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How Long Can the Twins Keep Their Window of Opportunity Open?

josh donaldson byron buxton jose berrios alex kirilloff royce lewis
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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 22 February 2021 - 09:30 PM

Opportunities don’t last forever and in the baseball world success can turn to also-ran status overnight. Minnesota has won back-to-back division titles, but how long can the organization keep open its window of opportunity?Minnesota’s Front Office Philosophy
Thad Levine and Derek Falvey were brought together in Minnesota four winters ago. In that time, the front office has been able to rebuild an organization that had lost 92+ games in five of the previous six seasons. They have been shrewd to hang on to their top prospects with Brusdar Graterol’s trade being the lone exception and the Twins are likely happy with their return in that deal.

Having one of baseball’s best farm systems is a key to sustainable contention. Minnesota’s current crop of regulars was moving through the farm system back in 2015-16, which saw them ranked as one of MLB’s top-five farm systems. Since the new front office took over, the Twins have moved back into the top 10 with prospects like Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, and Jhoan Duran ready to make a big-league impact. Even with those players getting close, other key pieces like Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios can reach free agency in the coming years so it becomes a roster balancing act.

Entering the 2019 season, Thad Levine was asked about signing one of the big free agent options (Bryce Harper and Manny Machado), but he felt those moves are for teams trying to put their “foot down” and not “trying to wrench a window of opportunity open.” Last winter, the window was open, and the Twins spent big money on Josh Donaldson. Now the Twins can look to the not-so-distant past for a glimpse into their own future.

Kansas City’s Approach
Kansas City is a lower revenue team, and in recent memory they saw their window open and jumped at the opportunity. KC’s front office used a slash and burn approaching by trading away pieces from one of baseball’s top farm systems. The results are hard to argue with as Kansas City won back-to-back AL pennants along with taking home the 2015 World Series crown. As the old adage goes, flags fly forever, but what are the long-term costs?

Looking back on those seasons, Kansas City wasn’t sure how long their window would be open. “You owe it to your fans and your city,” said Royals General Manager Dayton Moore. “You owe it to your ownership and all the people who’ve worked so hard to get your franchise to a certain point.” He capitalized at the right time, but things haven’t gone as smooth in recent years.

Since their title run, Kansas City has yet to post a .500 record and things aren’t exactly looking bright for 2021. Their farm system ranks in the middle of the pack with some top tier talent, but they are still trying to rebuild after trading away pieces for their title run. Would Twins fans want the front office to follow a similar approach and go all-in for one or two seasons of success?

Baseball’s Harshly Cyclical Nature
Kansas City isn’t the only team to see their window close after multiple winning seasons but not all teams end up walking away with a title. Detroit won the AL Central for four consecutive seasons from 2011-14 and they made World Series runs in 2006 and 2012.

During that time, they handed out big contracts and traded away top prospects to keep their window open. The team was trying to end a title drought that stretches back further than the Twins (1984). Recently, Detroit has struggled to be relevant again as they have posted sub-.400 winning percentages for four consecutive seasons.

"At some point, some teams get into an all-win-now mode because they're right there," Tigers general manager Al Avila said. "It's very hard to get into the playoffs. It's very hard to get into the World Series, much more even to win it. When you feel you have that chance, you've got to go for it."

Toronto made back-to-back ALCS runs in 2015-16 with sluggers like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion anchoring their line-up. The Blue Jays added veterans like David Price and Troy Tulowitzki to try and get them over the hump, but they never made it to the Fall Classic. Since then, they have lost 86+ games for three straight seasons before finishing above .500 in 2020.

Forbes baseball writer Maury Brown believes MLB expects windows to be open for roughly five years. Low revenue clubs can expect to be a little shorter and higher revenue clubs can expect to be a little longer. Multiple prospects need to hit at the same time and the organization needs to make appropriate supplemental moves, but he feels confident the league likes to tout five years as a bit of a “standard.” Minnesota’s revenue is considered in the middle to lower end of baseball, so the time might be now for the Twins to act.

The Twins window is clearly open, but it might close faster than fans would like.

How long do you think Minnesota’s window will stay open? Should the team go all-in? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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Cody Christie
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#2 bobs

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Posted 22 February 2021 - 09:48 PM

I honestly don't see why their "window" can't stay open.The core is still pretty young in baseball years and reinforcements seem to be on the way in guys like Kiriloff, Larnach, Lewis, Duran, Balezovic, etc..Berrios is only 26.The FO has shown an ability to build a bullpen and make shrewd moves (Maeda trade, signing PIneda while he was recovering from TJ, etc.).The Pohlads have shown a willingness to allow the FO to spend when they see fit (Donaldson, Cruz, Simmons, Colome, Berrios extension?).I think the next several years are going to be a lot of fun.

