Rebuild a contender
by, 07-13-2013 at 08:57 AM (449 Views)
All pretense that the Twins can or would contend in 2013 is gone, the product of a couple of bad losing streaks and the lack of competitive starting pitching. The club needs to focus on 2014 and beyond. Much speculation has been posted on Twins Daily about deadline deals and I'm sure that will continue even past the non-waiver deadline. Selling off veterans would have many effects: 1) It will make the team worse on the field immediately 2) it will give rookies and non-veterans a chance to show if they are worthy to be in the team's plans and 3) it will subtract salary from a payroll that has already been trimmed significantly and likely clear space on the 40-man roster.
First of all, however, the Twins need to know who will be running the show. Terry Ryan has given no indication that he wants to step down and I have heard no rumors that the Pohlads want him out. I guess this means that Ryan will be the architect of the latest rebuilding effort. Who his field manager will be is more of a dicey proposition. Ron Gardenhire looks like he will preside over his third straight 90 loss season. Few non-expansion manager are able to survive such ineptitude. Gardy has been here for more than a decade and many seem to think his message and his means have gotten stale. I'm not calling for Gardy to be fired, but I will be neither surprised nor disappointed if he is let go.
Who should succeed Gardenhire? Well, the club will definitely be young and inexperienced in the coming years. The in-house names bandied about (Molitor, Brunansky, Ullger, Steinbach) would all be rookie managers. I would hope that the Twins would look outside their organization to find a manager with some experience who could lead a team on the upswing. When Gardenhire leaves, it is widely expected that Rick Anderson will leave with him. I am pretty "meh" about Anderson, but much like the manager, it seems that his message has not been as effective as it was earlier.
This leaves two areas to consider for the balance of 2013. First, how thoroughly does the team purge the veterans on the club? With the trade deadline on the 31st of this month and waiver claims after that, the Twins can and should part with players who won't help them win two years from now. Unfortunately, the trend for almost all of the tradeable vets over 30 is down. The exception is Glen Perkins, who is underutilized as the closer on a bad team, but is putting up elite numbers and was named to his first All-Star team. Secondly, the Twins need to know who they can count on in 2014 and beyond from their current roster. The means consistent at-bats for the likes of Dozier, Florimon, Parmelee, Plouffe, and the rookies Hicks and Arcia.
Here is my opinion on the above issues. Sell the position players even if their value is low. Be more cautious with the pitchers and only accept fair value plus for a pitcher. In addition, when dealing, demand pitching in return. The farm system is stocked with the best prospects the Twins have had in recent memory, but it is overloaded with position players. The club needs to add pitching, particularly high-ceiling arms. Of course, this is the plan for probably 90% of rebuilding teams.
Specifically, here is my scenario: Trade Morneau for what can be had. He won't get the haul of an All-Star, because he isn't one. I think the player and the team would be well-served by parting. I also think Doumit must go. He is an okay hitter, but not good enough to be a DH and he hits well for a backup catcher, but his defense hurts and he's 32. I've become a big booster of AA All-Star Josmil Pinto, who has had a great season in New Britain and is on the Twins' 40-man roster. Jamey Carroll might help a contender. He can continue with the Twins as a de-facto coach, but it makes no sense for him to be playing except as a replacement when giving a young player a day off. Parmelee and Arcia need at-bats. I'm confident that both will hit better than they are right now. Parm needs to put up numbers or be passed by. Arcia certainly has more rope, but his current slump is a bit alarming. The die is also cast on Aaron Hicks. He won't be demoted despite his sub-.200 BA and he has shown glimpses of All-Star ability. We need to remember that outside of Arcia and Hicks, the guys getting the at-bats are candidates to be the next Gladden and Gagnes or maybe Lombardozzis and Leiuses, rather than future Hall of Famers or All-Stars.
On the pitching front, relievers Fien and Duensing should be shopped. Fien's value is pretty high right now so he is a good candidate to be traded, but again only if the team gets value for him. Duensing has regressed to the point that the return for him wouldn't be great. He's failed as a starter and hasn't been able to hold a 7th inning role either. Duensing has had success before, but not recently. I doubt the Twins get an offer good enough to send him away. There has been speculation on starters Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia. Correia started strong but has been less than ordinary in the last two months, while Pelfrey seems to be getting better slowly. Both profile as back of the rotation starters, which means that the payoff would be top prospects. Again, it would be fine to send either guy off, but innings eaters have value despite less-than-stellar stats. I know I'm in the minority, but I think the Twins should keep Pelfrey unless they are overwhelmed by a deadline offer. I like that his velocity is up and he is still very early on the road to recovery from TJ surgery.
The Twins will continue to be bad this year whether they ship their veterans or not. Making the right rebuilding moves will help as soon as next year. Let's hope they make the right calls and that 2014 will be the ramp-up year for when they contend for a decade.