There is little debate over the fact that the Twins' moves this offseason haven't done much to help ensure significant improvement in 2013. This club appears to have its sights set fully on a target somewhere further down the line. Among fans and media, there seems to be a split between people who question this approach and those who accept it.
Whatever your feelings on the matter, it's important to be realistic about the timeline for building a contending team around players that are currently in Double-A (or lower). It's also important to remain cognizant of the organization's outlook going forward.
Minnesota's present payroll commitment for this year of about $80 million has been a much bandied number. But the numbers get more interesting as you start to look ahead. By using Jeremy Nygaard's excellent Roster & Payroll resource
, we can see that in 2014 the team is tied up for about $45 million in six existing contracts. They will have many league-minimum youngsters and a number of players eligible for arbitration (many for the first time) but you could generously assume that $20 million will be more than enough to cover all that. It'd still leave them an Albert Pujols short of their 2012 level.
The following year, with Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia, Jared Burton and Ryan Doumit eligible to come off the books, the Twins aren't attached to anyone beyond Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins.
This organization has been burdened by some bad contracts in recent seasons, but in two years the Twins are looking at only $26 million in firmly committed money, which is undeniably an enviable position for a rebuilding team. They will have a great deal of flexibility to sign strong performers to contract extensions, fill holes that they can't patch internally and perhaps even make a blockbuster signing. It's not hard to see the big-picture wisdom in this strategy.
At the same time, they would have had plenty of flexibility even if they splurged on more than the Correia and Mike Pelfrey types in an effort to boost the quality of their current product. And if they thought signing free agents has been challenging this winter, the competition for desirable players only figures to get tougher going forward with fewer options available and more teams eager to spend added revenues.
It sounds like Terry Ryan is at least somewhat interested in luring Joe Saunders
, which would change the complexion of this offseason somewhat, but if that doesn't happen and he moves forward with what he has, it would signal his belief in a few things.
First, that the current pipeline will produce a core capable of taking this team to the next level, and quickly enough that the organization is not mired in this dismal state for three or four more years.
Second, that the pieces he needs to add through free agency and trade (and there will be needs) will be available and will be better investments than pitchers added with multi-year deals now.
Finally, that this year's team – which does feature a number of quality players between Mauer, Morneau, Willingham, Doumit, Perkins and others – will not be particularly close to competitive and that he won't regret taking such minimal steps to provide them with legitimate help.
I'm skeptical about all those things proving true, but they seem to be the gambles Ryan is prepared to take. He's the guy in charge and it's safe to say he knows a little more about this whole rodeo than me or any other fan expressing puzzlement with his approach, so with the season drawing near, I guess we'll just have to hop on board and hope for the best.