In their bid to build a pitching staff, the Twins signed three pitchers to multi-year deals in 2013 and 2014: Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana. Only one of those was a true success.
A .333 average might be good for baseball. It is not good for major, multi-million-dollar free-agent signings.
That's a good thing to keep in mind when the Twins consider signing Yu Darvish to a potential five-year contract worth $150 million or more. Long contracts to older pitchers are risky, and could backfire, especially toward the back end of any deal.
And yet I think the Twins should sign Darvish, anyway. I think they should give him the full five years and $150 million. And I think they should celebrate that signing mightily.
Yes, that would be a costly deal that could hurt the team down the line. Yes, the Twins are a mid-market team that can't absorb a bad contract like the Yankees or Dodgers or Cubs can. But, they should do this for three reasons:
1. They need a starter that's at least equal to Santana, who is likely to regress this year.
2. They would not have to give up anything to get him. If the Twins were to trade for Chris Archer, they'd have to trade away young players. I'd rather keep those young players to make other trades.
3. The Twins need to sign Darvish for PR reasons. This is actually the most important reason.
I bet it doesn't take more than five comments before someone responds to this post with the phrase "cheap Pohlads," or some derivative. This team's ownership has a bad reputation. Some of it is well earned. Some of it is unfair.
Spending prudence was required when the team plunged into its long string of 90-plus loss seasons. But the team's young core has emerged. It went to the Wild Card last year. The AL Central could be ripe for the picking with the Cleveland Indians losing Carlos Santana. And the Twins can afford it: They have money coming off the books in the next couple of years. Now is not the time for prudence. Now is the time for going all-in.
Mostly, this team and its management needs to show fans that they are willing to spend when necessary. And while it might not be a great idea to spend $150 million on a pitcher who will be in his mid-30s at the end of the deal, it would still be a great sign of faith to the fan base that has endured an awful lot of losing before last year. Doing so would go a long way toward ridding this team of its cheap heritage.
Of course, if the Twins don't, and if they continue to operate with a middling budget despite the presence of Target Field, they will continue to face questions about ownership's willingness to spend on talent. Yes, this team has spent millions building its front office -- which is highly commendable. But until this team spends on the on-field product, that reputation will remain.
And the Pohlads, who tried contracting the team less than two decades ago, have earned that reputation.