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Article: On Unsustainable Success And Traps


A victory over Toronto on Sunday that capped off a 20-win month and left the Twins with the best record in the American League suddenly catapulted them into the national consciousness, with Minnesota gracing the front page of ESPN.com's MLB section on Monday morning and appearing across all sorts of major media outlets.

 

Still, there is a well warranted sense of skepticism surrounding this team. Smoke and mirrors wouldn't necessarily be accurate – the Twins are pitching well and scoring runs – but their winning ways have been characterized by clutch hitting and unprecedented pitching performances. Neither seems likely to completely sustain.

 

As such, most people believe that this club, as currently constituted, is due for some serious regression. That's probably true. But it also misses the bigger picture.Last week, Grantland published a feature with a headline that asked "Are the Twins for real?" The conclusion was, basically, no. On Monday, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs served a similar note of caution and warned against the front office falling into the trap of believing in a hot start and mistakenly going into "Buy" mode, loading up for a 2015 run at the expense of building for the future.

 

These viewpoints are not inaccurate, in the sense that a team whose success is built so acutely around rising to the occasion in high-leverage situations is going to come back to Earth when things inevitably even out. But this is a transitional roster that stands to see a lot of change between now and September, which is both why we should lend a bit more credibility to their chances of hanging around, and why the notion of any sort of significant "Buy" moves at the trade deadline is silly.

 

Back at the beginning of May, I observed that things were going according to plan for the Twins; they were a game above .500 and their weaknesses lined up with areas of strength in the minor-league system.

 

Now, they're 10 games above .500 and the latter point remains true. This organization has a great deal of depth in the high minors, with many potential reinforcements waiting in the wings. Even if they did decide they wanted to buy and go all in for 2015 (which ain't exactly Terry Ryan's MO), what position would they target?

 

They're not going to look for starting pitching with numerous options available in the minors and Ervin Santana due back in a month. They're not going to make a mega-deal for a shortstop with Eduardo Escobar on hand and Jorge Polanco tearing up Double-A. They're not going to trade valuable assets for a DH when they can try out Josmil Pinto or Oswaldo Arcia or Kennys Vargas there.

 

This isn't to say that the Twins will have no problem plugging any leak that springs up. But they have already have the tools to try and fix them without needing to pony up at the hardware store. And it goes without saying that they benefit more, long-term, from giving their homegrown players a chance to contribute and make a difference rather than dealing away future assets for a rental. Terry Ryan, of all people, is aware of that.

 

So sit back and enjoy the ride as long as it lasts. There's really no need to worry that the Twins' sudden and unexpected success is going to cause them to do anything that hinders their big-picture plans.

 

But if we're lucky, we might get to see some talented young players make an impact on a pennant race.

 

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"...characterized by clutch hitting and unprecedented pitching...".  Whoa--this is what winners do.  They hit, pitch, and play defense when "it counts".  Examine most WS teams--that what they did.   I'm not contending that the Twins will have that level of success.  Nor was that level the goal for this season--it was to be respectable.  So far they have succeeded at that goal and losing 90 games this season would be a huge stretch.  I believe we can rule that one out.

 

Most of the bad years this decade did not start out terrible--on the contrary--they were tepid to slightly negative.  The team collapsed when the FO decided to use August and September as tryout time for "prospects".  I am convinced that if the Twins stick with"those that got them here" as the regular players and keep the "prospects" to bench players, there won't be a collapse. 

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Enjoyed the post. I would add Sano to the DH list. I could see him being called up in another month.The Santana suspension could end up being a blessing in disguise. Not only will he be a fresh mid season arm the Twins saved 8 million in payroll that can be used to acquire a player if needed. How much do you think Soriano will get.  He just fired Boras so must be wanting to sign somewhere. 

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Arcia not having a hit this past week is extremely alarming. He can't play any defense, he swings for the fences everytime, he doesn't seem to have great pitch recognition....he strikes out too much.....this is not an Aaron Hicks situation where hicks has potential to play defense, have a solid OBP, and runs well. This is a guy who plays no defense and needs to figure out how to hit. He has had plenty of time to do this so far.....

 

I would like to see them bring back Vargas at DH before they bring back Arcia. Vargas can at least hit for average....he doesn't do much else.... 

