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Article: One Year In, Rebuilt Twins Front Office Is Crushing It


Nick Nelson
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Some context...

 

The contract guaranteed 3/2/2 if Morris accepted the player option. Higuera had signed a 4 year 13 million guaranteed contract early that winter. Other pitchers were getting guarantees of 10 million or more.

 

Baseball was coming out of collusion and salaries were escalating very quickly. The going rate for a top pitcher was going to pass 5 million. Gooden signed a 3 year extension for 15.45 million guaranteed prior to the 1991 season. Three days after the Twins signed Morris, Clemens signed a 4 year extension worth a guaranteed 21.521 with an option for 5.5 million more.

 

Collusion a thing of the past, salaries were escalating and each new contract seemed remarkable to newspapers. The Twins guaranteed 7 million to Morris and 3 days later Clemens got a guarantee of three times as much.

 

The Morris signing was critical to the Twins, but he didn't get Clemens money or even Higuera money. He didn't earn top tier pitcher money until after 1991 when the Blue Jays gave him more than 5 million a year. Relative to Twins signings the commitment was more similar to that of Nolasco or Santana.

Great. Should the twins pocket money, or spend it less than perfectly efficiently?

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It would be fair to say they traded pitching only because they decided they had zero chance at the postseason.

Since that was not true, it’s fair to say trading away pitching was a blunder, and I absolutely believe Falvine would say the same. Whether or not they actually made the postseason is irrelevant to the decision, as are postseason results.

To put it in your poker terms, folding after the flop, when pot odds indicate you should call, is a blunder, regardless the turn and river.

The odds makers were giving the twins something like a 5% chance of making a one game playoff in order to get into an actual playoff series.  To characterize this as the Twins being in a good position is a very colorful interpretation.  This is management 101 and to paint the decision to improve the long-term instead of depleting assets for a very low probability of success is a fanatical position as skilled leadership doe not ignore the odds.  

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It would be fair to say they traded pitching only because they decided they had zero chance at the postseason.

 

Since that was not true, it’s fair to say trading away pitching was a blunder, and I absolutely believe Falvine would say the same. Whether or not they actually made the postseason is irrelevant to the decision, as are postseason results.

 

To put it in your poker terms, folding after the flop, when pot odds indicate you should call, is a blunder, regardless the turn and river.

Except they only had a 5% chance at the playoffs, so the odds said fold.

Regardless, whether you think they should have bought or sold is not my point.

They are both fair opinions. Insisting either is an undeniable fact is not fair.

Neither is insisting the FO said something they didn't, then when asked for a source, saying "Well, they can't come right out and say what I'm insisting they said, but I'm sure they meant it." (jim, not you. )

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Except they only had a 5% chance at the playoffs, so the odds said fold.

Regardless, whether you think they should have bought or sold is not my point.

They are both fair opinions. Insisting either is an undeniable fact is not fair.

Neither is insisting the FO said something they didn't, then when asked for a source, saying "Well, they can't come right out and say what I'm insisting they said, but I'm sure they meant it." (jim, not you. )

Ok, it's just an analogy, but your logic is slightly off. You can't just say the odds say to fold because the odds were 5%. You left out the size of the pot and the size of the bet. If there's a $100 pot and its $1 to stay in, by all means call with a 5% chance. 4.5 months of baseball and $100 million payroll, to throw away your 5% chance for a prospect that probably won't improve your chances in total over his career by as much as he damaged their chances (admittedly small) this year. I don't necessarily see it that way, but that's how it should be analyzed. I do not see either trade as a clear error or success.

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Bingo! I'll never get over how many members of the board still confuse free agency with Christmas. Free agency has evolved into the market of last resort.

Yes, unfortunately for teams like the Twins who have historically failed to create their own front line starters it is. I want a World Series trophy, the pitchers in the organization can't match up with the elite AL teams. What choice is there but last resort?

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The odds makers were giving the twins something like a 5% chance of making a one game playoff in order to get into an actual playoff series.  To characterize this as the Twins being in a good position is a very colorful interpretation.  This is management 101 and to paint the decision to improve the long-term instead of depleting assets for a very low probability of success is a fanatical position as skilled leadership doe not ignore the odds.  

I think a more appropriate example of a fanatical position is counting on a marginal prospect as long term improvement.

