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The dynasty that wasn't; The 2002 to 2010 Twins Part 2

Posted by Supfin99 , 18 December 2018 · 1,256 views

In Part one we covered to injuries that had a massive affect on this era of Twins teams. I didn't even get into the concussions that derailed both Morneau's and Mauers careers.

In Part 2 we will cover what I consider personnel decisions that range from bad to ridiculous to borderline criminal. The first one I want to cover is the one I alluded to when discussing Jason Kubel's injury. Kubel was a very solid outfielder before the injury, even playing some centerfield. His range after the injury was greatly reduced.
In looking for better production in LF the Twins made a bad trade after the 2007 season. The Twins sent Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young and Brendon Harris. Delmon was famously the number 1 overall pick in 2003 and was considered the top prospect in baseball for several seasons. In his first full season he had slashed .290/.336/.405 with 21 doubles and 12 homers in roughly 3 quarters of a season. He finished 2nd in the ROY voting. Delmon would go on to have 1 really good and 2 below average season for the Twins while playing horrendous defense in LF. He would be traded during the 2011 season. Harris would have 2 nondescript seasons for the Twins. Garza and Bartlet would go to Tampa Bay and were huge reasons why the Rays went to the World Series in 2008. Before being traded Bartlet had hit .309/.367/.393 and .265/.339/.361 in his previous 2 seasons for the Twins. He had 3 seasons of team control left and was only 27 at the time the trade. Bartlet would hit .286/.329/.361 and .320/.389/.490 for the Rays in the next 2 seasons while garnering MVP votes in 2008 and making the All Star team in 2009. Garza was 24 at the time of the trade and entering his 1st full season 5 seasons of team control remaining. Garza had been solid for the Twins when called up during 2008 season with an ERA+ of 117 and an FIP of 4.17. He definitely showed promise. Over the next 4 season from 2008 to 2011 for the Rays and then the Cubs after being traded he would average 200 innings per year and had ERA+ of 119, 110, 100 and 118. He was absolutely the type of above average innings eater that the Twins craved during these years. To add a little salt to the wound Garza was traded for Chris Archer among others when he was sent to the Cubs after the 2010 season.

The next decision is still hard for me to think about. David Ortiz was non tendered after the 2002 season. We all know what Big Papa went on to a HOF career for the Red Sox leading them to 3 World Series titles. This is not a case of 20/20 rear view vision. The release of Ortiz made no sense at the time. He had struggled to stay healthy at times, wasn't in the greatest shape and clashed with TK. But there was no reason to non tender him. In his final year for the Twins Ortiz had hit .272/.339/.500 with 32 doubles and 20 homers. His OPS was .839 and OPS+ was 120. He was just 26 years old. He was one of the few Twins that showed plus power. It isn't like the Twins had some huge prospect they needed to make room for. Mathew LeCroy received most of the DH at bats in 2003. He had a respectable .832 OPS. But it doesn't mean there wasn't at least room for a platoon with Ortiz batting against righties and LeCroy vs lefties. The Twins would struggle to get production from the DH position for the next decade while Ortiz was crushing for the Red Sox. The Twins trotted out luminaries as Jose Offerman, Rondell White and Jason Tyner as designate hitters during this time. In 2006 while White was putting up a .641 OPS, Ortiz was hitting 54 homers and knocking in 137 RBI. Instead of non tendering Ortiz you should have been signing him to an extension.

The 2006 batting order could have been Luis Castillo 2B, .358 OBP. Jason Bartlett SS .367 OBP, Joe Mauer C .936 OPS .429 OBP, David Ortiz 1.049 OPS 54 HR, Justin Morneau 1B .936 OPS 34 HR, Torii Hunter .826 OPS 31 HR, Jason Kubel LF .800 OPS 25 HR (Projected) Michael Cuddyer .867 OPS 24 HR, Nick Punto 3B .352 OBP

