• How MLB Teams Rebuild - Part 2

    Not all bad teams are created equal. Some teams are bad for just one injury-plagued season. Some teams are bad for a few seasons and then good for a few seasons. Some teams are just chronically bad.

    Bad teams have the benefit of receiving good draft picks, but other than that, they don't really gain any sort of advantage from being bad. And there are disadvantages. Bad teams can struggle to attract fans and free agents, while also struggling to keep their own home-grown players.

    Yesterday, we looked at the two worst teams in MLB in 2012, the Astros and Cubs, and saw that they took much different paths towards rebuilding. Today, we'll look at the next three, including the Minnesota Twins. All are very different in their methods this offseason.
    ~~~Originally posted at Kevin Slowey was Framed~~~


    Colorado Rockies - Hide under coats; hope it all works out

    2010 - 83-79
    Ubaldo Jimenez 7.3 Indians
    Troy Tulowitzki 6.5 Rockies
    Carlos Gonzalez 5.8 Rockies
    Jhoulys Chacin 2.4 Rockies
    Miguel Olivo 2.3 Reds
    2011 - 73-89
    Troy Tulowitzki 5.9 Rockies
    Carlos Gonzalez 4.2 Rockies
    Jhoulys Chacin 3.6 Rockies
    Chris Iannetta 3.1 Angels
    Dexter Fowler 2.5 Rockies
    2012 - 64-98
    Rafael Betancourt 2.6 Rockies
    Dexter Fowler 2.5 Rockies
    Matt Belisle 2.3 Rockies
    Jhoulys Chacin 2 Rockies
    Josh Roenicke 2 Twins

    The Rockies confuse me. They have had two consecutive bad seasons. They have a couple of superstar players, but both miss a decent chunk of seemingly each season (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez). They did next to nothing this off-season, other than signing Jeff Francis, and trading for Reid Brignac and Wilton Lopez. These aren't moves that help rebuild a team. They also did not trade anyone for any sort of young player or prospect.

    Their strategy seems to hinge on healthy seasons from their stars and development from their young pitchers. Their farm system is pretty poor, so there isn't a lot of help coming from that part of the organization. They have good players (I love Dexter Fowler), but they also have old players.

    On the other hand, Gonzalez is 27 and Tulowitzki is 28. Both are signed forever, so that is good, but there isn't much around them. Michael Cuddyer is overrated, Todd Helton is a billion and I can't think of a third thing. I think that is a bad sign. I can't assess any risk because I have no idea what they are even doing.

    Minnesota Twins - Some sort of Cobra-Squirrel hybrid

    2010 - 94-68
    Joe Mauer 5.5 Twins
    Justin Morneau 4.6 Twins
    Jim Thome 3.4 NOWHERE
    Orlando Hudson 2.6 NOWHERE
    Brian Duensing 2.4 Twins
    2011 - 63-99
    Scott Baker 4.2 Cubs
    Denard Span 2.3 Nationals
    Glen Perkins 2 Twins
    Carl Pavano 1.8 NOWHERE
    Michael Cuddyer 1.7 Rockies
    2012 - 66-96
    Denard Span 4.8 Nationals
    Joe Mauer 4.1 Twins
    Jamey Carroll 3.2 Twins
    Josh Willingham 2.9 Twins
    Ben Revere 2.4 Phillies

    The Twins have certainly struck like a cobra in a few instances this off-season. They added three young pitchers (Vance Worley, Alex Meyer, and Trevor May) in two excellent trades.

    At the same time, they have been hesitant to trade off other valuable players like Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau. They may simply be lying in wait, looking for the best deal. It is also possible that the market for these two players isn't very good right now. Each has question marks, and each could address them in 2013, raising their trade value. The Twins never really seem committed to a full rebuild, but they have done a nice job of picking their spots and addressing their needs.

    It is still a work-in-progress, though. Much like the Astros, the Twins could run out of good players to trade. Really, other than Willingham and Morneau, the only realistic trade pieces are Ryan Doumit, Glen Perkins and Jared Burton. Each of those guys might also be worth keeping around. Unlike the Astros, the Twins have more near-ready prospect talent. Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Alex Meyer, Kyle Gibson and Trevor May are all top ten prospects who likely will be playing in Minnesota before the end of the 2014 season. The Twins also have some payroll flexibility, and could use the 2013 off-season to truly improve their MLB team, around these young, promising players.

