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Article: Marrying Expectations and Opportunities in 2019

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 29 November 2018 - 06:00 PM

Coming off a 78-win season, the Minnesota Twins have plenty of room for improvement. Given what all went wrong however, that total in the win column is about as ideal as it could have gotten. This team was a postseason participant just two years ago, and things had only begun to trend up for them. Blueprinting this offseason, and executing during the calendar, the front office has some real direction decisions to make.Here's what we know about the rest of the division at this point: The Kansas City Royals are bad and have a farm system that will have them getting even worse. The Detroit Tigers are old, and without direction. Chicago has done the most to rebuild their system, and there’re some potential superstars in the making. At this point, however, no White Sox prospects are ready to turn the tide for the team. That leaves Minnesota and Cleveland to fend for the division the next two seasons. Or does it?

Plenty of reports this summer have come out regarding a new direction for Cleveland. Despite the postseason success, that team draws worse than a hapless high school badminton club. The Indians are looking to move assets, and the talk is of names in their starting rotation. Michael Brantley is gone from the outfield, and Lonnie Chisenhall has moved on as well. Unless there’s a dramatic shift in the replacements, a substantial step backward for the least talented division winner is coming.

Now, how do Derek Falvey and Thad Levine choose to go about inserting themselves into this scenario? At this point, a white flag from Cleveland all but vaults Minnesota to the top spot on its own. Obviously getting more from Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano is a must, but there’re plenty of wins to be had within the division even before the top dog starts taking its lumps. A year ago, the front office brought in multiple guys on one-year deals, and a year from now the Twins will be supplemented by a duo of high-ranking prospects. Marrying everything together in 2019 will help to give a clearer indication of direction going forward.

I’ll forever be of the mindset that there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal. Josh Donaldson to the Braves looks like a steal, even if he isn’t fully healthy. It’s too bad Minnesota couldn’t swing that contract, but there were plenty of location factors in Atlanta’s favor that likely trumped the competition as well. When looking back at the likes of Lance Lynn, Logan Morrison, Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney last season, the duo at the top needs to figure out the reasons why the plan went poorly, and how the clubhouse suffered because of it.

Last winter we saw a free agent market that was slow moving, and the Twins (like other teams) made the most of capitalizing on the down dollars. Lynn and Morrison were acquired well into spring training, and that could’ve rubbed both players the wrong way. Entering a new situation feeling scorned and with something to prove, the focus could’ve been on the next payday from the get-go. We’ll never know what the components of a perfectly negative storm was, but we can certainly assume that the level of buy-in by the players wasn’t the same as with a traditional pact.

When looking to bring in reinforcements this next season, I imagine Minnesota will be looking to pair talent with future assets in the form of multi-year deals. If there’s belief these unnamed acquisitions can help in 2019, Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff should benefit from a richer roster as well. Of course, we’ve seen a slow trend toward fewer years and higher AAV begin to show its face, so the right pacts will need to be struck.

Internally the Twins must hope the current infrastructure is set up to support whatever 2019 talent there is. Not unlike 2017 with Brian Dozier, Kyle Gibson is staring at the final year of team control. Without an extension in the last arbitration year he’d be set to become a free agent when the snow flies, just like Dozier. Gibson has proven to be a very team-oriented individual, and he’s done well to assume more of a leadership role as his career has matured. There’s room to wonder if he’d be as bought in, or feel scorned, if he’s left with future uncertainty going into this coming spring, however.

There’s a lot to unpack here as we’re dealing with more than just new talent being brought in. Falvey and Levine need to decide to what level they’d like to supplement, and how it will all come together. The AL Central is playing toward Minnesota’s favor regardless, but determining if that is enough or if the organization would like to take the bull by the horns has yet to be seen.

If I had my way, 2019 would be the launching point for 2020 and beyond. Rocco Baldelli has some solid influencers within the clubhouse and on his staff. Finding high-end talent to make two- or three-year commitments would be priority number one. Adding in a one-year deal to bolster a specific area of production would be a welcomed revelation, and the message would be that this thing is ours to lose. Minnesota can win the division in the year before Lewis, Kirilloff,
and the next wave arrive, and have those holdovers there in 2020 to show the kids how it’s done.