Lack of reasonable extensions and filling the bottom parts of the roster. Terry Ryan hated spending the Pohlads money. I truly believe he did this because he looked it as badge of honor that the Twins could compete with a budget that often times was less than half of the big boys. I liked this fact too. I'm not advocating doubling the payroll during this period, But a well placed additional 10 to 15 million dollars per season could have done wonders. Ryan was very leery to go past 4 years for contacts even for his best players. Santana, Hunter, Mauer and Morneau all signed similar 4 year deals that contained no options. Meanwhile the rest of the industry was signing guys to 6 and sometimes even longer deals. If Santana had been offered a 6 year deal at market value there is a strong chance he would have taken it. This would have you allowed to have him for 2 to 3 more years of his prime. Same for Torii Hunter. You would have had Mauer signed thru 2012 originally and not been forced to sign him to a monster extension after his incredible 2009 season. I know small market teams cannot afford to get stuck in long expensive contracts but all 4 of these guys were young when they signed there 1st big contracts but already had proven track records of excellent production. They were all worth the risk of longer extensions. A longer contract can have good and bad risks. Sometimes the market grows so quickly that a contract is outdated by the time it is up. Sometimes it turns out like Mike Hampton. In the case of Mauer, the Twins could actually have saved millions of dollars by signing him to a longer more expensive extension the 1st time. By the time Mauer would have been a free agent after say a 6 year contract he would have already moved to first base. His next contract would have paled in comparison to the 8 year deal he signed in 2009. Longer contracts would have allowed the Twins to keep Santana's and Hunter's services farther into their primes.

It was always frustrating to see the Twins fill out the rosters with the fillers all making near the league minimum or signing hope and a prayer types. Too many rejects like the cast covered earlier that played DH, plus all the middle infielders, relief pitchers and 5th starters that they brought in. If they would have sent just a little money on a few free agents they could have extended the quality of their lineup, bullpen and/or rotation.

With better decision making and injury luck I really believe this era of Twins could have been a dynasty that won multiple championships. The top end talent was just so good. In Santana, Nathan, Mauer, Morneau and Hunter they had 5 of the best 20 players in baseball all in their prime at the same time. With better decisions and luck you could have added Kubel, Liriano and Ortiz to that list. No team in baseball could have matched a group of high end talent like that. A lineup that boasts Mauer, Morneau, Hunter, Ortiz, Cuddyer and Kubel reads like an all star game. This would have been the best lineup in the majors even if you had Seth playing SS, Arron at 3B and Nick at 2nd. A rotation led by Santana and Liriano would have been favored in any series against any opponent during the playoffs in this time. The rest of the rotation spots would have been filled by pitchers such as Brad Radke, Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Carlos Silva and Nick Blackburn during different years.

Just imagine all the 10 year, 20 year and 25 year anniversaries we could celebrate for championships in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010. Oh what could have been.

  • USAFChief, glunn and h2oface like this



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theBOMisthebomb
Dec 19 2018 12:49 PM
Cheering for Minnesota men's professional sports team sucks enough without rehashing the past and what could have been like this. We live in Loserville, USA. Let's not completely bash in our own heads reliving the past.
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FargoFanMan
Dec 20 2018 06:44 PM
Very good points from both parts 1 and 2. Maybe in 3 you could go in depth of the horrible deadline deals that did and didn’t happen. One of my major points I always take is the trades that never happened at the deadline to bolster those solid teams going into the playoffs. Other than the Shannon Stewart trade Ryan never made the big trade to push the team into the final months and into October. Sure hindsight is always 20/20 but never once were we even in the running for a big upgrade. Obviously those prospects we were unwilling to trade flopped but I would have been more ok in that we tried. Ryan always sat on his hands and never pushed all the chips to the middle and went for it and that was one of the biggest things that frustrated me.

If you want to know where you are and why you are there. You must know where you've been. 

 

Things that you have touched on... Have ramifications being felt today.

 

We have built no value. We've have consistently exhausted our assets 

 

Garza/Young trade - It's easy to minimize this deal as a simple bad trade... It was a bad trade.11 years later, it's even worse when you trace what the Rays still have and what we still have. Matt Garza is still giving to the Rays with Glasnow, Meadows and Shane Baz. 

 

Carlos Gomez 9 years later is still giving to the Brewers. Josh Hader, Ben Gamel and Adam Houser are with the Brewers today. 

 

I encourage everyone to trace the trade trees. I've done it... it takes your breath away a little. Look at what we hold today and what other teams are holding and you realize soon after that maximizing value was something we were terrible at and this is a major reason we are still wondering what kind of team we have in 2019. 

 

 

    • h2oface and FargoFanMan like this

Excellent article, clear observations, reasonable conclusions.

Only complaint: there should be a link to Part 1.

Thanks

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Channing1964
Jan 14 2019 01:42 AM
I love your post! Man the numbers dont show it but down the stretch in '06 Garza was CLUTCH!. I think i heard he had some little personality clash with Gardenhire that led to his ticket outta here but not sure. We can rehash the bad moves and the what ifs all we want but that whole era doesnt happen without the Pierzynski for Nathan/Bonser/Liriano trade. To be that good for that long doesnt happen without an elite closer. Are you listening Derek n Thad?