    Some are starting to say that 2013 is not a rebuilding year. I don't agree with that sentiment, but I do think the Twins are going to relevant as soon as 2014. I see strong parallels between 2014 and that 2001 season that started their AL Central mini-dynasty. There was an uproar about the free agent starting pitchers that were signed this off-season, but the reality is that the Twins likely did not want to sign anyone who would block the young arms who are getting closer to Minnesota each day. There is risk here, and the middle infield is still an issue, but the Twins are amassing resources and making shrewd moves when given the opportunity.

    Cleveland Indians - Protein Powder

    2010 - 69-93
    Shin-Soo Choo 5.6 Reds
    Roberto Hernandez 2.5 Rays
    Chris Perez 2.5 Indians
    Travis Hafner 2.1 Yankees
    Carlos Santana 1.8 Indians
    2011 - 80-82
    Asdrubal Cabrera 4.6 Indians
    Justin Masterson 3.6 Indians
    Carlos Santana 3.4 Indians
    Jack Hannahan 2.2 Reds
    Joe Smith 2.2 Indians
    2012 - 68-94
    Jason Kipnis 3.7 Indians
    Carlos Santana 3.7 Indians
    Shin-Soo Choo 3.1 Reds
    Asdrubal Cabrera 3 Indians
    Michael Brantley 2.9 Indians

    The Indians seem to be employing a strategy similar to the Cubs. They likely had a better MLB team to begin with, but definitely do not have a comparable farm system. The Indians seem to be targeting their weaknesses and dealing from their strengths. This isn't a unique strategy, but that doesn't make it any easier to implement. The Indians needed to bolster their young pitching, and used Shin-Soo Choo, a great player, to get Trevor Bauer. Bauer has his flaws, but he also has crazy upside. The Indians also signed some good players in free agency, including Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and yes, Mark Reynolds.

    They have their core of good players: Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, Bourn and Swisher. They have interesting arms in Bauer, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, and Ubaldo Jimenez. They also have two great bullpen arms in Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez. You could make the argument that the Indians have been rebuilt. They might not be a World Series team, but who knows? A lot of people want to find the next 2012 Orioles or 2012 A's. Likely, there won't be one, but the Indians might be as good a bet as any other team.

    So, not all rebuilds are the same. Each of these teams had major flaws, and that is why they were the five worst teams in 2012. However, each is employing a different method in their quest to return to relevance. Which strategies will work? Only time will tell.
    This article was originally published in blog: How the worst MLB teams are rebuilding started by Brad Swanson
    Comments 36 Comments
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Letting Shin-Soo Choo go had to be very unpopular to the casual fans.
      The Indians look to be completely unpredictable for this year. That in itself will be entertaining.
    1. Blake's Avatar
      Blake -
      I have to think that Justin is gone at the trade deadline, providing, of course, the Twins are out of contention at that time...(fortunately, one can type such a thing and not worry about keeping a straight face.) Hopefully, Justin has a good year, increasing his trade value.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Trades always sound like a swell idea--to the team that has an asset they perceive to be "fully valued". But we need to view from the perspective of "the other team". What value do they place on our asset? And is it possible that patience will permit them to acquire this player "for less"? We have read this about free-agents who have not signed as Spring training is about (or already has!) to begin--that the price will come down.

      Another example: during the Santana trade both Boston and New York were pointing-out that they believed they were "paying twice" for Santana. Once for acquiring him and second for paying him his salary. I'm confident that this reasoning would apply to any trade for Morneau or Willingham.
      The Twins must accept "diminished expectations" for said players. Other teams will see the same shortcomings in these two that the Twins see, and will adjust their "exchange" accordingly. The return on a trade will very likely be disappointing. I believe Willingham has significant value as a DH (more than what the Twins would recieve in return for a trade) and therefore should be retained. He won't be blocking anybody as a DH.

      AAA experience? The Twins Way includes extensive time in the minor leagues not just for the purpose of a man "proving himself" but also to become a Twins Player. But there comes a time when a guy has "to prove himself as a MLB player"--and that can't be done in the minor leagues. Consider Plouffe. There is still doubt in the Twins mind that he is the long-term solution at 3B--despite his 2012 season and all of the time he has spent in the franchise being evaluated. My point, if Plouffe's actual ML experience wasn't enough, then any more MiL experince for Dozier definately won't prove he belongs at the ML level. Dozier is 25 (soon 26), he has had plenty of years (from age 8) to "learn how to play", now it's time to actually play. The back-and-forth between AAA and ML may be fine for 22 yr-olds but not 26.