 

I am close to sticking a fork into one of my favorite Twins......

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I think the mega-deal should be attempted at Shortstop, and for Tulo, who is going to be traded, just a mattter of who to. Some combination of Pinto, Arcia, Meyer, Santana, (or their choice of shortstop from Santana, Escobar, Polanco, and Gordon), could all be on the table to start the conversation without digging into the future team. I would hate to give up Meyer, but it has become obvious to me that the FO really isn't that interested in having him help the team. The only two not offered could be Buxton and Sano, but stay selective on what is given up. Pinto seems not wanted. Shortstop problem is handled with 3 more in the wings. DH solved as Arcia and Vargas can't both be the DH only. Add Pinto as a catcher with upside bat (basically another DH for us as he rarely even catches in Rochester), and Colorado could have almost ready prospects to help them quickly. Now there is just Sano (soon) and Vargas needing ABs at DH. Colorado may have different pickings, but this would start the conversation. The Twins could solve their shortstop problem with prospects they are burying in the minors anyway, and replaced the problem with arguably the best all around shortstop in the show while still with 3 more that could replace Tulo if hurt.
 

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First, I forgive them. If this Twins team starts to lose, I'm okay with that, so long as they keep playing with the same aggressive, opportunistic attitude that has made them fun to watch. A team that keeps applying pressure often finds a way to win.

 

Second, as this article mentions, the Twins have help coming from the farm. Santana's not producing? How about Polanco? A starter gets hurt? Bring up Milone. A reliver? Tonkin, or Oliveros. Need a little more power? Bring up Vargas or Pinto, or Walker, or all three. Want to see no baseballs hit the outfield grass? Bring up Buxton.

 

A lot of these guys seemed so far away a year ago. Now so many of them are right on the verge of making it to the show. And what a show it's starting to become. The Twins are on a serious upswing, and it's just gonna get better.

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One thing that has not been mentioned is Paul Molitor and his base running philosophy.

 

Molitor tells his players to take the base(s) they are given and then try to take more.

 

From what I understand, Molitor wants his players to run hard for the given base, which puts pressure on defenses to get the ball back in. It also puts the base runner in position to take advantage of a defensive miscue or lackadaisical fielding.

 

How many times in the past have we seen a player all of a sudden realize he potentially has an extra base, but because he didn't run hard for that first base, he lost his chance?

 

It's all well and good to talk about clutch hitting, but if players are not doing the things that will put them in scoring position, there is no clutch hitting.

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Agreed Nick. The Twins shouldn't (and I don't think Terry Ryan will) even slightly mortgage their future at the trade deadline. If they are trading a future piece that is not ready for another future piece that is or is almost ready, and the values are close, then fine.  But we shouldn't be trading a top-10 prospect for one or even two years of some aging veteran that will very marginally increase our odds of success down the stretch or in the playoffs.

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I think the mega-deal should be attempted at Shortstop, and for Tulo, who is going to be traded, just a mattter of who to. Some combination of Pinto, Arcia, Meyer, Santana, (or their choice of shortstop from Santana, Escobar, Polanco, and Gordon), could all be on the table to start the conversation without digging into the future team. I would hate to give up Meyer, but it has become obvious to me that the FO really isn't that interested in having him help the team.

So, H2OFACE you'd like to trade two of the Twins top prospects in Polanco and Meyer for Tulo who is a 30 year old SS who has never played a full season in the majors. I'm glad you're not the GM for the Twins. In 46 games at AA Polanco is hitting .318 with 27 runs and 24 RBI's. He is only 21 years old and is on the verge of at least moving up to AAA. You say we have plenty of SS in case Tulo gets injured, but with him it's not an IF he gets injured it's a WHEN he get injured. There is no reason to trade for an expensive, soon to be over the hill SS that benefits for playing half his games in Colorado.

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If they are 10 games over at the trade deadline, I disagree. They should be going all in.

 

In 3 years, Buxton and Sano could get concussions (M&M boys, remember how they were going to carry the Twins to WS), or none of the SP prospects could have worked out, or whatever. If you are in the playoff hunt, legitimately, not barely, you have to take the chance when you have it. There is value in the more certain present. The further into the future you get, the less you know about what it going to happen.

