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Starting Pitching and the Folly of the Pohlad Fortune

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I was reading this article and in the comments section came across this blurb in the comments section concerning the Twins not being able to get FA starting pitching:

Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
Considering free agency will never be an option for this, the only alternatives would be to get lucky with a college arm early in the draft or get good value in a trade.
I don't understand where this assumption comes from. I know that the Twins haven't gone out and gotten this free agent pitcher in the last twenty years but that was also during the Metrodome-era when we realistically couldn't afford it.*

I'm not saying the Twins will be signing David Price anytime soon but if the young field players improve and the Twins have 3-4 starters in place (May, Gibson, Diamond, Meyer?) I can see them finding a starting pitcher in that second rung of free agent pitchers for $10 million/yr - $15 million/yr for 3-4 years and rolling with it. It depends how much they're spending filling other holes (particularly the middle infield and first base) but it remains a distinct possibility.

This is especially true since one of the benefits of trading Span/Revere is that the Twins don't have a lot of their core (and potential core) coming up for big $$$ for a solid 4-5 years. They've paid Mauer, the outfield will be all young guys and outside of maybe Plouffe - and even then he won't be pricey - all they've really got to worry about is perhaps inking Scott Diamond. The team even sheds a ton of salary via Morneau and Willingham this year and next. This is a team that profiles to be incredibly cheap, even with Mauer's well-deserved $23 million, for the next 3-5 years.

That means the Twins will have the flexibility to throw out $10 or even $15 million/yr for 3 years and bring in a more elite starter. Or even two. I get not wanting to sign the seven year pitcher deals (and think its smart businses) but there's a value in the layer underneath. The obvious historical precedent would be Jack Morris, an aging elite pitcher who was available on a short-term high-dollar deal. A less apt one is Carl Pavano the second time - more of a stretch since he was coming off of injuries but in that same ballpark money wise. The point is, there are great #2 or #3 starter types out there who I expect the Twins to sign if the mini-rebuild goes as planned. Who knows who those pitchers will be in the future, but to say the Twins won't be able to go after them seems premature.

Now I know everyone is going to point at the Twins current roster ($90 million-ish?) and say that they're already cutting spending but at least the front office is talking the talk about using that money for a sunnier day. As long as they do tuck that $20 million into a savings account with a nice interest rate (instead of a Pohlad's suit pants pocket) with the idea to make their dollars count, I have a hard time faulting them. This team wasn't going to take a huge jump by signing one solid pitcher this year (much as we'd like it) but that may not be true next year or (more likely) the year after.

Its like a kid knowing that he could buy a crappy Craigslist bike in March and maybe ride when it isn't too cold but instead hoping for some snow so he can shovel some walks and sve the cash get a sweet brand-new bike in June, when having a bike really matters.


*A note on this which is a huge aside and a whole different post: when we say the Twins can't afford it, it's because we ignore the fact that the Pohlads are freaking billionaires. Owning a sports team should be the uber-rich guy equivalent of buying a Maserati - you don't buy it cuz it makes fiscal sense, you buy it because its fun to drive really, really fast and meet some babes. You know, like Mark Cuban.

We forget that behind our mumblings about Bill Smith's trade abilities or Gardy's love of light-hitting middle infielders lurks the beast in the corner - the Pohlads run the Twins like an actual business and as cheapskates at that. The fact that they make significant money off of the Twins is an insult. Especially since the family fortune (that's right, not actually earned by the current trust fund bunch) was founded on Smilin' Carl foreclosing on families during the Great Depression. No really. Wikipedia him. No idea why we celebrated this man when he died. We didn't need to boo but I for one turned the channel. Foreclosing homes, trying to contract the Twins, squeezing every penny of profit out - this guy was Scrooge but without the redeeming flash of insight.

It's almost enough to make a guy like the publicly owned Packers. Almost.

When I think about what the Twins could do if the Pohlads (A) decided to just try to break even each year rather than make a profit (B) decided to accept a $20 million loss each year as a public gift or (C) even accepated a $50 million loss each year (doable since they sold a side beverage business in 2010 for $2.12 billion and also totally tax deductible) it makes me want to cry. And hit someone.

Stupid rich people. I get not wanting to pay taxes, that must suck to have your (hard earned?) money taken away. But let's do some real charity work, let's improve some lives. Life is better when the Twins win. Make it happen Pennypincher Pohlad Jr.
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  1. John Bonnes's Avatar
    First, I'll agree - the Twins are seriously hamstringing themselves if they don't learn to fill in gaps through the free agent market. But I'll veer off from the direction of the story in two important ways:

    1) After this year, and certainly not this offseason, I don't think the problem was the Pohlads. I just don't know that Terry Ryan is wired such that he will go and spend big money on a free agent. His philosophy is to build from within, and it isn't wholely out of necessity. He wants to give young ballplayers a chance. The only way that changes is with a different GM - and then only maybe, since I expect much of the front office shares that sentiment.

    But let's do some real charity work, let's improve some lives.
    Of, he could, you know, give $20 million or $50 million per year to something like AIDS research. That might improve some lives.

    I'm not a big fan of telling someone how they should spend their money. The Pohlads aren't going to treat the Twins like a toy - and truth be told, that has worked out pretty well for both them and for Minnesota Twins fans. Maybe responsible, long-term, fiscally conservative management is better for a team (and a fan base) than throwing a bunch of money around on a yearly basis. It's possible, at least.
  2. ashburyjohn's Avatar
    My strong impression from watching the news as the Griffith family tried to sell the team is that Carl Pohlad had very little use for baseball itself. Sid Hartman used to joke about it being Carl's wife who had any interest. The Mark Cuban analogy doesn't even begin to hold. So, why *did* Carl buy the team? If my memories are correct, it was out of a sense of civic duty. He didn't want to see his Twin Cities becomes the "cold Omaha" that was predicted if MLB was lost to the region. In that view, the Pohlads already performed their act of charity simply by buying a team that no one else wanted and which would have become the Denver Rockies or the Tampa Bay Rays several seasons sooner than played out.
  3. jokin's Avatar
    In that view, the Pohlads already performed their act of charity simply by buying a team that no one else wanted and which would have become the Denver Rockies or the Tampa Bay Rays several seasons sooner than played out.
    Fine, the Pohlad's have done their civic duty and act of charity and then tried to profit from taking it all away. And this state doesn't have any Mark Cuban-types to come in and perform a much-needed round of civic duty and acts of charity- this market would wildly support a change in the staid, old, ridiculous, cry-poor philosophy of current management and ownership. BTW, Mark Cuban is still around, and he has made 3 attempts at buying a MLB team. The community would go positively ga-ga should Cuban take over controlling interest of the team. We already have 2 less-flashy, relatively new owners that have made a serious commitment to winning in Minnesota in Wilff and Leopold, why not a change for the Twins?
  4. johnnydakota's Avatar
    3 Owners who should be stripped of there teams , Loria , Wilpons and the Pohlads, then Pud selig should be fired , he was never eligible to be The Commish , and is nothing but a snake oil slinging , used car saleman
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