      The analogy of Carroll's career path and could that be Dozier in the future, sets the performance standard at "mediocre", not excellent. If these "good-guy, mediocre-type" players become the goal of the organization, they doom the franchise to continual disappointment. "Good-enough" is the enemy of "excellent".
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      The articles ought to be called how not to rebuild a team. Look at the number of years the Astro's have been down. Their good players aged, left as free agents, and they had not developed replacements. Chicago continues to buy talent, susstains nothing. Cleveland's talent played well for only one year since the 90's group got old.
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      So when you look at the information provided what stands out is that there are by WAR not many high quality players on these teams. Chicago buys talent, but it is not upper echelon talent. Go to fangraphs and see what the top players on Detroit, Cinci and the Giants look like. Note how the aqquired most of their talent (draft, trade and develop). That should be your guide on how teams rebuild, not the bottom feeders.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Chicago also just changed GMs, which kind of makes them hard to gage. They used to be a heavy player in the FA market. While Theo will go there, he believes in a farm system too and does some Beane style moves (like Scott Baker) to hopefully improve that.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      Note how the aqquired most of their talent (draft, trade and develop). That should be your guide on how teams rebuild, not the bottom feeders.
      I don't see how this is a counter-point to anything being suggested. The Cubs, when buying FAs, were never "rebuilding". Likewise, I wouldn't call Cleveland "rebuilding", that happened years ago and as guys like Kipnis, Santana, Chisenhall are coming up now. Most any team rebuilds with drafting, trading, and developing.

      The question really is, how much of their current roster do they maintain while they are doing that. Personally, I think you move guys when you are offered value for them. What boggles my mind is that this team is so resistant to trade the "core" guys but then doesn't hesitate to let them walk. See: Hunter and Cuddyer.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Hunter was most surprised his option was excercised (he had listed his MN residence). I think Hunter and Santana were kept for 2007 because the FO believed that the team could expand on its '06 success.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      I agree with Leviathan. The Twins allow guys to walk. What they did with Span is basically what you should be looking at for most any player. Another season or two out of Perkins, then move him on and replace him with another body, for example. I'm sure the Twins braintrust is trying to figure out how to get the msot out of their "prospects" now that so many are needed, sadly, but still not have them all hit arbitration or free agency at the same time, or the longterm prospects of signing the guys to team friendly contracts early like they did with Span, and Perkins, and Baker, and in some ways Blackburn.
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I don't see how this is a counter-point to anything being suggested. The Cubs, when buying FAs, were never "rebuilding". Likewise, I wouldn't call Cleveland "rebuilding", that happened years ago and as guys like Kipnis, Santana, Chisenhall are coming up now. Most any team rebuilds with drafting, trading, and developing.

      The question really is, how much of their current roster do they maintain while they are doing that. Personally, I think you move guys when you are offered value for them. What boggles my mind is that this team is so resistant to trade the "core" guys but then doesn't hesitate to let them walk. See: Hunter and Cuddyer.
      Bother Levi your memory is either short or other reasons. Cuddyer's last year was in the middle of a penant chase. I don't recall you people demanding he be traded before they couldn't get anything for him. If JO Berios is a real deal, then it will work out as a great trade. If Luke Bard workd out, then they did great with Kubel. By most accounts the Hunter contract with the Angels was an unforseable blow them out of the water offer. The Twins did try and were more than generous with their offer. Time will tell if Harrison and Boyd will be great compensation for Hunter. It is so easy to forget.

      My Brother Levi. I am sorry I did not post it clearly enough for all to understand between my two posts (pesky work gets in the way) that in no way did I consider Cleveland, Houston, or the Cubs to be rebuilding at this time. It would say that there was something there. I will try harder next time to be clearer for you
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      By most accounts the Hunter contract with the Angels was an unforseable blow them out of the water offer. The Twins did try and were more than generous with their offer. Time will tell if Harrison and Boyd will be great compensation for Hunter. It is so easy to forget.
      The Angels offered way more money than was expected but the Twins were never competitive on their offers to retain Hunter, just as they weren't competitive on their offers to Johan.

      Letting someone walk without an offer and letting someone walk because your offer is 60% of market value is pretty much the same thing, one just looks better to a casual fan.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      The Angels offered way more money than was expected but the Twins were never competitive on their offers to retain Hunter, just as they weren't competitive on their offers to Johan.

