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It's apparent that a lot of fans are sick and tired of all the losing. Many are frustrated that the rebuild Terry Ryan has undertaken isn't showing better results. But is that fair? Three questions:

 

1) What does it mean for an MLB team to be rebuilding?

2) How long should a rebuild take?

3) How far along are the Twins in their rebuilding process?
 

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1) An MLB team is rebuilding when it shifts resources from sustaining the Major League core it has built around in the previous seasons (present value) toward accumulating young talent which will ideally mature into a new core (future value).

 

Bill Smith's core was Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Span, Delmon Young, Kubel, Punto, a rotation including Liriano, Baker, Blackburn and Slowey, and a bullpen featuring Nathan, Guerrier, and Crain.

 

2) Depends upon how much present value there is when the rebuild begins, and how advanced the young talent coming in is. The post-Puckett rebuild began in earnest after a 94-loss 1997 season with the trade of their most valuable asset (Knoblauch) for a couple of new core pieces (Milton & Guzman). They averaged 67 wins from '98-'00 before returning to contention in 2001. I can't think of many examples where a bad team brings up a new core of players much faster than that.

 

3) I don't think the current rebuild begins with Ryan replacing Smith after 2011. Injuries and regression left the FO with nothing of value to trade. The most valuable player from 2011 was Cuddyer, and they wisely let him walk in order to pay Willingham less for similar production plus a comp pick. Most of that offseason was designed around giving the returning core players a chance to rebound. For me, the rebuild begins when they turned their high draft position and Cuddyer's comp pick into Buxton and Berrios. Those guys being high-schoolers, that put a realistic date for them making a major league impact at 2016 at the earliest.

 

So, while we are witnessing our 4th straight year of way too much losing, we are only in our 3rd year of a rebuild we should be expecting to take 3-4 years. I think it's fair to expect the 2014 Twins to be winning more than they are, and for the 2015 Twins to be not bad (.500 seems like a reasonable goal). But contending next year? Nope, too early, probably not going to happen.

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I think you start seeing the fruits of that labor next year as the core starts getting more PT. The offense is largely set with Vargas, Santana, Escobar, Dozier, Mauer, Plouffe, and Arcia. Sano and Buxton should see some time next year at some point. There's a couple of OF holes that need addressing. The pitching will take longer, but if May gets it in the same way Gibson did, we could have a pretty competent front four in Meyer, May, Hughes, and Gibson by mid season.
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Actually, the rebuild started before 2011.  Many of the players the team is building with were acquired before then--but they were young.  Sano, Santana, Vargas, Arcia (and more) were signed as teenagers (I could add Plouffe ['04]).  Gibson and Dozier (from college) in '09.  I will point out that most of these guys were signed during the period of the much-maligned Bill Smith was GM--so perhaps the cupboard wasn't as bare as some contend.  

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The offense is largely set with Vargas, Santana, Escobar, Dozier, Mauer, Plouffe, and Arcia. 

 

The offense should not be even remotely set with this. Vargas has been super hot, but to just assume he'll maintain how he's played since his call up is unrealistic. Santana has also played way over his head. Escobar is a utility man at best. Plouffe is destined for a utility role or will no longer be with the team once Sano is a full time player (unless Sano is joining the ever growing group of DH/1B). Arcia isn't exactly lighting the world on fire. I don't think we can necessarily assume we'll see both Buxton and Sano next year either. Not to say most of the players listed can't or won't be part of the next successful Twins team, but I certainly wouldn't call that largely set.

 

Then on the pitching front, we're still one of the league's worsts across the entire board, even with Hughes doing well and Gibson performing decently. Last offseason we were assuming Meyer would be up before the ASB and look how that panned out. Right now, May is a long way away from being part of a "competent front four" and Gibson wouldn't make the playoff rotation for many actual contenders.

 

Quite frankly, all I really see is a team doing most of the same **** they've been doing for the last 4 years, and praying every one of their prospects pans out as well, or better, than expected. If this is a rebuild, color me unimpressed with the way we've been doing it and confused with a whole lot of the decisions made in regards to roster construction, promotions, signings, and play time.