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#3 Channing1964

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 12:03 AM

It will stay open as long as Pohlad supplies the money and the dynamic duo doesn't make any more bonehead moves like they did in 2018.

#4 Twinfan603

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 02:22 AM

Since Kirilloff and the college hitters look like sure MLB regulars, it will all depend on how the pitching prospects turn out.

 

If 2 of Duran, Balazovic, Canterino, and Winder hit, the team will be fine.

 

What's more of a hot take however: they may need to trade Berrios after the 2021 season.

 

If you want to extend windows you need to maximize return on everybody, so if Berrios doesn't sign an extension with the team and they're not ready to give him $100 million after 2022, they should trade him to maximize return. That would hurt a whole lot less if Duran proves himself this season.

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#5 drivlikejehu

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 02:49 AM

I don't really see the appeal of speaking in generalities when the specifics are readily available. In any case, the Twins strategy is clearly to keep the window open indefinitely, which is the Cleveland approach.

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#6 Doctor Gast

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 05:12 AM

It's very hard for a small market team to compete for the World Series year after year. When the core hits FA, it's very hard to keep them all. It's not fair that the big market teams can throw big money at players and don't even worry about the luxury tax because they can afford it. But that's a different subject. Can we compete against LAD? Our hope is that we can but it'd be a miracle. We have done it before.
Should we go for all the marbles? If we have all our bases covered,I'd say yes!

#7 Major League Ready

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 06:43 AM

 

It will stay open as long as Pohlad supplies the money and the dynamic duo doesn't make any more bonehead moves like they did in 2018.

 

What "bonehead" moves did they make it 2018?

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#8 Nine of twelve

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 06:50 AM

Tampa Bay and Oakland have shown that lower-revenue teams can stay competitive enough consistently enough to challenge for the postseason almost every year. We can also do it with the right scouting and player development people, but it certainly would help to have a better revenue sharing program in place.

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#9 Rosterman

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 07:55 AM

I like what the front is doing. They signed Donaldson to a big contract to hold down third base. I see possibilities in the system when Donaldson moves away from the bag in (hopefully) two years. They signed starting pitchers as a stopgap before prospects move up this season (and subsequent ones). The question remains the need to keep Berrios and for how much.

 

They should've gotten something for Rosario, sadly. Losing him because of arbitration is a somewhat loss, but you do have replacements that need to play in Rooker and Kirilloff. The Twins have also signed temporary emergency stopgaps if need be.

 

Next is Larnach. So this is the year Buxton and Kepler need to shine to stay with the Twins. Celestino is also someone I want to see.

 

The Twins signed a Royce Lewis stopgap, but there is no doubt that it is time for Royce to shine in the minors to break into the lineup this season.

 

The Twins have two young catchers. Plus a couple of prospects in the system.

 

The system is loaded with arms.

 

Sadly they still play like all they need to do is win the division. AT some point they have to pull the big mid-season trade to go all-the-way. But I think the system is quite rich with tradebait names that may or may not pan out. It sure hurt NOT to have a 2020 minor league season.

 

Injuries are always the key to success. The Twins do seem to have depth pretty much everywhere with replaceable parts.

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#10 Dodecahedron

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 08:00 AM

The AL Central is unique. The Twins can keep the playoff window open indefinitely unless something changes and the division sprouts mass competence.

 

Winning a playoff game and advancing in the playoffs is another story....

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#11 Trov

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 09:05 AM

For small market teams they need to decided are they going to push all in like KC did, or are they looking to stay a winning team for years but never have one of the best teams to make push in playoffs, similar to what they did in 2000's and what Oakland has done for decades. 

 

Personally, I am a fan of the latter for baseball, because getting into playoffs with the best team on paper means nothing.Just making playoffs is important and hopefully you can get hot.So risking long term success for a little bit better chance in playoffs for a single year is not worth it to me.

 

How did Twins in 2000's and Oakland done it?They trade players before FA years and hope their prospects pan out.They keep reloading the farm system from trades and good scouting for drafts.It is not the splashy sexy moves people want to see, but it is sustainable of being good for years, just maybe not great. 

 

If you want to push all in like KC and Houston did, but Houston is not small market they just were not a good team. You need years of bad teams like Twins had, hope your high picks pan out, then sign FA and make bold trades that need to pan out, but give up your big prospect pool.You have a few years of winning but this makes those trades even more needed mid-season to fill holes because you committed to win now.Then when they all reach FA or get old you cycle back to losing for years.

 

Big markets can try to win via FA and a few good draft picks, small markets need to hit on all FA, draft picks, and trades for most part. 

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#12 Major League Ready

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 09:47 AM

 

Since Kirilloff and the college hitters look like sure MLB regulars, it will all depend on how the pitching prospects turn out.