      Letting someone walk without an offer and letting someone walk because your offer is 60% of market value is pretty much the same thing, one just looks better to a casual fan.
      The market value as you call it is set after the contract is signed. It was pretty much a universal wow when the Angels went that high. Doesn't excuse the Twins from not increasing their offer when the first was rejected. Hunter's agent never gave the Twins a counter offer either. The dollars per year was more than competitive with what other players received the same year or previous years. The other offers Hunter had were never made public that I know of. I recall that the White Sox made a 4 year offer. It would be reasonable to think that the dollar amount wasn't high enough. The Twins probably were more money per year, The Sox more years. The Angels came out of nowhere and made an offer Hunter couldn't refuse nor bother to give the Twins notice. I do remember later reports on Hunter not liking the interaction he had with Smith and felt the outcome might have been different with Ryan as GM
      Santana made it clear he wanted to play elsewhere irrespective of offer.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      The Twins probably were more money per year, The Sox more years.
      As memory serves, the Twins offer was for both less money and years.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      I do remember later reports on Hunter not liking the interaction he had with Smith and felt the outcome might have been different with Ryan as GM.
      Which is strange, since Ryan was the one who offered him the lowball offer during the 2007 season.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by FrodaddyG View Post
      As memory serves, the Twins offer was for both less money and years.
      The Twins offer was less years and money than the Angels, I was pointing out the report that the White Sox were a team that made an offer. Do you have what the White Sox offered?
      The year before JD Drew signed 5/60. A 3 year contract would be far too short, but averaging 15 mil per year is not in terms of the Drew contract lowball in terms of dollars per year.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      The year before JD Drew signed 5/60. A 3 year contract would be far too short, but averaging 15 mil per year is not in terms of the Drew contract lowball in terms of dollars per year.
      And why would Hunter's target be anywhere near the same level as JD Drew? Hunter was a Gold Glove defender at an up the middle position who could actually hit. Drew was a corner outfielder. If he told his agent "go get me the same deal as JD Drew", he'd be an idiot, as evidenced by the fact that he got significantly more.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by FrodaddyG View Post
      And why would Hunter's target be anywhere near the same level as JD Drew? Hunter was a Gold Glove defender at an up the middle position who could actually hit. Drew was a corner outfielder. If he told his agent "go get me the same deal as JD Drew", he'd be an idiot, as evidenced by the fact that he got significantly more.
      15 million a year wasn't significantly higher than 12?
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      15 million a year wasn't significantly higher than 12?
      25% higher. How much higher is $18M?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      Time will tell if Harrison and Boyd will be great compensation for Hunter. It is so easy to forget.
      The point was not one about return, it was one of philosophy. The Twins bristle at the suggestion that they should trade people, whether they are in contention or not. They also appear to have little qualms with letting guys walk no matter how vital to the clubhouse or how good they are at playing the Twins Way. (Cuddyer alone proves this) So it always bothers me when I hear Ryan or others suggest the reasons not to deal a guy like Willingham is because he is their kind of guy. We've let our kind of guy walk more than a few times - the reason to move or not move a player should have nothing to do with that. And they should understand when fans get irritated by this organization's bluster about trading (See: "Getting X player back from injury is just like making a trade!" or the annual stand-pat at the deadline approach) when they so flippantly seem to release guys that are heart and soul members of the team.

      It's hard to assess whether a team should or shouldn't sell the whole lot to rebuild, I think that depends on offers being received we know nothing about. But that was the general point being made here: do you sell off completely or half-ass it? What I don't want to see is a half-ass approach because Willingham is a "Twin's Guy" rather than the team being low-balled.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Maybe Willingham is a "Twins Guy" because of his performance on and off the field. Armchair GMs love to talk "deals" because it is a far more interesting subject than "keep him". I can envision Twins team next year with: (3 of the four) Arcia, Benson, Hicks, and Mastroianni starting, Parmalee at 1B, and Willingham DH. Doumit is the #2 C, #2 DH, #2PH, and emergency elsewhere and Drew Butera is not in a Twins uniform. Josh can still make his contributions offensively, will be less subject to injury. The offense is improved, the defense is improved, and the payroll reduced to the point that a premier FA can be signed to plug one of the remaining gaping holes. 2014 wouldn't be up to playoff standards, but will be far more entertaining than '11, '12, and '13 combined and will illustrate that there truly is light at the end of the tunnel.
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