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I don't think there are true answers, but there are points of reference. It took Beane 5-6 years, albeit with a tiny budget. He also never lost 90 games.

 

I think the better question for the Twins is whether they will ever compete under their current management. I doubt it. The Twins are simply unable to field a decent pitching staff and their future hopes rely on a handful of young pitchers, some of whom already come with significant doubts regarding durability.

 

Many times, organizations have allegedly been flush with prospects, yet never translate that potential into MLB success. There is every indication that the Twins are headed down that path.

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In response:

1) It actually happens when the team comes to the realization they have hit the peak, crossed over to the other side, and there is no "maintaining" the current state of affairs. For most teams, it usually happens at least one season too late. Witness the 2011 Twins. Honestly, if your team won 94 games, and a division title as they did in 2010, and had most of the core of that team back the next season, would you expect that team to have massive injuries and disappointments that would lead to a 90+ loss season the next year? I think not. Call it short-sighted, naïveté or stubborness, but the mistake was not realizing it was time in 2012 to begin. Or perhaps...could it be the FO simply realized they were a couple years away from rectifying the situation and just took shots at patchwork hoping for the best?

2) How long should it take? If your organization has smart baseball people in place...and avoiding easy pot shots at several perennially struggling teams...I'd say 3-5 years. There are two obvious organizational factors: 1) How is the talent in your system? Up or down? Low or high minors? 2) What age are the core players on your parent club? If you stumble and rebuild with several players on the roster still in or approaching their prime, it can be shorter. If you have a team of older players, or suddenly expensive players at or near 30, which happened to the Twins, it can take longer.

3) How far along are the Twins? Surprisingly close! I am not predicting a World Series run in 2016 to be sure. But when you talk about a talented roster than can compete for a winning record and possible playoff run, yes, it could happen then. There is no question that the interruption for Meyer's development in 2013, and the lost seasons for Buxton and Sano set the timetable back. What team wouldn't be affected by their top three prospects being slowed?

No-one can predict sudden all-star caliber performances for any young player, but before 2015 is over and done, the Twins will employ the talented likes of Dozier, Santana, Vargas, Sano, Buxton, Gibson, May, Meyer, possibly Berrios and Polanco with more established players like Plouffe, Mauer, Suzuki, Hughes, Nolasco, etc. We might even see Hicks and Pinto begin to establish themselves. I hesitate to name names or make predictions, but there are a few bullpen options that could be very quick risers in 2015.

History states at least a couple players listed won't turn out, or will fall short of expectation. And there could certainly be a trade or two, a FA signing or two, that will augment the listed roster options.

So again....close.
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I put up a blog post a little while back attempting to answer #2.  If you start the rebuild clock whenever a team loses 90 games for the first time, then over 50% of teams reach the playoffs by the fifth year after that (since 1995).  So, to be "average" in their rebuild time, the Twins will need to make the playoffs by 2016.

 

http://twinsdaily.com/blog/463/entry-5330-rebuilding-from-90-losses-to-playoff-team/

 

#1 -- I think there are too many different scenarios to have one hard definition of "rebuilding". 

#3 -- The Twins appear to me to be right on track for the "average" mentioned above.

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1) It actually happens when the team comes to the realization they have hit the peak, crossed over to the other side, and there is no "maintaining" the current state of affairs. For most teams, it usually happens at least one season too late. Witness the 2011 Twins. Honestly, if your team won 94 games, and a division title as they did in 2010, and had most of the core of that team back the next season, would you expect that team to have massive injuries and disappointments that would lead to a 90+ loss season the next year? I think not. Call it short-sighted, naïveté or stubborness, but the mistake was not realizing it was time in 2012 to begin. Or perhaps...could it be the FO simply realized they were a couple years away from rectifying the situation and just took shots at patchwork hoping for the best?

 

The data I found (1995-2013) showed that almost 1 in 5 teams were able to bounce back from 90+ losses directly to the playoffs the next year.  Based on the previous run of success and what seemed like such a fluky year in 2011, it doesn't seem unreasonable for the FO to think they had a chance at bouncing back in 2012.

