Embracing the Suck
by, 08-02-2013 at 11:45 PM (521 Views)
By virtually every measure, the Minnesota Twins are a very bad baseball team. Entering Friday nightís game against the Astros, the Twins offense ranked 21st in both runs scored and wRC+. The starting pitching has been horrific even by recent Twins standards, ranking last in ERA (5.18), last in xFIP (4.56), and last in strikeouts (302) by an embarrassing margin. Lastly, the defense has been mediocre (12th in DRS) to bad (27th in UZR), depending on your metric of choice. The teamís lone bright spot has been the bullpen, which has been great despite a lack of name recognition and chronic overuse from the outset (367.2 innings pitched, 5th most in MLB).
So yes, the Twins have been bad this year. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as I will argue), a few other teams have been worse. One of those teams is the Houston Astros, who are in town this weekend for a three game series at Target Field. The Astros know they are bad, and they are damn proud of it. From the moment GM Jeff Luhnow assumed control of the team, that has been the plan. Why? Because Luhnow is one of the smartest men in baseball, and he knows that the best way to rebuild under the current CBA is to bottom out and embrace the suck. At 45-60 and virtually assured of a third straight 90-loss season, the Twins would be wise to do the same.
Thatís because in todayís MLB landscape, if youíre going to be bad anyway, you might as well strive to be the worst. With more and more teams locking up their best players to long-term contracts before they are able to hit the market, adding impact talent through free agency has never been tougher. Further, as evidenced by this weekís trade deadline (emphasis on dead), teams are valuing their controllable assets more than ever, making improvement via trade just as difficult. That leaves the international market and the draft as the only remaining avenues in which a team can dramatically improve its roster. The team that finishes lowest in the standings stands to benefit the most from both Ė in the form of the largest international spending pool and the number one pick in the amateur draft. Simply put, it pays to suck.
Twins fans need look no further than Miguel Sano to understand the value that can be had on the international market. Itís an area they have taken some advantage of in recent years, but one where they could surely do more. As for the draft, the 2014 class figures to be much stronger than this yearís crop, with the top prize being NC State lefty Carlos Rodon Ė who likely would have went 1-1 to Houston over top selection Mark Appel had he been eligible as a junior. Of Rodon, Keith Law has stated: ď[He] checks every box you might want to see in a potential first overall pick and projected No. 1 starter.Ē In other words, heís just what the Twins roster doctor ordered.
Heading into this weekend, the Twins trail the Astros by ten games for the worst record in baseball. They also have the White Sox, Marlins, and Brewers to contend with, among others. But with 57 games remaining, the race for Rodon is still wide-open. And Rodon notwithstanding, next year's draft appears to be loaded in terms of top-shelf starting pitching. So maybe you try to deal Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham to contenders, even if it means eating some salary to do so. Maybe you give Liam Hendriks one more shot to prove that he can be a major league starter, and Chris Parmelee one more chance to show that he can hit major league pitching. Maybe you give Joe Mauer a few more days off in the second half, to save those knees and extend his career behind the dish. Iím not advocating intentionally trying to lose, but itís past time to think about 2014. Itís time to embrace the suck. #p2c
Originally published at pitching2contact