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Last Stand: Twins Finally Win a High-Stakes Offseason Showdown

josh donaldson
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 07:48 PM

In both the postseason and offseason, Twins fans have grown accustomed to letdowns. The franchise's historical run of futility in October is exacerbated by (and maybe reinforced by) its routine shortcomings in the months that follow.

By snapping one of those trends last week, Minnesota took a huge step toward ending the other.Much has of course been written about the baseball impact of signing Josh Donaldson. A few samplings to check out if you haven't yet:But today I wanted to zoom out and analyze the broader meaning of this move. What intrigues me is not just the Twins handing out a free agent contract that nearly doubles their previous record, but the way it went down.

Over the years, fans have heard so many times that the Twins were "interested in" a top prize that landed elsewhere, or "made a strong offer" that came up short, or "didn't see a fit" for an expensive player who assuredly would've fit... It's understandable how so many came to feel jaded. Add in the history of trade deadline malaise, and the front office has earned its skepticism.

However, it bears emphasizing: This ain't the same front office. I do think much of the "Twins are cheap" sentiment is engrained from an era where that claim was undeniably true; in the 2000s Terry Ryan would reliably sign no-upside bargain-bin players like Rondell White and Sidney Ponson to fill key holes on contending teams.

The new regime, seemingly empowered from the start to bump spending upward, has proven far more willing to play in the medium-deep waters of free agency, with signings like Nelson Cruz ($24M), Jason Castro, ($24M), Marwin Gonzalez ($18M), and Addison Reed ($16M). Now, they've taken a dive into the deep end.

This was a long time coming. Even in their more aggressive state, the Twins had continually come up short on the big fish – an angling pattern that carried over into this offseason, where they were unable to secure their top target in Zack Wheeler. As more pitching names came off the board, a familiar feeling began to set in, especially once reports arose that Minnesota had grown "pessimistic" in its pursuit of Donaldson, the last hope for a noteworthy FA addition.

About a week later, the historic deal was done. What happened?

The Twins were patient. They made an offer they felt was legit, and then they stood their ground, even as Donaldson and his agent (understandably) tried to leverage Minnesota's bid against the Braves and others. When reports emerged that the free agent would sign on the spot if someone reached his desired threshold ($110 million), the Twins didn't bite. In fact, they took a stand, by signaling via their own media transmissions that they were out on the posturing game. Despite their patience, however...

The Twins were persistent. They never gave up. A story by Phil Miller in the Star Tribune details the team's recruiting efforts, which included a pitch from Rocco Baldelli, assurances from the front office about their commitment to winning, a video overture from Miguel Sano, and plenty of lobbying from Twins fan/golf star Mardy Fish. Eventually, the Twins also made a key improvement to their offer; according to Miller's piece, it was the addition of a fifth-year option with an $8 million buyout that jump-started talks and built momentum to close. Minnesota took that step because, at the end of the day...

The Twins were serious. They wanted to spend that money. They wanted to make a splash. It wasn't all talk. But the front office wasn't going to spend it indiscriminately, and the relative value propositions (plus generally unfavorable circumstances) steered them away from the pitching market.

After all the offseason near-misses and no-thankses, this time the Twins wouldn't be denied. While I'm sure all the aforementioned pitches and perks helped to lure Donaldson, he makes no secret of what swayed him: money.

"Ultimately the financials were where they needed to be for my agent and my family and everybody to feel very happy with it," Donaldson said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. He added in an interview with Atlanta's WSB-TV that other offers were "not in the same realm."

It is refreshing and almost surreal to hear those quotes about a free agent showdown that the Twins actually WON, isn't it? For them to be throwing around their weight in pursuit of a coveted, elite talent – who was also chased by a regional favorite and the defending champions – completely shatters a long-running narrative.

Now, this doesn't erase the team's history, but it's hopefully another signal of the new reality: The Twins are ready to be definitive players in the American League. With the contention window flung open, they're moving to "put their foot on someone's throat," as GM Thad Levine put it.