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Actually, the rebuild started before 2011.  Many of the players the team is building with were acquired before then--but they were young.  Sano, Santana, Vargas, Arcia (and more) were signed as teenagers (I could add Plouffe ['04]).  Gibson and Dozier (from college) in '09.  I will point out that most of these guys were signed during the period of the much-maligned Bill Smith was GM--so perhaps the cupboard wasn't as bare as some contend.  

 

Acquiring young talent doesn't equal a rebuild.  Before 2011 the Twins expected to challenge for the playoffs each season and they were just refilling/retooling their minors.  Every team does that. 

 

The Twins retooled in '07 when Hunter/Santana were traded/not signed but they remained competitive.  Part of that retooling was getting prospects in a trade and using extra money to make an int'l splash.

 

One defining characteristic of a rebuild is cutting payroll to give the team payroll flexibility and play younger players.  The Twins payroll peaked in 2011 and has gone done each year.  It's arguable that the Twins didn't fully commit to the rebuild at that point but they weren't in FA trying to plug every hole with a decent vet.  The first season they tried a little (Willy's offseason) but after that FA was basically just stopgaps until this year.  People were not happy about KC's signing but imo the FO considered it a lost season and went value shopping.  It took patience but the high minors was barren and we have suffered miserably for awhile. 

 

The Twins are nearing the end of this rebuild cycle so they went after a few good FA's that should be here when the current wave of prospects start contributing.  One important distinction is that I don't think a rebuild cycle ends with playoff success.  This cycle is ending but it's possible that the Twins aren't successful (I'm optimistic though) and they have to rebuild again.  The Wolves are in the 3rd rebuild since the Garnett trade. 

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The pitching will take longer, but if May gets it in the same way Gibson did, we could have a pretty competent front four in Meyer, May, Hughes, and Gibson by mid season.

 

Gibson has been a below average starter this year.  League Average ERA 3.86, Gibson 4.27.  League Average xFIP 3.80, Gibson 4.01.  There is a place in the rotation for below average but not awful starters (4/5 spot) but he is not a guy I would want May aspiring to be.  I am a little more pessimistic on the guys you listed:

 

Hughes - Great this year and think he will continue.

Gibson - Looks to be settling in to the 4/5 spot

May - Awful, still hasn't thrown a quality start.  If you only look at his last 3 games his ERA is still 8.00.

Meyer - 4.5 BB/9, can't get deep into games, team still babying the shoulder.  Not confident at all that he is going to positively impact the team in 2015.

 

My opinion is the starting staff is still going to be a dumpster first next year, 4 years into the rebuild.

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The offense should not be even remotely set with this. Vargas has been super hot, but to just assume he'll maintain how he's played since his call up is unrealistic. Santana has also played way over his head. Escobar is a utility man at best. Plouffe is destined for a utility role or will no longer be with the team once Sano is a full time player (unless Sano is joining the ever growing group of DH/1B). Arcia isn't exactly lighting the world on fire. I don't think we can necessarily assume we'll see both Buxton and Sano next year either. Not to say most of the players listed can't or won't be part of the next successful Twins team, but I certainly wouldn't call that largely set.

Then on the pitching front, we're still one of the league's worsts across the entire board, even with Hughes doing well and Gibson performing decently. Last offseason we were assuming Meyer would be up before the ASB and look how that panned out. Right now, May is a long way away from being part of a "competent front four" and Gibson wouldn't make the playoff rotation for many actual contenders.

Quite frankly, all I really see is a team doing most of the same **** they've been doing for the last 4 years, and praying every one of their prospects pans out as well, or better, than expected. If this is a rebuild, color me unimpressed with the way we've been doing it and confused with a whole lot of the decisions made in regards to roster construction, promotions, signings, and play time.


Vargas, Santana, Escobar, Dozier, and Plouffe have all been above average at their various positions. While I can certainly see regression, given their age, I wouldn't be dumping any of them. Mauer, like it or not, is going to be here a while (and will probably have a bounce back season next year), and Arcia, while he's taken a bit more time to develop is only 23 and seems to be figuring things out after murdering AAA. I don't think this is a SSDD type situation as you suggest. I'd agree that there could be regression, particularly from Santana and Vargas, but given their age, it's also reasonable to think that they will turn into pretty decent players. Compliment them with Buxton and Sano, and I really do think that the offense is going to be fine.

