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Article: Reality Check

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 07:18 PM

With a four-game sweep at Target Field over the weekend, Cleveland surpassed Minnesota in the standings, knocking the Twins out of first place for the first time since early May.

Let's be honest: this was inevitable. The Indians are plainly a better team, and in order to hang with them for the rest of the summer, the Twins are going to need to figure some things out.Offensively, the two clubs have been equally productive. Entering Sunday's series finale, the Twins and Indians had both scored 310 runs, with nearly identical team OPS marks (.754 and .759).

Only one offense really showed up over the past four games, however. The Indians piled up 28 runs in the sweep while the Twins managed to push only eight across. Minnesota was at the mercy of a vastly superior staff, a disadvantage that will make retaking first place an exceedingly difficult proposition.

The formula for the Twins has pretty much gone like this: Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, pray for rain (or lots of run support). Neither of the two top starters was available in this series and rain mostly stayed away, so the remainder of a highly unimpressive rotation took its beatings. Meanwhile, the contrast in bullpen quality was blindingly evident, as Cleveland countered ineffectual efforts from the Twins with dominance from the likes of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw.

Measured by Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), the Indians rank as the best staff in the American League, and the Twins rank worst. So the lopsided outcomes are fairly unsurprising and trading places atop the division was all but inevitable. Cleveland's lead is likely to expand, too, unless the Twins can find a way to solve the hopeless patchwork comprising the back half of their rotation.

The Contention Conundrum

There is one school of thought that goes like this: the Twins aren't ready to compete yet, and winning in the short term should not be a primary consideration.

I can only respond by channeling Eduardo Escobar: C'MON!

I'm all for keeping the big picture in mind, but at the same time, the Twins are doing themselves a disservice if they don't make efforts to get the most out of this season. You cannot take for granted that you'll have another year where so many things play out right. It's easy to get caught up in the team's weaknesses after a demoralizing sweep, but let's not overlook the strengths that kept them in first place for five straight weeks.

Miguel Sano is mashing at an elite level. Basically every other hitter is at least holding his own at the plate. Byron Buxton, one of the few who isn't, has finally been healthy and is changing games with his defense. Jose Berrios is fulfilling his potential before our very eyes. Ervin Santana has been one of the league's best starters. Brandon Kintzler has, somehow, been one of the its most effective closers.

Cleveland is good, but it's not clear any of the other AL Central teams are. The Twins have some glaring flaws, to be sure, but there's a real opportunity to compete into September and maybe beyond.

Focusing on that goal may force the organization to make some tough calls.

No Easy Answers

I think we can safely say plugging in waiver wire fodder like Adam Wilk and Chris Heston is not going to be the solution to Minnesota's pitching woes. Nor does it appear that Nik Turley is going to get it done. Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia have been erratic messes. Yet, for now, there is little choice but to keep running them out there.

Hector Santiago appears close to returning (he'll make a rehab start this week) but he brings little assurance at this point. Phil Hughes is not all that close, and may come back as a reliever.

I got this text last week from one of my more optimistic, bright-side-seeking Twins fan friends: "I know this is easier said than done but I really think if we could find even two more adequate starting pitchers and like three more bullpen arms we'd be just fine."

I mean, you said it man.

Unfortunately, finding adequate arms is a challenge that has vexed this franchise for the better part of a decade.

In the minors, the Twins really have two players with the legitimate ability to enter the mix as difference-makers in the rotation. At Class-AA Chattanooga, Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves (ranked Nos. 1 and 2 on Twins Daily's top prospect list) have both been tearing it up for the past several weeks. They have stuff that could play in the big leagues.

But this is where the front office must weigh that big picture against maximizing the team's chances in the present. You certainly don't want to throw a guy into the fire before he's ready; neither prospect has made even 20 starts at Double-A, or any at Triple-A. There is also the matter of protecting arms. Romero missed two entire seasons before returning to throw 90 innings last year, while Gonsalves missed the first chunk of this year with shoulder issues. The organization is trying to carefully manage workloads and strain, which is much harder to do in the majors.

Then again, there are not a lot of alternatives. Trading away significant talent for an impact starter would be more harmful to the long-term structure, and we've seen the types of replacement level talent out there in waivers and free agency. The Twins can either stick with that plan, or they can turn to the best internal options they have, slightly ahead of schedule.

These are the tricky decisions involved with trying to hang in a race. It's nice to be in a position to tackle them again, and we'll learn much about the new regime in seeing how they proceed.

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#2 Thrylos

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 07:37 PM

The Cleveland and Houston series should put an end to the 2017 mirage.If you cannot keep up with and beat good teams at home, you are not going to go far in a post-season, even if you are lucky enough to make it there.

 

So the Twins should be sellers, try to get a few prospects that will help them next year and beyond and try to close holes with more trades or free agency (Michael Pineda might look pretty good in Twins' pinstripes) during the off-season.