 

If the Kintzler trade was one in a series of veterans being moved for prospects then sure, that would've made sense but if they were going to essentially stand pat then why give him up? It's hard to say that bringing in a "meh," prospect really improves the long term outlook for the team. It's not hard to say that losing an all star reliever certainly doesn't help the in season outlook.

 

Management 101 goes beyond being a slave to numbers, context and circumstance are equally meaningful. The on field product was consistently outperforming statistical expectations. At some point the team is just better than expected, even if it happens to be by a wide margin. I'm not sure how that was reflected, if at all, by whatever formula was used to arrive at 5%. 

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Ok, it's just an analogy, but your logic is slightly off. You can't just say the odds say to fold because the odds were 5%. You left out the size of the pot and the size of the bet. If there's a $100 pot and its $1 to stay in, by all means call with a 5% chance. 4.5 months of baseball and $100 million payroll, to throw away your 5% chance for a prospect that probably won't improve your chances in total over his career by as much as he damaged their chances (admittedly small) this year. I don't necessarily see it that way, but that's how it should be analyzed. I do not see either trade as a clear error or success.

Making the one game playoff is nothing like a $100 pot. Trading (folding) some non-essential impending free agents was the smart move.

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Crushing it??? Not sure where "Crushing it" falls on your scale of one to ten?  Certainly there is a lot of reason to have hope.  The success of 2017 was mostly of a fortunate cause. I don't think you can count on a repeat from Santana. And, any fall back from the pitching staff and we go the other way in a hurry. Then your article title with change to "getting crushed".  

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I have never understood th angst over the trade deadline decisions. Based on the Twins talent relative to their competitors, it was not just Falvines opinion that the Twins were not viable contenders, it was a widely held view. But the biggest issue here is the term "viable contenders". Ones interpretation of that term makes all the difference. but since hindsight is always best, let's move forward to early Oct. "17. Hindsight should show us that short of trading away the entire future, burning enormous amounts of cash, and somehow magically gettimg Verlander level FA and trades to come to MN as mostly rentals, nothing would have changed what was in reality a best case outcome to 2017. And since those fantasy baseball actions were not going to happen, I return to my original comment. Why the angst?

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I have never understood th angst over the trade deadline decisions. Based on the Twins talent relative to their competitors, it was not just Falvines opinion that the Twins were not viable contenders, it was a widely held view. But the biggest issue here is the term "viable contenders". Ones interpretation of that term makes all the difference. but since hindsight is always best, let's move forward to early Oct. "17. Hindsight should show us that short of trading away the entire future, burning enormous amounts of cash, and somehow magically gettimg Verlander level FA and trades to come to MN as mostly rentals, nothing would have changed what was in reality a best case outcome to 2017. And since those fantasy baseball actions were not going to happen, I return to my original comment. Why the angst?

Because fans have wildly unrealistic expectations.  We ignore that Detroit simply refused to trade Verlander within the division or that he would have refused to come here or perhaps did refuse to come here.  Fans also have an extremely short-sighted view .... Damn the future, let's go all in on our 5% shot and make it a 15% shot even though it cost us our future.  My firm has a a word for that when we evaluate management teams and practices.  The word is incompetence.

 

We ignore that the team DID reach the goal they would have hoped to achieve had they traded away important parts of the future.  Instead, we increased assets while getting to the playoffs.  If the premise is we could have traded for enough assets to win a series against the Yankees or Astros, someone needs to show me the plan that would have made that happen.

 

The net was a gain in assets that should help future contention and we made the playoffs and somehow quite a few people see this as a failure.  

Edited by Major Leauge Ready
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Because fans have wildly unrealistic expectations. We ignore that Detroit simply refused to trade Verlander within the division or that he would have refused to come here or perhaps did refuse to come here. Fans also have an extremely short-sighted view .... Damn the future, let's go all in on our 5% shot and make it a 15% shot even though it cost us our future. My firm has a a word for that when we evaluate management teams and practices. The word is incompetence.

 

We ignore that the team DID reach the goal they would have hoped to achieve had they traded away important parts of the future. Instead, we increased assets while getting to the playoffs. If the premise is we could have traded for enough assets to win a series against the Yankees or Astros, someone needs to show me the plan that would have made that happen.

 

The net was a gain in assets that should help future contention and we made the playoffs and somehow quite a few people see this as a failure.

