My feelings or hope (Somedays the two terms get confused) is that they are playing the long game, that they realize that they can't buy a winner, it's going to have to come internally. Are they? Can they? Will they?
    • tarheeltwinsfan and wabene like this

 

In my now cynical and less hopeful eyes, I think it says they don’t think this core will do it so they are adding just ‘hoping for some lightning’ players to fill the roster. Until the next wave comes through. Same old story. And what does it say to this core? If I’m this core I’m going to do as well as I can, biding my time until I can get out from under such a winning mentality. (In case anyone didn’t catch it, my winning mentality comment was sarcasm.) If Im this year’s core I’m thinking that’s one huge Sisyphusian goal they’ve been given.

This FO has built a team that might be barely competitive ... competitive, not winning ... in the AL central, and the AL central only ... and that’s if all the ifs come together. Remember how excited we were last year? Yeah, fool me once ...

While I’ve been very vocal about signing Machado, because I felt that could be done without breaking the bank, I also felt it could be done while gathering a few other GOOD pieces through FA and/or trade. I mean, even the best of the RP, we could have signed one or two of those as well and still kept to a similar budget as last year. With their budget last year, which they did fine with ... by fine, I mean, did they lose money last year? No? Even with such poor play, they managed? Hmmm. They have had opportunity this year to add really good pieces to the in-house talent that wouldn’t break the bank, that would have kept them in the realm of last year’s spending, that wouldn’t have put them over the top in the realms of Boston, LA, New York spending, that could have garnered a team that would have been competitive in all of the AL and NL. Instead we have eked out one huge possibly, keep your fingers crossed, maybe, if we get lightning in a bottle, super budget team that in all probability puts us in .500 range.

Count me in the hugely disappointed, hugely uninspired, this is going to be a very long season camp. I guess our new window is when Lewis and Kirilloff get here. Same old story.



And I’m hoping that my outlook is very wrong.

Sisyphusian....rock solid analogy.

    • SQUIRREL likes this

Except for Nelson Cruz, this off-season has felt more like an expansion draft, 1962 New York Mets style. In effect we've picked up Elio Chacon for middle infield, washed up Gil Hodges at 1B, and Roger Craig for our rotation. Not bad players individually, but 40-120 caliber to supplement our core when all is said and done.

    • mikelink45, Platoon and SF Twins Fan like this

 

Except for Nelson Cruz, this off-season has felt more like an expansion draft, 1962 New York Mets style. In effect we've picked up Elio Chacon for middle infield, washed up Gil Hodges at 1B, and Roger Craig for our rotation. Not bad players individually, but 40-120 caliber to supplement our core when all is said and done.

So you're saying Cron's going to become a World Series winning manager? From this day forward Rocco's on thin ice............

    • ashbury likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 21 2019 08:08 AM

My main worry is that FA's block young players who have been working hard to make it on the Twins' roster someday. Then the FO signs Perez. What does that say to Gonsalves and Mejia and Thorpe? It says, none of you are good enough so we signed this guy Perez, whose minor league numbers were not as good as yours, and whosemajor league numbers are well below average. Part of the psyche of the 3 young lefty hopefuls will be saying: "I'll show you and even though I am trying as hard as I thought was humanly possible,it must not be enough so I'll try harder" and part of their psyche will be saying: "This is not fair to me nor to my minor league brothers and I can't wait to get out of this organization and go to an organization that has faith in me as a player and gives me a fair chance". Where is the loyalty on behalf of the FO? Am I being naive to think that building a championship major league team can begin in the minor leagues with a core of winners who progress together to the Twins major league team? 

    • peterb18, Oldgoat_MN, Platoon and 1 other like this

A team that won't spend money can't do multiple 1-year deals. The money problem never goes away, but those players do, all while blocking the cheap players they could have been developing.

    • Mike Sixel, Twins33, Oldgoat_MN and 8 others like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 21 2019 08:24 AM

Nick, Your Discard Pile was a very well thought out article and makes many good points. I like the fact that you are a "glass half-full" guy..... My mom used to read "The Pokey Little Puppy" to me when I was a little fellow. He was always lagging behind. That story may have caused me be a Senators/Twins fan for all my life.I wonder if she had read "The Little Red Hen" to me more, would I have become a Yankees' fan?.