This way, they can evaluate some of the kids as well...

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#3 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 07:49 PM

Twins will not make the playoffs, will not go far if they do, and have no chance to win the World Series.

 

So, accepting that, what makes sense?

 

Build for the future.Pitching, pitching, pitching.And catching, catching, catching.

 

Then, find a 3B for when Sano goes to 1B.

 

They can make their nest from there.


#4 nytwinsfan

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:00 PM

 

Twins will not make the playoffs, will not go far if they do, and have no chance to win the World Series.

 

So, accepting that, what makes sense?

 

Build for the future.Pitching, pitching, pitching.And catching, catching, catching.

 

Then, find a 3B for when Sano goes to 1B.

 

They can make their nest from there.

Catching isn't a problem right now. Pitching is. I think Sano is more likely to go from the Twins to another team before he goes to 1B. I'd be more worried about extending him (no easy feat). He will likely be the first of the core to go. 

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#5 Buddy Holly

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:08 PM

The Twins need to be sellers, as reality is not a bad thing at this point. I think this weekend should reinforce the need to continue the rebuild, and that it takes time. The idea of adding a couple players and they can contend is a dream. Market Santana, Dozier, and hope Santiago comes back and put up good numbers in July. These are the only viable trade chips. This is still a Low 70 win team, without pitching. 

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#6 bluechipper

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:33 PM

I expected the pitching to be bad, but the offense doing nothing against mediocre pitching in this series was the most frustrating for me. 

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#7 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:35 PM

You have all been proven right. Congratulations!
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#8 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:38 PM

The Cleveland and Houston series should put an end to the 2017 mirage.If you cannot keep up with and beat good teams at home, you are not going to go far in a post-season, even if you are lucky enough to make it there.
 
So the Twins should be sellers, try to get a few prospects that will help them next year and beyond and try to close holes with more trades or free agency (Michael Pineda might look pretty good in Twins' pinstripes) during the off-season.

This way, they can evaluate some of the kids as well...

Help them do what, exactly? Help them to an above .500 record in mid-June so that you can demand they be sellers again?

I'm honestly trying to figure out the logic here.
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#9 frightwig

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:44 PM

Right now, the Twins have a .434 Pythag, a 70-win pace over 162 games. Playing at that level the rest of the season would result in 75 wins. That's basically a regression to the mean on bad luck from last season plus a bump from good luck and/or an improved defense, Sano stepping up, and a few other guys getting better. I'd say that the rebuild is going fairly close to schedule, really.

 

Assuming that the Twins won't enjoy the crazy cluster-luck of 2015, they'll probably need to find another 10-12 wins to get into the WC game. Is it worth going in big as a buyer, or rushing a couple AA pitching prospects, to chase that goal this year?

 

It seems like a longshot to me, even given their current spot in the standings.

 

Honestly, I think it would be for the best if the team hit a long skid over the next few weeks, so there's no doubt about whether Falvine should be buyers or sellers.

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#10 Vanimal46

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:57 PM

Jeeze. You leave the country and unplug for 5 days, and the site morale goes down the drain.

Let's get PUMPED UP around here! It's one series in June. On to the next one.
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#11 USAFChief

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:58 PM

The number of people who seem to WANT the Twins to lose is astounding.

Not TRYING is worse than getting beat. By far.
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#12 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 09:17 PM

Keep trying to win.
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#13 Carole Keller

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 09:18 PM

I agree with Nick. I agree with Chief and Van, too. Houston and Cleveland do have better teams and it's going to be difficult to get past them let alone deep into the playoffs. But not impossible. So, I agree with Chief ... for cryin' out loud ... TRY! Give us a few more pieces to help put it together and try! 

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#14 frightwig

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 09:42 PM

 

The number of people who seem to WANT the Twins to lose is astounding.

Not TRYING is worse than getting beat. By far.

 

Really, it's more like, I expect the team to wind up with 75-78 wins. The offense has been about average (100 wRC+) coming into today, but the pitching is terrible--even worse than last year, by FIP/xFIP. (Even Berrios has a 4.53 xFIP, so I'd expect some significant regression from him in the next few months.) They've been riding atop the division because they beat up on the Royals coming out of the gate, while the Indians got off to a slow start. Are the Twins genuinely good? Even Nick seems to be saying, no, not really.

 

So for me, it's just a question of what I'd like to see happen, so that the Twins might be better in the next year or two. For some people, another 2015 season would be fun. Trade for a reliever or two, call up the kids, and see what happens! But the fringe contender, "hey, as long as we're hanging around .500, we're sorta in the WC race, despite this wretched pitching, so the club better not trade Dozier or Santana," until the team winds up with 77 wins (FG projection today), or 83 wins, is not so enjoyable for me. More importantly, in the big picture, it's counterproductive to the club's longterm goals if the front office acts like "we're real contenders now!"