You could make a pretty decent bet that the World Series winner in 2019 isn’t coming from the AL Central, but the Twins doing more than limping into the postseason sets them up nicely for future success. Putting together a core that supports its manager, meshes in the clubhouse, and invites the next group of can’t- miss prospects puts Minnesota in a position to grip the top of the division for years to come.

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- Ted Schwerzler
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#2 beckmt

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 04:15 AM

Given the White Sox are about 2 years away (and about the same number of question marks, but with more money than the Twins are willing to spend), Twins need to be creative here.I can understand the viewpoint (though not agree with it), that the Twins need to figure out where Buxton and Sano are going to fit (are they a piece ongoing or will they never make it here to the extent the Twins need them to), before committing a lot of resources to 2019.I disagree with this approach because I think the division is reachable with the correct application of resources this year.As of last night the Indians are most likely shipping off Kluber in return for some position player help(rumor has it to the Dodgers).This still leaves Cleveland with a very good starting rotation (and a very bad bullpen).Maybe you can take a shot at Addison Russell (who has baggage, but is a very buy low or nontender candidate in Chicago). Then sign a couple of decent relievers (Herrera and one of Miller, Famila,Britton ) who might not command super multiyear contracts.I would certainly try and sign one of the top end starters also, and maybe call it good. This would still keep payroll within reason and give the Twins a chance to evaluate and either buy or sell at the deadline.

Next I would try and extend Rosario and Berrios (doubt you could get either Sano or Buxton to agree to a multiyear deal since their reps would feel like this is selling low).I would not commit resources to try to extend any starters (maybe Pineda if he looks decent early in the year, or you could extend a QO to either Pineda or Gibson if necessary after the year).But expend enough resources to make an effort to make the playoffs and win the division, then see at midyear what you need and what holes you have and go from there.  

Please this is our time, at least make a big push to win the division as a starting point.

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#3 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 06:20 AM

Why punt on 2019? There is plenty of cap space, existing talent, and unfulfilled (so far) potential talent for this team to make a run in 2019. Did you see what the 2018 Brewers did? The players and fans deserve 100 percent effort to win the World Series in 2019.
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#4 rdehring

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 07:46 AM

Almost always enjoy what you write, Ted.And this is no exception.Have said it about fifty times since mid-season, extend Berrios, Gibson and Rosario, and that seems to agree with your wishes.

 

 

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#5 SomeGuy

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 08:52 AM

Cleveland aren't waving the white flag though.They are right to trade ONE of their elite starting pitchers.They should get a haul in return and that could open up a much longer window for them if they end up with another Lindor level prospect from the trade of Kluber or whoever.

 

They would be dealing from a position of strength and starting pitchers get a boatload of talent in return.There's no way they blow up the roster Mariners style.To me the next 4 years looks brighter for the Indians than any other ALC team but the Twins and White Sox can compete with a couple of the right moves.

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#6 Don't Feed the Greed Guy

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 09:12 AM

I think the 2019 trade deadline will be the fulcrum or pivot-point upon which the season turns.

Imagine that Cleveland regresses while Buxton and Sano meet modest expectations. Games "started" by Berrios, Pineda, Odorizzi, and Gibson yield winning or near .500 records. An ace doesn't emerge, but neither does a 5th starter.

The Twins lead the Central, but are no match on paper for the Astros, Red Sox, or Yankees. However, they still have a bucketful of prospects and didn't exhaust their payroll cushion chasing free agents in the 2018-19 offseason.

The front office pulls two or three deals for an ace, a quality bullpen arm, and that Shannon Stewart/Don Baylor presence in the lineup. These moves are "leveraged" for at least 2020, and perhaps beyond. The season pivots on that fulcrum, and the team is positioned for a deep playoff run in 2019, and solid chances into the future with Lewis and Kiriloff waiting in the wings.

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#7 PDX Twin

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 09:28 AM

Thanks for giving some thought to the impact of attitudes and team cohesion.

 

It's probably less important in baseball than in other sports because so much of baseball is individual, but having a group that wants to win for the team and for each other can make a big difference.

 

We spend so much time looking at raw numbers that it's easy to forget that these are humans producing the numbers, and human performance depends a lot on the mind-set of the players involved.

