Nick, I always look forward yo your postings.They are well written, to the point, and lack the "Minnesota nice" slant that too many other posters seem hung up on.But(there's always a but I'm afraid), in this case I have to strenuously disagree with your conclusions.
First of all, the FO has to look at this current roster under the magnifying glass and realistically determine if there is a core worth building upon in the offseason to legitimately compete with Cleveland next year'If the answer is yes, then Plan A should be implemented. In order of importance, here are the five things they must do:
1. Trade for a potential #1 starter who gives the team a legitimate shot at winning the first game of a playoff series.Berrios is not there yet and from what I've seen in big games, is very unlikely to morph into the ace needed for such competition.Hope I'm wrong but his dominant performances have been largely against sub-.500 teams.Potential trade targets: one of the Mets big three, Baumgartner, Greinke, or perhaps even Snell.We have some depth in our system and could put together a nice package of top prospects, including anyone not named Lewis or Kirillof(and for Snell or DeGrom, yes, I would include either).Forget FA for an ace - none are available and the Twins don't have it in their DNA to win a bidding war, which is not a bad thing.
2.Second, find a cleanup hitter probably thru FA who can rotate between DH/1B.This means finding someone who can fill the void left by Sano.No, I'm not giving up completely on Sano but to count on him to be the cleanup hitter would count as dereliction of duty by the FO.The Twins lack of a middle of the lineup hitter is a glaring hole and must be filled if they are going to contend next year.Nelson Cruz could be available, but there are a number of good hit/no field thumpers who are alsways available in the offseason.All it takes is money, which in the post-Mauer years, the Twins will have in abundance, should they choose to spend it.
3. Find two shutdown relievers who can handle the 8th and 9th innings.With the possible exception of Rogers who has shown some signs of being more than just a LOOGY, the other bullpen holdovers have shown nothing to indicate they can be counted on in critical game-saving situations.Lots of middle inning fillers, but a clear lack of closers.This is one of the most disappointing results of 2018, but it is the reality of the Twins' relief staff this year.Free agency is the only way to fix this mess and the Twins have to be prepared to be agressive if they are serious about contention.
4.As many have mentioned, finding a slick fielding SS should be on the FO's list.This would allow them to fill 2B with Polanco whose bat deserves inclusion in the lineup, but whose gl;ove is far too shaky to be the everyday shortstop.Aside from Iglesias, there should be other contenders so long as fielding, not hitting is the main criteria.Addison Russell on the Cubs might be available in trade and he would top my wish list if the Twins' minor league depth in pitching would be of interest.
5. Addition of a super sub/starting infielder(yes, Escobar would fill the bill nicely so long as his price is reasonable).There are too many questions in this infield, mainly at 3B, to go into next season without some reinforcement.It doesn't have to be an all star, but instead a solid veteran like Murphy for example would be a welcome addition.To rely on Sano to man any position full time is a fool's errand in my opinion(if he surprises with a comeback season, that's a bonus, but the FO should not assume anything).If they do, shame on them!!
If all these needs are addressed in the right way, the Twins could contend again without changes in the OF or behind the plate.But if the FO feels there are just too many holes on the 25 man roster and cannot see a path to filling the five needs listed above, Plan B would be to go with a youth movement, as follows:
1.Put Buxton in CF and let him sink or swim(see #2 below).
2. Bring up Kiriloff, assuming he has a good spring training, and let him battle it out with Kepler or Buxton for starting outfielder.May the best man win!
3.Bring up Royce Lewis or Gordon at midseason(whoever is doing better) and give them the SS or 2B position for the rest of the year.
4.Give Romero a starting rotation spot out of spring training.He is the only Twins' minor leaguer who showed some potential as belonging on the major league staff.At midseason, promote the best minor league starter in the system to the major league rotation.
5. Bring Rooker up (at beginning or within first two months of season) and place him in the DH/1B rotation - assuming he continues to show progress in ST or in AAA.
I am sceptical that Falvey and company could accomplish all five needs in Plan A(and let's be clear, all 5 scenarios are needed to adequately fill the holes that appeared in 2018).From what I have read about this FO, they do not seem inclined to accelerate development of young low minor leaguers, either, so Plan B is unlikely to be implemented and thus, we are probably looking at them to muddle through with half-hearted attempts to plug the glaring holes now present with better players than now on the roster, but by no means - difference-makers.The one bright spot with this middling approach is that Mollie would be gone some time in 2019 and a full-time rebuild could commence.In that case, assuming player development has improved, we might look forward to 2021 or 2022 as first years of real contention.
In conclusion, as many TDers have said, this offseason is the true test of the FO's acumen and mettle.To land in the middle here is the worst of the three scenarios but this seems most likely to this observer, thereby dooming this organization to the dreaded middle of the road - neither total rebuild nor go for the brass ring.Hope I'm wrong, but this current ownership has shown no appetite to shoot any higher.