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Crushing or Flushing?

Posted by mike8791 , 16 December 2017 · 704 views

The MLB meetings are officially over and many more questions remain than have been answered for most organizations. While the lack of activity, especially among the top player categories, has been surprising, there are some tentative conclusions that can be drawn about Falvine and their impact on the Twins. We recognize the jury is still out until the dust settles, but let's stop for a moment to look at the state of the Twins as of now, at least.

There has been much talk about the opening of the Twins' window for contention. Last year, coming off a 103 loss season, there was little chatter on these pages about the Twins emerging as contenders. Essentially, the Falvines were given a pass on their lack of roster additions a year ago because of the improbability of making a great leap forward in 2017.

Well lo and behold, a miracle occurred, the Twins won 26 more games, made the playoffs and Molitor was MOY. No doubt Falvine was as surprised as the rest of us, even at the trade deadline when they sold off rather than added. While they were subject to much criticism at the time, their moves were generally looked at as positive in adding longer term depth to a very shaky pitching staff.

Now there is much talk on TD about how close the Twins really are to contention, not just for a wild card berth again but for a real strong run deep into the post season. Should the Twins bide their time, see how sustainable their 2017 season was, and make bolder moves next offseason or even 2012 or should they go all in now?

This is really a chicken and egg question. If managment does little more than they've done to date, they are basically treading water for 2018, hoping on a wing and prayer that the young hitting core continues to improve, the few veterans at least match 2017 results, and a fair number of one year vets or rookies surprise and become larger contributors to a winning team. But isn't it just as likely some backsliding will occur(as it did in 2016 vs. 2015) if certain holes aren't filled?

The simple fact is that it is up to the boy wonders to make sure the window not only stays open but widens. This is what Epstein and company did as the core of position players was rounding into shape in 2014, resulting in them taking major steps in free agency by signing FA's like Lester and Lackey to bolster a thin starting staff. It should be emphasized that the Cubs also opened the window wider by making so many astute trades to land the likes of Hendriks, Rizzo, Russell and Arrietta - without ransacking their farm system. Brilliant trading and drafting, combined with astute FA signings, catapulted the Cubs to a World Championsip in 2016.

Some on this board might dismiss this comparison to the Cubs as stretching the point, saying that the Cubs operate in a much bigger market than the Twins. When it comes to media dollars, this is true to a point but let us remember the Twins have greater attendance capabilities than the Cubs and an owner reportedly the richest in baseball. The big difference really in the two organizations is new Cubs' ownership committment to bringing a championship to Chicago and went right out to hire a front office and field manager to accomplish just that. Has anyone seen Twins' managment making similar pronouncements?

Everything we've heard from Twins' ownership indicates they wil;l support Falvine in their efforts and that money is not the overriding concern. There are some promising hints that this offseason might represent a departure in that the Twins FO is making a concerted play fort Yu Darvish, probably the top FA pitcher on the market. If, indeed, they accomplish such a signing it will be long-needed signal to Twin fans accustomed to a reactionary FO that things really are changing and that Falvine is pro active in actually sending a strong message to the existing roster that they are going to do whatever is necessary to bring a winner to the twin cities.

Not that the signing o Darvish alone would assure a widening of the window to the extent enough to compete with the Indians, Astros, Yankees, etc. in a playoff series. The signing of Rodney as closer is a step forward but by no means turns the bullpen into a position of strength. A shutdown 8th inning(or 9th) reliever is almost a must to jump to the next level. A real RH DH is critical to helping sustain and possibly improve the lineup. And most importantly, one more solid starter must be added to shore up a woeful back end of the rotation. Relying on Gibson and Mejia to be part of a playoff bound starting rotation is more in the category of a hope and prayer. With Mauer's contract coming off the books after 2018, this is the time to spend the dollars and take the risk of trading top minor leaguers to land one additional mid to top rotation starter.

So opening the window further is strictly on Falvey at this time. If they fail to add Darvish, all this talk about "crushing it" will be just words. Yes, they have done some clever things regarding roster managment but it's all window dressing for now. They must realize that the core who outperformed so remarkably in 2017 needs help - lots of it. If they don't act in the next few weeks(most major moves are normally made before the holidays) to fill these very real holes, then they will have Failvined in their responsibilities. They will have flushed it, not crushed it. There can be no excuses any more. The opportunity is there for the taking if they have the b...s to go for it.

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