I'm not arguing on pitching. It's bad. But the Twins already did the FA fix and are stuck with the fruits of that labor. Hughes is a stud. Nolasco... well, we have 3 more years of him. Hopefully he turns things around. Gibson had a pretty good season in his first full year and should improve on that a bit. May is where Gibson was last year, and given his swing and miss stuff could improve quite a bit more.

The big thing that I think people forget is that these things take time. I'm not exactly certain what people expect the Twins to do. Hitting the FA market is a crap shoot and doesn't work very well (we are seeing that this year, and that's with 2 very good aquisitions and 2 poor ones). Trading prospects for expensive vets doesn't work very well either, and it is far more likely to extend the mediocrity then it is to end it... and I'd add that when those vets get old/leave, there aren't much in terms of prospects to take their place and we are right back where we started.
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No one forgets this takes time, that's just a strawman. The question is, how long should it take, and should any team lose more than 95 games for multiple years, even while rebuilding? Should any team graduate its most ready SP and sign 3FA starters, and remain the worst SP in MLB, give or take a few decimals?

 

No one is arguing rebuilding does not take time. No one is arguing gutting the farm system and signing FA is the only way to go. Some people are questioning the speed of this particular rebuild (I argue they were unwilling to acknowledge the depth of the problem fast enough). 

 

Last year this board was filled with "just wait until next year. the pitching can't be as bad as last year. they will certainly win more than they have been. they can be .500 next year, or 2015. The rebuild will be over by 2015". And, the year before, the same things were said. Now, they are being said again this year.

 

Call me Missouri, but I won't buy things have changed until we actually see it change.

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"Then, you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest. With..... a herring!"

 

And the question still makes little sense (beyond being rhetorical  and a nice way to kill a few minutes) without establishing measurable success criteria. Arbitrary criteria take an arbitrary amount of time of time to fulfill.

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Gibson has been a below average starter this year.

Remember ERA/ERA+ is worse for starters than relievers.  So Gibson's 93 ERA+ entering today was very close to average for starters (which is generally 95).

 

He's slightly below average in IP/GS.... and he's not helping his case today, in terms of run prevention... so yeah, he's probably below average, but still fairly close. 

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I don't think Terry Ryan believes in the concept of a "rebuild".  I've never heard him endorse the concept even  conceptually.  Rather, he has always stated that he is continually trying to make the team better position by position using multiple avenues (farm system, trades, waiver claims, free agency).  In other words, if he believes there to be a need to improve a position, he is going to not necessarily going with a young player if he has a better option in some other fashion.

 

I think this is what led to a lot of frustration on the part of some fans who kept clamoring for a full "rebuild" and it wasn't happening.  If asked, I bet he would still say he is not in a "rebuild" rather he finally is able to find better talent from the farm system that he can't find in the other avenues.

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Remember ERA/ERA+ is worse for starters than relievers.  So Gibson's 93 ERA+ entering today was very close to average for starters (which is generally 95).

 

He's slightly below average in IP/GS.... and he's not helping his case today, in terms of run prevention... so yeah, he's probably below average, but still fairly close. 

 

I generally use Fangraphs for stats because it is a little easier to navigate so if I use their ERA- the league average for Starters is 102 where Gibson is 110 and will be moving on up after his crappy start today.  

 

I do agree with your basic point though which is he is below average but not a ton below average.  If I were to compare this to a School Grade with C as average he is closer to a C- or D+ than he is to a D or D-.  

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I generally use Fangraphs for stats because it is a little easier to navigate so if I use their ERA- the league average for Starters is 102 where Gibson is 110 and will be moving on up after his crappy start today.  
 
I do agree with your basic point though which is he is below average but not a ton below average.  If I were to compare this to a School Grade with C as average he is closer to a C- or D+ than he is to a D or D-.

 
Considering this is his first full season, I wouldn't get too worked up about it. Bottom line is that most teams have pitchers worse than Gibson in their starting rotation. He's young, and he will probably improve. The big concern I have with him at this stage is getting the K rate up a bit closer to his minor league average. I'm hoping that is something that will come with a bit more experience.