    • Nick Nelson, Mike Frasier Law and BJames like this

Deadline trade fodder. Indicates that team management does not expect to win. How do you keep that expectation from filtering down to the players? I'm pretty sure you can't. 

 

I don't think you can build a winner without trying to, you know, win. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan and BJames like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 21 2019 08:29 AM

 

In my now cynical and less hopeful eyes, I think it says they don’t think this core will do it so they are adding just ‘hoping for some lightning’ players to fill the roster. Until the next wave comes through. Same old story. And what does it say to this core? If I’m this core I’m going to do as well as I can, biding my time until I can get out from under such a winning mentality. (In case anyone didn’t catch it, my winning mentality comment was sarcasm.) If Im this year’s core I’m thinking that’s one huge Sisyphusian goal they’ve been given.

This FO has built a team that might be barely competitive ... competitive, not winning ... in the AL central, and the AL central only ... and that’s if all the ifs come together. Remember how excited we were last year? Yeah, fool me once ...

While I’ve been very vocal about signing Machado, because I felt that could be done without breaking the bank, I also felt it could be done while gathering a few other GOOD pieces through FA and/or trade. I mean, even the best of the RP, we could have signed one or two of those as well and still kept to a similar budget as last year. With their budget last year, which they did fine with ... by fine, I mean, did they lose money last year? No? Even with such poor play, they managed? Hmmm. They have had opportunity this year to add really good pieces to the in-house talent that wouldn’t break the bank, that would have kept them in the realm of last year’s spending, that wouldn’t have put them over the top in the realms of Boston, LA, New York spending, that could have garnered a team that would have been competitive in all of the AL and NL. Instead we have eked out one huge possibly, keep your fingers crossed, maybe, if we get lightning in a bottle, super budget team that in all probability puts us in .500 range.

Count me in the hugely disappointed, hugely uninspired, this is going to be a very long season camp. I guess our new window is when Lewis and Kirilloff get here. Same old story.



And I’m hoping that my outlook is very wrong.

Greek mythology...yes. I love this website.

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Major League Ready
Jan 21 2019 08:35 AM

If all of you who insist the best path to winning for a mid-market team is through trading prospects for established players or spending on"higher-end" free agents.There should be several examples of teams that have executed this strategy. Show us the examples.It should be easy. If there are not an ample number of examples, you are insisting your conclusion is far better than the "geniuses" based on youropinion without an supporting evidence. In other words, your opinion is an assumption, not a conclusion reasoned from results (data).

 

Let's make the parameters clear.

1) Teams that provide by far the best data for this exercise are teams with similar or less revenue than the Twins.

2) An established player that is a difference maker has had at least one season of 3 WAR or better.

3)If we are establishing the merit of different strategies, we can't simply count any player acquired through trade. Players acquired as minor league players or before becoming established is the opposite of what is being promoted here. The fact is that there are far more players contributing to successful teams similar to the Twins in revenue that were acquired before becoming establish MLB players.

4) What exactly is a higher-end free agent is hard to quantify but it's not Jed Lowry at 3/24. That too is the opposite of what is being promoted here. I would define higher-end (difference maker)MLB free agents as those who sign for more than $50M or RPs @ 8M AAV but there is certainly room for interpretation.

5) We are interested in how the players who produced were acquired not the roster in general. It makes no sense to count roster spots when the core point is the most productive players.

 

Let's see the examples of 90+ win teams with equivalent or less revenue built on the practices being promoted here. Then, let's compare that list to the list of similar teams where there are no such examples or where players acquired in this way had a modest degree of impact on overall success.

 

What if your assumptions are not supported by history. Could it be you are insisting on practices that all of the other similar teams have determined are poor practices. I don't care for the Perez trade either but that's not all that relevant to relative merit of a mid market team building through free agency and trading key prospects. The notion we are going to trade excess mid level prospects for difference makers is incredibly naive.

    • wabene likes this

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