 

If 2 of Duran, Balazovic, Canterino, and Winder hit, the team will be fine.

 

What's more of a hot take however: they may need to trade Berrios after the 2021 season.

 

If you want to extend windows you need to maximize return on everybody, so if Berrios doesn't sign an extension with the team and they're not ready to give him $100 million after 2022, they should trade him to maximize return. That would hurt a whole lot less if Duran proves himself this season.

 

I think you hit the nail on the head. Take a look at next year’s roster construction. We have to replace 2 starters who will be free agents. I think we will see 3-4 SP prospects get a shot this year. If just one of them excels, the payroll allocated to Pineda and Happ can be reallocated to one (higher profile) SP instead of two. In other words, we can afford one of the top free agents pitchers. We are not likely to win the war for Syndergaard but there are a few others that would look good in a Twins uniform and the rotation would be well positioned for at least 3-4 years.

 

Lewis not only making it but reaching his potential is also an obvious big deal. Our middle infield should be well set and we have several good options for the corner Ifers. That’s also another $10M (Simmons) that can be reallocated. If we establish a SP and Lewis, our payroll will be around $100M assuming we don’t resign Cruz. That should leave us well positioned to add final pieces.

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#13 Shaitan

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:21 AM

 

It's very hard for a small market team to compete for the World Series year after year. When the core hits FA, it's very hard to keep them all. It's not fair that the big market teams can throw big money at players and don't even worry about the luxury tax because they can afford it. But that's a different subject. Can we compete against LAD? Our hope is that we can but it'd be a miracle. We have done it before.
Should we go for all the marbles? If we have all our bases covered,I'd say yes!

 

Except the Twins are a mid-market team, which makes the KC analogy a little inaccurate. The TC media market ranks in the middle and of the pack and Target Field helps offset some of the challenges that faced the previous front office.

 

Either way, nobody can compete with LAD or NYY the way the current system is set up. I should clarify: nobody can compete spending-wise. But as NYM has shown for decades, and I suspect SD will show soon, most of the time you can't buy a championship. It's more complicated that just payroll. But of course a semi-equal payroll is helpful for equity.

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#14 Shaitan

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:22 AM

 

It will stay open as long as Pohlad supplies the money and the dynamic duo doesn't make any more bonehead moves like they did in 2018.

 

Are you referring to the trades that helped build the farm system rankings that this post is partially touting?


#15 mike8791

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 10:37 AM

http://Since Kirilloff and the college hitters look like sure MLB regulars, it will all depend on how the pitching prospects turn out.

 

Nicely said!The rotation looks solid this year, but next year, look out below!Only Maeda would be a lock to return.The FO has had plenty of time to resign Berrios, but at this juncture, that seems unlikely.Pineda, Happ and Shoemaker will be FA and with their ages,perhaps only Pineda might be retained but that will greatly depend on his 2021 performance.  

This FO has emphasized position players in their 4 drafts.Yes, they traded for Duran, but otherwise, their emphasis on offense in the draft has cast question marks on the quality of their 2022 rotation.If Duran and Balozovic are both ready to step in next year and provide quality starts, then that would greatly alleviate the losses.What are the odds of that happening?I like what this FO has done to restore the Twins to a playoff caliber team, but the fact is they have not proven they can spot pitching talent and develop same into quality big leaguers.

 

Since they refrain from signing top FA pitchers, where can they turn?Sure, they can hope their prospects turn into top starters but that's just a crap shoot, especially in an org. that has badly underperformed in developing pitchers compared to Cleveland or LA.I know many on TD have crowned the Falvine regime to be brilliant in turning around this org., but color me still sceptical when it comes to developing arms.

 

Which is why I am so perplexed from their failure to use the trade route to acquire pitching.What is the point of having a solid minor league system, especially a surplus of OF,if you don't seriously engage in trade talks with rebuildingteams having tojettison good pitchers for future prospects? The FO did not do anything in the offseason to add young, controllable pitching - a cleararea of weakness as soon as next year.Nor have they shown the ability to pull the trigger at the trade deadline to add to their rotation.By not doing so again this year, the FO is doing a disservice to a good team that will need an infusion of starters as early as next year to keep the window open.


#16 Major League Ready

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 11:20 AM

 

http://Since Kirilloff and the college hitters look like sure MLB regulars, it will all depend on how the pitching prospects turn out.

 

Nicely said!The rotation looks solid this year, but next year, look out below!Only Maeda would be a lock to return.The FO has had plenty of time to resign Berrios, but at this juncture, that seems unlikely.Pineda, Happ and Shoemaker will be FA and with their ages,perhaps only Pineda might be retained but that will greatly depend on his 2021 performance.  

