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.
Colorado Rockies - Hide under coats; hope it all works out
|2010 - 83-79|
|2011 - 73-89|
|2012 - 64-98|
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|
|2011 - 63-99|
|2012 - 66-96|
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|
|2011 - 80-82|
|2012 - 68-94|
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.