The front office convinced Donaldson of this, and by successfully doing so, they're convincing me and fellow followers of the club. The impacts of this new acquisition on the Twins lineup and on their infield defense are immense, but we shouldn't overlook its corresponding impact on fan morale and confidence.

This is a game-changer.

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#2 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 08:13 PM

One of my favorite articles of the entire off season. Thanks Nick.

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#3 chinmusic

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 09:33 PM

So many favourable optics and therefore reasons to look forward to the coming season. Even the uncertainty of the starting rotation before the return of Pineda and Hill lends an air of intrigue. It'll be fun to watch that situation unfold. The remainder of the off season may yet have some surprises, too. As far as Donaldson, 10 of the Twins first 19 games this season will be versus the A's and Jays, his two former AL teams, which is amazing. Somehow, though, I doubt that he'll need the added incentive. 

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#4 D.C Twins

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 10:10 PM

Kudos to the FO!(from someone who was hyper critical of their FA performance previously)

 

They still need to pull a rabbit out of the hat to solidify our SP rotation which will now realistically need to be developed by our elite internal coaching.

 

Could happen, but either way, that line up is going to be CRAZY fun to watch.

 

Fingers Crossed

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#5 David HK

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 10:11 PM

That's a really good debriefing on the JD topic. (Other than Mardy Fish being more famous as a tennis player ;-) )

 

I hope, as well, that this is a harbinger of breaking that old mold of being "in on" talented players, and "just missing out," ad infinitum-- making the longest damn winters in the league even longer with no glimmer of summer hope from a big FA signing...

 

Thanks, Nick!

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#6 Doctor Gast

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 05:37 AM

Congratulations & thanks FO! For sticking it out! Keep up the good work! & good & needed article, Nick!

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#7 Doctor Wu

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 05:50 AM

I also agree; good article! And yes, no matter what you think of the Donaldson signing, it DOES signal a big shift in the way the Twins front office sign a free agent. Very encouraging to see them but in the effort and get it done. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that this deal doesn't look bad a year or two from now.

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#8 ChiefsKid

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 10:00 AM

Great move. Makes the Twins better and signals to future FAs the Twins are legitimate.

Great article as well.

Now let's keep it going and go get a TOR starter and make a real run at a title.
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#9 PDX Twin

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 10:34 AM

This successful move also makes me more confident that the actually DID make a move for the pitchers they lost this year and last. The Donaldson move was rational, as you point out in the article, and I suspect that their moves for the lost pitchers were also rational, as must be the case for a team with a binding budget constraint. Sometimes the rational offer is not enough. But we as fans can never know what that offer was, so we are left to wonder whether the team actually made an offer at all.

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


#10 Trov

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 11:13 AM

I am a fan of the signing and hope it works out.I also hope that if it does not it does not stop future attempts.I know many fans that are happy now will flip if Donaldson gets hurt, or fails to perform.But, who else were they going to spend the money on?Not saying spend just to spend, but this should improve the team, and if he loses a step at 3rd by end of deal, as long as his bat is still there he can move to first or DH.  

 

I hope this does silence the critics that FO just putting on show for the Pohlads but never were serious.It is not always the money that players decided to go to particular teams, in this case it sounds like it was though.  


#11 Dantes929

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 11:26 AM

First of all I take a bit of issue with the Rondell White signing.It was a great signing at the time. He had a good season the prior year and as USchief used to point out our other option was Jason Tyner at DH.Plenty of upside but what made it bad was White simply had an awful year. So much of what makes great signings is hindsight but it is all up to the player. Morris and Cruz had great years which equals great acquisitions but if they have lousy years then "why do we keep signing washed up veterans?".Rondell White, Tommy Herr, Lance Lynn, Sam Dyson among many others were very good signings. They just turned out poorly for the Twins. 