 

This FO has emphasized position players in their 4 drafts.Yes, they traded for Duran, but otherwise, their emphasis on offense in the draft has cast question marks on the quality of their 2022 rotation.If Duran and Balozovic are both ready to step in next year and provide quality starts, then that would greatly alleviate the losses.What are the odds of that happening?I like what this FO has done to restore the Twins to a playoff caliber team, but the fact is they have not proven they can spot pitching talent and develop same into quality big leaguers.

 

 

 

Not correct. Berrios is back next year too. I like their odds of coming up with at least one starter among Duran / Balazovic / Canterino / Sands / Winder and Ober. Enlow is also not that far off. So, if just one of them succeeds we just need one good free agent SP next year. They can also easily spend the combined salary of Pineada and Happ. Another option would be to use the savings to extend Berrios. Either way, I have to disagree with your warning for next year. We are going to be in the best position we have seen in a long time if two of those SP prospects hit in the next year or year and a half.

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#17 gunnarthor

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 12:49 PM

The Twins were able to keep the window of opportunity open from 01-11 while moving from a core of Guzman, Dougie Baseball, AJ, Milton etc and reloading with guys like Mauer, Cuddy, Morneau, Liriano to Gomez, Span, Young etc.

 

If the current FO can pull that off, and that's why Falvey was hired, the window should remain open for a bit. The current core - Buxton, Sano, Berrios, Kepler, Polanco - is around until 2023 (except Berrios who is a FA after 2022, I think). We have some bats ready to help reload for the loss of Rosario and eventual loss of Cruz or Donaldson to injury. I'm not sure we have the arms but we have a lot of arms in the minors so we'll see. We should feel somewhat confident that we will be a playoff caliber team for the next three seasons.

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#18 Dman

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 01:30 PM

Contention depends on the competition to some degree.The White Sox are a younger possibly more talented version of the Twins right now with a solid 5 to 6 year core.The Indians are going to have an elite rotation for the next 5 to six years.If they ever get a formidable lineup in place they will be very tough to beat.KC is well on their way back with some solid young pitching coming up and decent bats right now.They don't have a solid core that I can see but a few trades and up and coming prospects could change that.Detroit has a ways to go but their pitching looks close as well.In a couple of years there core should be in place.

 

The Twins have a lot of talent right now and coming up but they will have to find a way to remain better than the rest of the division.No easy task as now that most of theteams in the division are ready to compete with lots of talented young cores on the way,

 

I like where the Twins are with the talent they have and the talent coming up.I would say I am most excited about the pitching prospects we have and the FO's ability to get the most out of the arms they have in the system.I think if they can pull off developing the pitching they need to compete, then I think they are truly set for a good long run.

 

 

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#19 Dodecahedron

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 01:41 PM

I read a lot about how the question mark this year is the starting pitching staff.

 

I did an exercise recently where I pulled up baseball-reference and looked at the pitching staffs, year-to-year, going back until I found a Twins pitching staff that performed at the level this group of starting pitchers is capable of.

 

I went all the way back to 1992 before I found the team. I expected to find a similar staff in the early 00s, at the latest. 

 

This should be exciting. We know the hitters have been there, now the team will have good starting pitching. Of course, it will need a good bullpen as well.

 

I invite anyone else to do the same exercise. The Twins won the division many times with a bunch of 4.00+ ERA yobs. (Granted, they had a 1-2 punch of Joe Nathan plus a couple of elite set-up men to shut teams down on the back end -- if we want to talk about this team having a hole, it's this).  

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#20 Dman

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 01:42 PM

 

Not correct. Berrios is back next year too. I like their odds of coming up with at least one starter among Duran / Balazovic / Canterino / Sands / Winder and Ober. Enlow is also not that far off. So, if just one of them succeeds we just need one good free agent SP next year. They can also easily spend the combined salary of Pineada and Happ. Another option would be to use the savings to extend Berrios. Either way, I have to disagree with your warning for next year. We are going to be in the best position we have seen in a long time if two of those SP prospects hit in the next year or year and a half.

 

I agree with you. I think a Berrios extension seems unlikely but they have him for two years and if he turns down the QO they should get a good draft pick for him at least.We have never had 5 to 6 pitchers with the quality of stuff that the current group of prospects have since I started following MiLB and I doubt if they have ever had that kind of talent bubbled up to the top ever before.I have to believe at least two of those 6 make it at some point and the rest if they don't make it should be excellent pen arms.

 

Losing the 2020 MiLB season makes it harder to determine just where these guys are at as some of it is likely just hype until proven. Also injuries can change things in a hurry but you have to consider we haven't even gotten to see the pitchers from 2019 and there could be another stud or two in that group as well that could be ready at the end of 2022 or 2023.the cupboard is far from bare though.

 

If the Twins finally start developing the pitching they need and are able to trade older players for younger ones I think they have a ten year stretch in them.

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