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Contention for 2019 and Beyond

stringer bell



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blog-0034305001537119841.jpgThe Twins have ridden the roller coaster during the Paul Molitor era. Up in 2015, way down in 2016, a peek at the playoffs in 2017 and now way down in 2018. The roller coaster claimed a front-office victim in longtime GM Terry Ryan two years ago and now there has to be some heat on field manager Molitor after this season's extreme disappointment.


The complaints about the old regime included being too "old school", including pitch-to-contact staffs, not using advanced metrics, cookie cutter approaches to hitting, and of course, not spending enough to bring in and keep talent. Fair complaints all, I think. However, in the Levine/Falvey era, we see little real progress and a real lack of talent in the upper minors. This year's crop of September call-ups is among the most uninspiring in recent memory.


I believe there are two keys to being competitive and sustaining that competitiveness for a number of years. The first is pitching. Levine and Falvey are supposed to be pitching guys. They have acquired pitching, but with mixed results at best. Their best talent at the top levels of the farm system doesn't have many, if any, outstanding talents. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi didn't move the needle much for the big club this year. Perhaps they have suffered from some bad luck and just need to add quality until it sticks and stays. All I can say is this, the Twins rank in the bottom third of almost every meaningful pitching stat. You don't win year after year with far below average pitching.


The other component which is missing in my opinion is defense. For the last two years, the Twins have gone with a primary shortstop who is well below average defensively, couple that with a revolving door in center field this year, the trading of the regular second baseman and the season-ending injury to primary catcher Jason Castro, and you have a toxic mess turning outs into outs. Further, and if there is one complaint about Molitor that sticks, it is this. The team has been woeful at executing fundamental baseball. I'm talking about throwing to the proper base, making needless throws, failing to hit cutoff men and the like. Add in that opposing baserunners are taking extra bases like free gifts and this is tough to watch.


I think the front office needs to commit to pitching and defense in a big way this offseason. That would include making every effort to keep their most gifted defender (Byron Buxton) in Minnesota and on the field as much as possible. Secondly, I think the Twins need a defensive-minded shortstop, with the idea that Jorge Polanco can move to what I think is his natural position, second base. On the pitching front, more and better arms to augment the so-so rotation (I think Gibson/Berrios/Odorizzi is fine for #2-4) and a questionable bullpen. I like May/Hildenberger/Rogers, but more is needed included a closer.


The Twins have been in the baseball wilderness long enough. They need to have a solid plan for improvement, stick with it and stay relevant not for an occasional year, but consistently. I think the long suffering fan base deserves it.



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Pitching and defense. Two things this team is clearly lacking. What’s the consensus on Dallas Keuchel? Not really an”Ace” but no slouch. Probably the best we could get and might have a year or two of elite/solid seasons left. Jose Iglesias? Good defense. Younger. Can cover more ground than Polanco and make up for sano’s limited mobility. Was thinking Yasmani Grandal possibly as well. Seems to be decent and gets on base. Jason Castro seems to be good but it seemed once he went down we just had a black hole there. As much as Garver and astudillo are fun. Can they be counted on for a full season. Maybe someone with a bit more quality above Bobby Wilson can be found for defense and running a staff a few days a week. I believe Polanco is a second baseman and when Molitor and company realize that the better. That’s my thinking. The relief core can be found within the organization. At some point you just have to hand some of these guys the ball and let them learn. Jake Reed? John Curtis? Shortstop, a starter, and possibly a catcher. These positions we should target I think. Healthy seasons from “the core” and we”lol be within striking range. What’s others thoughts?

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“They need a solid plan for improvement,” really? If that means going into the offseason with the idea that we’re only a couple overpriced free agents away from winning the division, then we’re not only screwed in the short term, but also the long term.


What this “long suffering fan base” deserves is a FO that won’t waver from their commitment to (re)build a consistent winner.


Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t sign a FA, but signing anyone other than Machado, Escobar, or Andrus (if he opts out) to a multi-year deal would be a mistake. Although, when it comes to one year deals, I think Wilson Ramos and Gio Gonzalez would be great fits. And I know many would disagree with me, but I think the FO should utilize the trade market more this offseason because there’s just way more options to choose from, and better talent to be had.


For example, if we’re really in need of a better defensive SS, than the Twins could swing a deal with the Phillies to aquire former 1st rounder, J.P. Crawford.

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I know that pitch to contact is old school, old Twins, but has anyone else read the summaries of the Oakland patchwork rotaion?  The words Pitch to Contact keep coming up.  I know batting is now K or HR, but if the pitchers are also K or HR what do we have?  


Something has to change because what we have seen in September is without hope. If the new metrics aren't working do what Oakland has done and create some new metrics.

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Starting Pitching:  It's time to see what our upper level guys have - Romero, Gonsalves, Slegers, Stewart, Mejia, and maybe a few more should be put into a competition for the last two SP spots.   At this point, Berrios, Gibson and Odorizzi should be considered as nearly certain to make the rotation. \

Relief: FAs could add something here.

Position players: Look for a prime top fielding shortstop and move Polanco to 2B.  Try to sign Mauer for one or two years.   Maybe go after a DH, or go with Tyler Austin - I'm ambivalent.   A minor issue is what should be done with Logan Forsythe who plays adequately as a starting player but stinks as a utility player??


In other words, generally stay with the plan.  KC Royals did and won a World Series - as did the 1980s era Twins.. 

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 I'm sure most would agree that the Twins have the SS of the future at Ft. Myers. I may be wrong but I say promote Lewis to the big leagues in March 2019. Yes he is young, Yes he is inexperienced, but he is a special talent. He is a player who appears to encourage others. He will light a fire in a cold Minnesota dugout. He  appears to have the personality that won't go into a depressed funk when he has slumps, which come to all baseball players every season. Sink or swim? I say Lewis should swim in Minneapolis in  2019. 

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Thank you for your thought provoking article (and I like your alias).  But I respectfully disagree with some of your assertions. 


First, I think its unfair to blame the current FO for the lack of upper level minors pitching.  They have been in place for two years, so any impact they would have would be seen in only the lower levels.  This impact includes two minor league championships and an improvement in farm system rankings from "meh" to top 10 (maybe 6th?).


Second, it was argued that not enough was being spent:  I was among many who thought the free agent signings in the 2017-18 off season were shrewd. 


This year's train wreck was due to numerous, mostly unforeseen and, I posit, unforeseeable issues; from Polanco's half season suspension, to complete failures from Bux and Sano, to nothing but whiffs from each and every free agent signing, to Santana's May 1st return which occurred (when?) in August?


Again, thank you for your thought provoking post.

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I know I'm in the minority, but day in and day out, I think Polanco is a pretty decent SS who makes the plays, sometimes some very good ones. And I think the ability is there to improve. That being said, Lewis should move him to 2B eventually, and I do believe it's his best spot. I endorse finding a good, every day defensive SS and make the move now.


I would also do my damndest to bring back Escobar. I would pay him as a starter...$8-9M per?...knowing he will play daily somewhere. If not as a starter, the 3 positions and even DH.


Agree also on Buxton every day with Cave as a really nice 4th OF. Buxton hitting even .250 with natural strength and speed is a dangerous player.


The injuries to Mejia and Pineda are unfortunate as September could have been very useful for both. Mejia makes the club regardless as he's out of options I believe. He and Rogers could make a dynamite pair of LH out of the pen. A healthy Pineda joining Berrios, Gibson and Romero is the start of a really nice rotation, IMO. What about Odorizzi? Well, you could do a he'll of a lot worse than having him as your #5 SP. I'd really like one major move here, trade or FA, and convince Odorizzi just how well his stuff could play up as a setup man and potential closer.


In no exact order, picture this idea:










2019 PEN:





Reed (healthy and back to normal)




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