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It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#8 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 10:09 AM

 

Why punt on 2019? There is plenty of cap space, existing talent, and unfulfilled (so far) potential talent for this team to make a run in 2019. Did you see what the 2018 Brewers did? The players and fans deserve 100 percent effort to win the World Series in 2019.

 

This... Buxton and Sano had bad years, but if they rebound, we are going to be wishing there was talent around them. Not saying they need a 170M payroll, but there's no reason they cannot use FA to fill the holes on the team. 

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#9 mikelink45

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 10:58 AM

Let us suppose that the rest of the league sees the same potential that we do in Sano and Buxton - forget their current output - teams are trading for prospects and the future.So what would we get in a trade?I know this will be unpopular, but if this is about creativity all options should be on the table for discussion purposes.  

 

Would I extend Gibson - no.A really nice turn around season at his age is great, but how will he age?Will he continue to improve or will he regress.He is another trade asset in my mind.In fact, if Pineda looks healthy, trade him too.Keep moving the dial.Don't wait for the Indians to regress or the White Sox to progress, we do not win by letting other teams slip behind us as we stay the same.  

 

The Athletic had a good essay looking at pitcher expectations from the beginning of year compared to end of the season rankings and in interesting pitch guys it looks at Kyle Gibson and Odorizzi.  https://theathletic....urce=dailyemail

 

The key statement in the Gibson section is "He went from a predictable pitcher to one who is likely to throw any of five pitches in any count. No one pitch he throws is dominant, but all together, he’s a usable veteran." And for Odorizzi - "Jake Odorizzi has never found the breaking ball he’s looking for. His issues with command, homers and the third time through the order were not likely to go away without change."

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#10 mikelink45

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 11:20 AM

Speaking of expectations - I always wonder about coaches and what they do and how they contribute.I seldom know who they really are and what their job descriptions are, but this interview with Wes Johnson - our new pitching coach - who I also never heard of was really enlightening.I mentioned in an earlier posting that the thought of bringing on someone who actually teaches might be better than just having another old vet (of course I teach college so I am a believer) but this article from the Athletic really filled me in on Johnson.

 

https://theathletic....urce=dailyemail

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#11 adorduan

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 11:20 AM

I think the 2019 trade deadline will be the fulcrum or pivot-point upon which the season turns.

Imagine that Cleveland regresses while Buxton and Sano meet modest expectations. Games "started" by Berrios, Pineda, Odorizzi, and Gibson yield winning or near .500 records. An ace doesn't emerge, but neither does a 5th starter.

The Twins lead the Central, but are no match on paper for the Astros, Red Sox, or Yankees. However, they still have a bucketful of prospects and didn't exhaust their payroll cushion chasing free agents in the 2018-19 offseason.

The front office pulls two or three deals for an ace, a quality bullpen arm, and that Shannon Stewart/Don Baylor presence in the lineup. These moves are "leveraged" for at least 2020, and perhaps beyond. The season pivots on that fulcrum, and the team is positioned for a deep playoff run in 2019, and solid chances into the future with Lewis and Kiriloff waiting in the wings.


How do you trade for and "ace" and those other pieces without giving up Lewis and Kiriloff?
I don't see any other prospects and/or MLB players that the Twins have that get you an "ace" and those other pieces, especially if it includes control of those players for 2020.

#12 SomeGuy

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 11:37 AM

 

Why punt on 2019? There is plenty of cap space, existing talent, and unfulfilled (so far) potential talent for this team to make a run in 2019. Did you see what the 2018 Brewers did? The players and fans deserve 100 percent effort to win the World Series in 2019.

 

This... Buxton and Sano had bad years, but if they rebound, we are going to be wishing there was talent around them. Not saying they need a 170M payroll, but there's no reason they cannot use FA to fill the holes on the team. 

I agree that we should be taking on talent to make the 2019 team better but most moves should be focused on the next 2-4 years.If we commit resources, especially on the trade front, to only making 2019 better than we might be shooting ourselves in the foot. 

 

The problem with 2019 is that we are saying if Sano, Buxton etc. play to their potential we can be great.Even with an ace or more, we are still saying if Sano and Buxton, etc. play to their potential. 