 

I am not saying sell off the big prospects, but one of the many OF/DH/1B types that will sit in the minors while Mauer is here?

 

I just think you all are underestimating the value of certainty, and over valuing the very unpredictable future.

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Great article Nick, I think you summed up what a lot of us are feeling.  It's ok to be skeptical, but it's also ok to enjoy the run.

I do have a worry about the Twins though.  If we stay somewhat competitive, up into July, will the twins be willing to promote (demote) the right players, even though we are technically in the race for the playoffs?

Will they hold onto Stauffer/Duensing (instead of Oliveros, Archer and Tomkin).  Will they keep Robertson/Shafer on the roster?  Will they continue to let Santana struggle?  I think we have to keep that eye to the future and be aggressive, even if we continue to win.  

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What excites me more about this years Twins as far as the buy/sell question goes, is that they have the potential to better their team by "selling". They have some veterans that are maybe playing a bit over their head that they could get value for, stock the farm a little more, and have a youngster possibly improve the team. Pelfrey, Boyer, and hunter (although he's one of my all time favorite twins, so please don't) come to mind; even plouffe while his value will never be higher (given his age and probable decline in the next couple years) could pull a nice haul to stock the farm. I'd like to see the twins get a stud catching prospect.

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I feel like we're at the point with the Twins of the 2012-13 Minnesota Wild. For the Twins, after 4 straight 90 loss seasons, finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel into contention. I do not agree with the "buy now" group when it comes to trade deadline deals. I would much rather have a 5 year window of being contenders over a 1 year let's win right now mentality. Yes, a lot can happen where our prospects get hurt, never develop, etc. But we've done a good job of filling the cupboards in the Minors with future options and fill ins on the MLB club.

 

If anything I am more on the "selling" side at the trade deadline for this season, but not blockbuster type deals (a bullpen arm, Pinto, a bench player is what I'm thinking) After this season, we reassess what we have, what we need, and be more aggressive, whether through trades or free agency, in order to remain playoff contenders for not just the short term, but long term.

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First, I forgive them. If this Twins team starts to lose, I'm okay with that, so long as they keep playing with the same aggressive, opportunistic attitude that has made them fun to watch. A team that keeps applying pressure often finds a way to win.

 

Second, as this article mentions, the Twins have help coming from the farm. Santana's not producing? How about Polanco? A starter gets hurt? Bring up Milone. A reliver? Tonkin, or Oliveros. Need a little more power? Bring up Vargas or Pinto, or Walker, or all three. Want to see no baseballs hit the outfield grass? Bring up Buxton.

 

A lot of these guys seemed so far away a year ago. Now so many of them are right on the verge of making it to the show. And what a show it's starting to become. The Twins are on a serious upswing, and it's just gonna get better.

I love this comment. Really encapsulates why it's so much fun to be a Twins fan right now.

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I feel like we're at the point with the Twins of the 2012-13 Minnesota Wild. For the Twins, after 4 straight 90 loss seasons, finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel into contention. I do not agree with the "buy now" group when it comes to trade deadline deals. I would much rather have a 5 year window of being contenders over a 1 year let's win right now mentality. Yes, a lot can happen where our prospects get hurt, never develop, etc. But we've done a good job of filling the cupboards in the Minors with future options and fill ins on the MLB club.

If anything I am more on the "selling" side at the trade deadline for this season, but not blockbuster type deals (a bullpen arm, Pinto, a bench player is what I'm thinking) After this season, we reassess what we have, what we need, and be more aggressive, whether through trades or free agency, in order to remain playoff contenders for not just the short term, but long term.

 

didn't the Wild buy the two most expensive FAs out there? Didn't they go out and trade for a goalie? Did the Wild have a minor league system so deep in left winger that they were likely to lose some in the next off season (see, Twins, corner OF/DH/1B types)?

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By and large, I'm on the same page a Nick. That said, there's some information I'd like to see before I come firmly down on the, "don't trade future pieces for someone to help this year," side of the fence.

 

I'd like to know if anyone has done any projecting of 40-man issues the Twins will face this coming postseason. The reason is simple.

 

If, by chance, the organization will be facing a situation where they clearly will not be able to protect all of their most valuable assets, on top of the current MLBers they want to keep around, I would think you'd want to try to get something of value for them at the deadline, when demand is high, rather than waiting until everyone in the league knows you are having to deal out of desperation.