Bottom line though, Gibson is not the problem in the rotation, and when rebuilding with younger talent, we have to recongize that it takes time.
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Considering this is his first full season, I wouldn't get too worked up about it. Bottom line is that most teams have pitchers worse than Gibson in their starting rotation. He's young, and he will probably improve. The big concern I have with him at this stage is getting the K rate up a bit closer to his minor league average. I'm hoping that is something that will come with a bit more experience.

Bottom line though, Gibson is not the problem in the rotation, and when rebuilding with younger talent, we have to recongize that it takes time.

 

I agree that most teams have pitchers worse than Gibson on their teams.  But we are talking about a rebuild and listing Gibson as an asset in that rebuild and I have a hard time looking positvely at a rebuild where the best young pitcher you have in the majors is currently performing at a below average rate.

 

I also question the thought that he is going to probably improve.  Looking at the year you see a regression from Gibson, not improvement.  His ERA in April/May/June is 3.77 which is above league average and gets a person excited about him as part of the future.  His ERA in July/August/September is 5.73 and shows a clear regression.  His K/9 is way below average and his BB/9 is slightly below average as well.

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It's apparent that a lot of fans are sick and tired of all the losing. Many are frustrated that the rebuild Terry Ryan has undertaken isn't showing better results. But is that fair? Three questions:

 

    1) What does it mean for an MLB team to be rebuilding?

    2) How long should a rebuild take?

    3) How far along are the Twins in their rebuilding process?

 

1) An MLB team is rebuilding when it shifts resources from sustaining the Major League core it has built around in the previous seasons (present value) toward accumulating young talent which will ideally mature into a new core (future value).

 

2) Depends upon how much present value there is when the rebuild begins, and how advanced the young talent coming in is. The post-Puckett rebuild began in earnest after a 94-loss 1997 season with the trade of their most valuable asset (Knoblauch) for a couple of new core pieces (Milton & Guzman). They averaged 67 wins from '98-'00 before returning to contention in 2001. I can't think of many examples where a bad team brings up a new core of players much faster than that.


3)  For me, the rebuild begins when they turned their high draft position and Cuddyer's comp pick into Buxton and Berrios. Those guys being high-schoolers, that put a realistic date for them making a major league impact at 2016 at the earliest.

 

1)  In my opinion, the Twins haven't done this beyond the high draft picks they received for being terrible.  They never once capitalized on one of their former "core" players present value to add to their future value (discussed more below).  To me, what they did is hope and pray that it would turn around, instead taking actual actions to do so.  I do agree with you're general premise on what constitutes a rebuild, but in my opinion the Twins didn't jump fully into this philosophy until the end of last year.

 

2) For a team like the Twins, I'd hope this could be accomplished in a period of 4 years.  Unfortunately for them, that's working under the premise that they cashed in some of their present value for future value.  As mentioned, the Twins never did this in my view, and/or botched every attempt at doing so in their recent history (Santana, Gomez, etc...).  The Span and Revere trades might alter this some, but it's been 2+ years and they're just scratching the surface of those returns now.  Thus, unless they strike gold with every one of those top prospects they drafted (which is not a given), I think it's going to take longer.  Yes, there's plenty to like from guys like Santana and Vargas now, but if you didn't notice, the Twins still aren't shifting the needle of the gauge toward winning more games.

 

I see four total (and even just "potential") "future core" guys on this team right now.  Brian Dozier, Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana and Kyle Gibson.  That's it.   (there's obviously others you could/would add to a "team core" that will be around for a turnaround, but I'm thinking in a future context).  In your core mentioned above there were 14 guys, and many of them far better than what you would add to a current core now.

 

3) I don't think they really even acknowledged rebuilding until this year, but they did take some steps in that direction last year.  So I put them at year 2 of a rebuild right now. Thus, next year will still be a large struggle as several more guys get their feet wet, then in 2016 we see some .500-ish competence, and in 2017 they start being in the Division title conversation.  But for our sakes, I definitely hope I'm wrong and it happens earlier.

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