 

Aside from Buxton and Sano, there are still too many questions to say World Series 2019 or bust.Does Kepler have the next level everyone thought he did?Why did Rosario go from 19 HR and .311/.353/.537 in the first half to 5 HR .240/.262/.361 in the second half?Will he give us a full season? Will any of the starting pitching prospects pan out?Will May finally be healthy for a full season?Is Pineda going to contribute?Is Rogers elite now or was that a small sample size?

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#13 SD Buhr

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 12:28 PM

Yeah, I'm not buying that Cleveland is waiving the white flag OR that the White Sox prospects aren't ready to have them competitive yet. 

 

Selling high on one of their SPs would be done with the idea being the talent Cleveland gets back would EXTEND their window of competitiveness, not drop into rebuild mode. If anything, it could mean they've determined they're willing to reduce their chances of a World Series level postseason run in return for a longer-term run of good-but-not-great results.

 

Chicago is on the verge of being a serious competitor in the AL Central. They don't have quite the level of payroll room the Twins do, but bizarrely (IMO) they are expected to actually use that flexibility to improve their club right now, while the Twins' FO are talking about moderation and letting ownership benefit from not even matching last year's payroll levels.

 

If you forced me to place a bet right now, I'd bet on Minnesota battling Detroit for 3rd-4th place in the AL Central in 2019, behind Cleveland and Chicago... and it would be the Sox with a shot at unseating the current champs if things go right for them or poorly for Cleveland.

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#14 beckmt

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 03:34 PM

Well the Twins waited too long.White Sox decided to jump in and acquired Colume from Seattle.Maybe Twins should decide to rebuild now as it looks like the White Sox have sensed the opportunity and pushed chips to the middle.


#15 ashburyjohn

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 06:24 PM

Well the Twins waited too long.White Sox decided to jump in and acquired Colume from Seattle.Maybe Twins should decide to rebuild now as it looks like the White Sox have sensed the opportunity and pushed chips to the middle.

The White Sox got a good reliever. Season. Over. :)

 

They gave up a pretty decent young catcher to get him, didn't they?

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#16 beckmt

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 07:11 PM

The White Sox got a good reliever. Season. Over. :)
 
They gave up a pretty decent young catcher to get him, didn't they?

This is not a move you make if you're rebuilding
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#17 mikelink45

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 08:58 PM

http://www.espn.com/...rs-looking-work Read this before getting too excited by the bargain bin players.Some are worth having on a team, but none are players that will put us to the level we want. 

 

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#18 SD Buhr

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 09:42 PM

Here's the thing that I already know is going to irritate the hell out of me...

 

Even IF you want to accept that uncertainty over Buxton/Sano means you're not going to shell out money for any of the top free agents (which certainly is worthy of debate, but for the moment let's go along with it), the fact that you have all that money coming off the books means that AT LEAST you don't have to wait out the market and be satisfied with signing the guys still available in February.

 

Yes, a lot of teams played that card last year and maybe even more will wait the market out this year. But because the Twins have way more payroll flexibility this year than virtually anyone else in MLB, they can afford to take the risk that they're going to "overpay" by some moderate amount to get the "best of the rest" in that tier below the really expensive guys.

 

While the big spending teams are focused on the top FAs and the teams with budget issues are waiting for the market to shake out so they can pick up the guys who are still looking for jobs in February, the Twins could be getting their pick of the tier of players just below the big money guys.

 

The FO should be identifying exactly who they feel are the best fits for their needs, based on whatever magic algorithms they've decided they like, and then go get those guys early, even though they would have to pay a little more than they would if they played the waiting game again. 

 

With so much money arguably available, there's no reason to pinch pennies all the way into February/March again.

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#19 beckmt

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 11:37 PM

 

The White Sox got a good reliever. Season. Over. :)

 

They gave up a pretty decent young catcher to get him, didn't they?

While not game over, it is clear the White Sox are another player, since the Twins seem choosing not to be.Twins had their chance to make some splashes and the Mighty Whiteys may have chosen not to get in.Would you have done Garver for Colume??These are the types of moves you make if you are planning to contend.Twins are not sending a good message here.


#20 Doctor Wu

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Posted 01 December 2018 - 07:16 AM

I have high hopes but low expectations for the Twins in 2019.Unless they can sign a very good starting pitcher and/or rebuild the bullpen into something dominant, I just don't see them contending.