After last night's game ugly loss- rather than seek out a Primal Scream Therapy group, I think it's time for another well-reasoned rant.
In another sad ironic twist in this Season of Twins Fans' Discontent Disgust- the brutallly-struggling-at-rookie-Aaron-Hicks-levels-of-futility, Byung-Ho Park, is mercifully dispatched, or maybe, Deep-Sixed, to the minors in AAA, sinking to a level that may be more commensurate with his maxed-out ability, or maybe not (if he's to ever be a MLB hitter, he needs to be seeing more FBs, not more AAA junk).
Want to continue the irony? Park turns 30 on July 10. Fellow off-season FA acquisition target hits town the same day that Park is dispatched, in one Ian Desmond, who is currently 30 years of age. The guy we got is no more (at least for now)... the guy we should have gotten just handed us our lunch in extra innings.
Even before Free Agency formally kicked off in the previous offseason_- think around this time one year ago- myself, along with other posters, suggested that the time and conditions were right to aggressively pursue a buy-low FA signing in the form of Ian Desmond. Desmond had a horrible first half in 2015- .580 OPS, only to recover nicely and suggest he wasn't washed up in the second half of 2015 with an OPS of .777 (Desmond's career OPS is .750) .
Desmond and his agent signed with the Rangers on a one-year deal worth $8M. Apparently, Desmond was more than willing to gamble on himself in restoring value and possibly re-enter the FA market in 2017 in a better position to consider multiple, multi-year offers. Also apparent, the lack of solid offers from the rest of the League meant they were largely uncertain which Ian Desmond was the player going forward- Decline-Phase First Half Desmond or Fluke-Filled Second Half Desmond?
In more irony, he ultimately considered the Rangers deal, as his best option, with the apparent implicit understanding that he wouldn't be the first choice at the premier defensive position, the position he'd played all his life, Shortstop. Talk about a guy very amenable at gladly doing what's best for his employer...! even if it carried grave unknowns, such as potentially diminishing his perceived image as one of MLB's top shortstops, and the distinct possibility at failing in an unfamiliar, but still critically important defensive position, CF. So let's not hear any talk of a player not willing to come to Minnesota.
Clearly based on the 2016 results thus far, Ian Desmond is a guy who was ready to meet the self-imposed challenge, and exceed all expectations, in his campaign to return to blue chip vet respectability and relevancy.
His batting line after tonight:
.323/.376/.535/(.911) OPS+ 132 fWAR 4.0
Cost to the Rangers- $8M (over 1 season)
Is there even any point in listing Park's line?
.191/.275/.409/(.684) OPS+ 81 fWAR 0.1
Cost to the Twins- $12 M (over 4 seasons)
Sooo.... the Twins have a four-year commitment of $12M to Park- despite their ugly history of badly mis-assessing East Asia talent translation to MLB. He now occupies a precious roster spot, already over-loaded on the current 40-man with similarly profiling MLB players and MiLB prospects-
* plus Palka is waiting in the wings needing a roster spot,
* a decision will need to made on Walker by end of next year on his 25-man status or lose him to MiLB FA,
* what if Sano can't cut it at 3rd- he needs the DH ABs
* plus signing the aging Park has cost the Twins in losing much younger talent (Arcia, and soon, Vargas), by putting them in position to fail to receive adequate compensation for the MLB potential they both still represent.
Now here's where it gets more damning-
Let's consider that the Twins had followed our recommendation in pursuing and signing Desmond last December. The Rangers ultimately got him for $8M. Assuming Desmond was fine with a one-year deal and playing out of position in the hopes of rebuilding value, why wouldn't he have been very interested in signing with the Twins?- requiring the Twins to overbid- to say, $9.25M for one year.
The Twins do that, and the middle of the IF is now highly solidified. This clears the way to let Sano take 3rd base, and Plouffe traded for one or two proven RPs playing for $1-2M- and/or a current young back-up catcher making the minimum- plus a one or two of mid-level prospects. Here's the important financial part- Plouffe's $7.25M is now off the books (with maybe a max of $1-2.5M in contract received back in trade).
It gets better. Signing Desmond last offseason means you just got a guy with a proven track record of playing every day- he's one of baseball's most durable athletes, that means that one, or both, of the Eduardos can be shipped out for prospects. Escobar made $2.15 this year, Nunez made $1.5M. That's 3.65M together. If both players are moved- four Twins league minimum players immediately move up into utility depth roles- if both Eduardo's are moved, D Santana becomes the #1 utility guy, with Beresford as the immediate alternative, plus both Polanco and Vielma (when healthy) waiting in the wings to seize the opportunity. The financial savings on shedding these three vets are anywhere from $8.75 to $10.9M in moving some combination of Plouffe/Escobar/Nunez.
It's difficult to say for certain, but there's a fighting chance that after all of these logical moves, the Twins would have:
* bolstered the MI with one of baseball's steady shortstops
* improved the offense with Desmond's proven superior bat @ the position
* added the winning leadership presence of a veteran that was lost when Hunter retired
* used the excess position players to fill other major areas of need
* signing Desmond for one year gives you other options: such as-
1) flipping him to a contender in exchange for a very decent haul of prospects
2) making a QO at season's end and receiving a 1st round compensatory draft pick
3) offering Desmond an extension if the "fit" is mutually right for both parties
4) easily walking away if Desmond doesn't pan out
* last but not least- by signing Desmond @ $9.25M for 1 year, roster space is cleared in the resultant moves, Sano is playing where he should be, plus it's entirely possible that the net cost in acquisition and trades would be very close to a financial wash.
Instead of signing a proven vet at a premier position- and only taking on one year's worth of risk @ $8M, the Twins took a much greater gamble on an unproven player of a similar age and playing at a non-premier position- and having this unproven player potentially occupy a roster space for four years- or the Twins eating $12M..
One more case where a little more intrepidness, more focusing limited FA dollars on more proven talent plus more forward and creative thinking, would have given Terry Ryan everything he wanted-
* a strong veteran leader- even if his production had been more Hunter-like pedestrian,
* a demonstrably better ballclub roster to start the 2016 season,
* more roster flexibility and less blockage of prospects,
* multiple chances for TR to do what he does best w/ the trades- plucking hidden prospect and recyclable talent,
* and , what TR revels in- not financially costing the team any appreciable increase in payroll.