 

Looking specifically at Chattanooga's roster, it would be interesting to know how many of those players are going to be at risk. If the answer to that is, "more of them than the Twins will have room for on their 40-man," then I'd be looking at either getting something for a couple of those guys this summer or for the players that are "blocking" them on the MLB roster already.

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didn't the Wild buy the two most expensive FAs out there? Didn't they go out and trade for a goalie? Did the Wild have a minor league system so deep in left winger that they were likely to lose some in the next off season (see, Twins, corner OF/DH/1B types)?

Yes you are correct, the Wild went out and bought the 2 best FA's out there in 2012. They also continued to build the minor system and now you see today the young ones making an impact.

 

The Twins have done that as well the best way they can in an uncapped FA market with Nolasco (whether we like it or not) and Ervin. The Wild got to this point 3 years later without selling the farm, and I'd prefer for the Twins to follow that model of not selling the farm this season.

 

In 2016 and beyond, my mindset will change. Let's say we make the playoffs this year, get swept in round 1. I would hope we have our core intact and fill in the new guys (Buxton, Sano, Berrios) where they can. If we are still a position or pitcher short of being real contenders, by all means necessary get the job done.

 

I hope I made my opinion clear that I'm willing to let it be in 2015. 2016 and beyond it's on to be WS contenders.

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In 3 years, Buxton and Sano could get concussions

What's much more likely in 3 years is Buxton could be hitting .340 and Sano could be hitting 40 dingers. While the future is never certain I'll choose to plan on those two and others currently in the minors doing well for the big club in the future rather than giving that up to improve this year's team.

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No, it is not likely Sano will hit 40 HRs. that jus is super rare now.

 

And, I was 100% clear, don't trade Sano or Buxton or Berrios.......

Nor is it likely he'll get a concussion. I'm saying it's more likely that he'll hit 40 than it is that he will get a concussion. And if the two players were not on your list to be considered for a trade I'm confused about why you would mention them on the post of yours that I quoted.

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Because you can't predict they'll be good, healthy, and all the others would too, just like Mauer and Morneau....I was comparing this situation to the one in the 2000s where they refused to trade from the future, because we just had to wait for Mauer and Morneau to build around, then we could worry about the present.

Edited by mike wants wins
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Looking back at your original post Mike, I think we're on the same page. We're for sure talking about trading the same type of players this year (depth 1B/OF being your example, bench players and bullpen arms being mine)

 

If we can get anything of substance that can help us this year for those players, sure I am with you. I don't know what you could get for them.

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Looking back at your original post Mike, I think we're on the same page. We're for sure talking about trading the same type of players this year (depth 1B/OF being your example, bench players and bullpen arms being mine)

If we can get anything of substance that can help us this year for those players, sure I am with you. I don't know what you could get for them.

 

got it, sometimes we* do post across each other

 

 

*we=all of us here

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didn't the Wild buy the two most expensive FAs out there? Didn't they go out and trade for a goalie? Did the Wild have a minor league system so deep in left winger that they were likely to lose some in the next off season (see, Twins, corner OF/DH/1B types)?

 

They did and they might now be screwed. Good enough to get in the playoffs but not good enough to get deep. Too much money tied up in expensive FAs that are pretty good but not elite.

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So, H2OFACE you'd like to trade two of the Twins top prospects in Polanco and Meyer for Tulo who is a 30 year old SS who has never played a full season in the majors. I'm glad you're not the GM for the Twins. In 46 games at AA Polanco is hitting .318 with 27 runs and 24 RBI's. He is only 21 years old and is on the verge of at least moving up to AAA. You say we have plenty of SS in case Tulo gets injured, but with him it's not an IF he gets injured it's a WHEN he get injured. There is no reason to trade for an expensive, soon to be over the hill SS that benefits for playing half his games in Colorado.

 

Fear not, this wouldn't be enough to get Tulo.

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They did and they might now be screwed. Good enough to get in the playoffs but not good enough to get deep. Too much money tied up in expensive FAs that are pretty good but not elite.

 

Or they could have sat still , and not made the playoffs the last two years, and have a super deep minor league system, and then in 5 years maybe be good if everyone worked out.

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