 

So, yeah, I do hope that they go into a skid, or start playing to their Pythag or BaseRuns levels, sooner than later. In the long run, I think we're all enjoy the Twins more, that way.

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#15 DocBauer

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 09:55 PM

I don't buy the idea of selling. Dozier is a really, really nice ballplayer. But attempts to trade him last off season prove fruitless despite his coming off a tremendous season. So we trade him now for prospects? Has his value suddenly increased in a league with so many good 2B? I'm not saying you can't try, and maybe there is just that one perfect match out there. And if anyone in the roster, he's probably the most replaceable regular. But I just don't see it.

Santana? Love the guy. Big believer, I would bet he has at least one if not two quality season's left even if he should regress to the level of a quality #3 starter. But even with that, unless a contending team has a big need through injury, trading him makes a weak position even weaker. And are we really going to get enough back to really make trading him worthwhile?

A little better luck on the injury front could go a long way to having some quality rotation and bullpen arms ready next season. There is also, hopefully, the opportunity for a quality FA SP next off season. Possibly a similar bullpen arm.

But if you really want to make moves, it would seem to be as buyers and not sellers. But at this point...and I'm not saying I have the answer...are we really ready to trade off some of those young arms, Gordon, an OF or two, to come up with a Sonny Gray type? Or are we better off sticking with Mejia, hope Santiago comes back with his head on straight, and pray the more recently aggressive Gibson can continue to be at least average and wait until next off season?
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#16 yarnivek1972

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 10:00 PM

I tend to believe that if there were quality pitchers available that fell into the Twins price range (in terms of pieces to give up to get them) that those deals would have been made already.
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#17 Brandon

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 10:10 PM

I think there is a happy medium between doing nothing and going all in. A good reliever is not going to cost alot in terms of prospects. And we could look for a starter who won't as well...a back of rotation type. By not doing anything we are seeing a self fullfilling prophecy. We loose and there is a group that says see we suck and should wait a few more years. But if we already aquired a reliever a few weeks ago we have a deeper pen and maybe fewer meltdowns and the pyhtagorean is for 80 wins and we are still in first. We know we have a shortage in pitching. Doing nothing guarentees us falling in the standings.
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#18 Twodogs

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 10:17 PM

 

The Twins need to be sellers, as reality is not a bad thing at this point. I think this weekend should reinforce the need to continue the rebuild, and that it takes time. The idea of adding a couple players and they can contend is a dream. Market Santana, Dozier, and hope Santiago comes back and put up good numbers in July. These are the only viable trade chips. This is still a Low 70 win team, without pitching. 

I think a team with very little pitching available would be very stupid to trade Santana.  That would give the Twins even less pitching for the next couple of years.

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#19 Han Joelo

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 10:29 PM

Cmon, the Yankees just got swept by Oakland and are 1-6 recently. The Twins just need to keep doing whatever it was they've been doing to get to the point they were three days ago. Salvation lies within...let's see this groups quality here.
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#20 Rosterman

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 11:12 PM

We still have another month before The Twins can elect to be a seller of Ervin. That's about it. Anyone else has played themselves out of a contract with anyone (except, perhaps, Grossman or Escobar - who shant bring THAT much in return).

 

The Twins have to ask is Ervin worth keeping. Can you get an equally as effective (average, not this year) guy who is younger as a free agent for the same money, or better to have the vet chops of Santana.

 

The Twins have to figure out what to do with Polanco. Second baseman (keep Escobar for now) or shortstop, which means Dozier stays. If they can live without Dozier, does he have mid-season value is the biggest question.

 

The pitching is a shambles. Many of the arms won't get contracts elsewhere next season. The Twins have to ask if they have any desire to keep Santiago or Gibson about. At some point, you might want to walk away from Hughes. But who do you replace him with.

 

All the names we thought would join the bullpen this year might only make it in September, and that is IF there are 40-man spaces for them. The future is still Chargois, Melotakis, Bard, Burdi, Jay, Rosario, Reed with other names like Jones, Hildenberger, Baxendale still in the running (and should be up getting lumps instead of these...cast offs). Then there is the next wave with names like Curtis, Clay, McIver, Ramirez, Muren and Hackimer. The Twins have so much bullpen promise if the guys can stay off the DL.

 

But major sellers? Possibly not. Nothing to really sell. Can they start getting rid of people and bringing up players before their time? Perhaps, but it is nice to have the luxury of doing that and sending them back to the minors for more...seasoning. That doesn't happen if the roster is full of prospects, sadly.

 

The next 30 days will be telling. Start selling those tickets. Lucky the Cleveland series didn't totally kill of the "can't win at home" Twins, but it came close.

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