As far as Donaldson goes there was talk of him holding out for 110 mil, rumors of him being offered around 100 mil and we end up signing him for 92 mil. Wheeler has never been an all star or had any spectacular years so 100 mil seemed like a bit of overpay but the talk is that is what would sign him.Rumor had it that the Twins offered him that and he ends up signing for 118 mil.Maybe we could have signed him for 130 mil.Is that what we should have offered?How would we know what it takes?Donaldson was asking for 110 mil and there were those here that said we should do the overpay.We ended up giving him 18 mil less than what he asked for and now we are players? Nothing makes sense.

 

 

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#12 Darius

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 11:32 AM

I didn’t think an article of this nature would ever be written in regards to the Twins. It has never been able to be written in my entire lifetime. What a time to be alive.
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#13 Nick Nelson

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 12:13 PM

 

First of all I take a bit of issue with the Rondell White signing.It was a great signing at the time. He had a good season the prior year and as USchief used to point out our other option was Jason Tyner at DH. 

If you view the two options as Jason Tyner or Rondell White, they I guess you can argue it was a "great signing." But that's not the case. The 2006 Twins were a championship-caliber team on the cusp (as illustrated by their 96 wins) and to address one of their biggest weaknesses TR went bargain-hunting as usual. 

 

White had a good season in 2005, you're right. But he was a 34-year-old with an iffy track record of production and durability, which is why he was available for $2.5M. 

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by suggesting that the 2000s for the Twins were characterized by an inability to add external pieces capable of putting a highly talented core over the top. Signings like White, Ponson, Ramon Ortiz, Adam Everett, Mike Lamn, Tony Batista... these were costly half-measures. The Donaldson signing gives me hope that this run will be much different. 

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#14 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 02:19 PM

 

If you view the two options as Jason Tyner or Rondell White, they I guess you can argue it was a "great signing." But that's not the case. The 2006 Twins were a championship-caliber team on the cusp (as illustrated by their 96 wins) and to address one of their biggest weaknesses TR went bargain-hunting as usual. 

 

White had a good season in 2005, you're right. But he was a 34-year-old with an iffy track record of production and durability, which is why he was available for $2.5M. 

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by suggesting that the 2000s for the Twins were characterized by an inability to add external pieces capable of putting a highly talented core over the top. Signings like White, Ponson, Ramon Ortiz, Adam Everett, Mike Lamn, Tony Batista... these were costly half-measures. The Donaldson signing gives me hope that this run will be much different. 

Yeah, White was coming off a "great" season where he played in all of 90-something games and posted a BABIP around .330, the highest he had posted since he played half his games on the bounce-happy turf of Olympic Stadium.

 

While BABIP seems pretty primitive by today's standards, it was the type of thing smart teams were still paying attention to in the mid-2000s, which only illustrated how Ryan's front office was slipping behind the times (and continued to do so for the next decade).

 

And no, this wasn't hindsight. All of this was discussed at great length before the 2006 season by the more sabr-inclined posters on the Elysian Fields and, later that season, BYTO.

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#15 dgwills

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 05:18 PM

Good article. Easy to be frustrated with the front office when they are unable to sign players. The fact is that there are always things that are out of their control. This signing proves that they have been making serious offers to the players that the team needs to contend. It bodes well for the future.

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#16 rv78

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 07:18 PM

Too bad the Twins didn't make a few more signings like this the last couple of seasons. One could argue they did with Cruz but had this FO signed a few more guys like Donaldson before the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons my guess it would have been easier to get a top ACE pitcher to come here this year. You gotta show you are serious about winning to get the best to join you. There's a saying that goes something like this: PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS.

 


#17 VivaBomboRivera!

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Posted 20 January 2020 - 08:28 PM

Four words:

Miguel Sano, pickin' machine!
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#18 rdehring

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Posted 24 January 2020 - 12:38 PM

Does anyone have any news about who was taken off the 40-man to make room for Donaldson?


#19 Riverbrian

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Posted 24 January 2020 - 01:54 PM

There are 3 spigots to staffing a roster. 

 

Trade

Develop 

Sign as FA

 

Glad to know the FA spigot has additional water pressure.:)

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