I don't know if anyone suggested going all in or called the season a failure. Seems like an exaggeration.

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Because fans have wildly unrealistic expectations. We ignore that Detroit simply refused to trade Verlander within the division or that he would have refused to come here or perhaps did refuse to come here. Fans also have an extremely short-sighted view .... Damn the future, let's go all in on our 5% shot and make it a 15% shot even though it cost us our future. My firm has a a word for that when we evaluate management teams and practices. The word is incompetence.

 

We ignore that the team DID reach the goal they would have hoped to achieve had they traded away important parts of the future. Instead, we increased assets while getting to the playoffs. If the premise is we could have traded for enough assets to win a series against the Yankees or Astros, someone needs to show me the plan that would have made that happen.

 

The net was a gain in assets that should help future contention and we made the playoffs and somehow quite a few people see this as a failure.

 

If your firm actually believes someone can predict baseball with enough certainty to put much stock in a website’s “5%” number, I’m guessing you don’t get much repeat business.

 

And speaking of “5%;”. My personal belief is that number wildly overestimates the chances the “gain in assets” actually helping future contention.

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I don't know if anyone suggested going all in or called the season a failure. Seems like an exaggeration.

One could say that critiscims about the FO moves at the deadline did suggest that. While one could argue the definition of "all in", the contention that the teams moves harmed their ultimate landing place would certainly mean the commentators considered the season an opportunity missed. Or as one might, a failure? The alternative analysis of those comments would be "success", and I doubt that could be construed as their intent.
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One could say that critiscims about the FO moves at the deadline did suggest that. While one could argue the definition of "all in", the contention that the teams moves harmed their ultimate landing place would certainly mean the commentators considered the season an opportunity missed. Or as one might, a failure? The alternative analysis of those comments would be "success", and I doubt that could be construed as their intent.

One could think that making our bullpen worse for a C-level prospect was a mistake regardless of a one game playoff in NY. Perhaps the fact that we had a weak bullpen made us have to use two starters in one game?

 

I think fans have gone a little overboard about trading talent. It seems like some are ok so long as we did 'something' because something is better than nothing when that's not necessarily true.

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When I assess the quality of decisions like the trade deadline ones, I judge several things separately: the logic behind the move, the quality of the decision process itself, whether the execution of the decision itself matched intent, the philosophic underpinnings of the decision, and one's values.

 

Like a few others here, were I the man in charge, I would value the chance to advance so highly that even some almost arbitrary 5% chance would be enough for me to avoid ANY decision with an even higher arbitrary chance of reducing those odds. 

 

They did not make the decisions to deal Garcia and Kintzler with an intent to increase those arbitrary odds.

 

The ultimate outcome can't be known in advance. That's not relevant to me.

Edited by birdwatcher
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One could say that critiscims about the FO moves at the deadline did suggest that. While one could argue the definition of "all in", the contention that the teams moves harmed their ultimate landing place would certainly mean the commentators considered the season an opportunity missed. Or as one might, a failure? The alternative analysis of those comments would be "success", and I doubt that could be construed as their intent.

The criticism, at least from me, has nothing to do with all in.

 

Nor, about the eventual result.

 

My criticism: misunderstanding the Twins chances of making the postseason, and what that would be worth when weighed against the small influx of marginal talent they got for weakening those chances.

 

Edit: or what birdwatcher said, much better than me.

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i agree with your argument. I’m not yet ready to crown Falvine as king. They are doing well, maybe very good. Not exactly crushing it.

Don’t quite agree that last trade deadline was a blunder. The players traded away probably wouldn’t have made a big enough impact to really be a blunder. It may have been the wake up call the team needed to turn the season around. The team is better now than it was before the trade.

I agree with this and this is what I have been saying. This was a young team that rallied. The trades gave us extra prospects almost MLB ready and we did not lose a bunch of games because of the trades. We would have been in the WC game regardless.  So the FO found a way to have its cake and eat it too.

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Speaking of the 5% percent Fangraphs probability, it's possible to go back and look at what the probability was on a daily basis, instead of just assuming it was a constant number for the whole period leading up to the deadline. Not sure how that number is calculated, nor much interested in it, but I will assume it was dependent on whether the Twins won or lost that day.

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The criticism, at least from me, has nothing to do with all in.

Nor, about the eventual result.

My criticism: misunderstanding the Twins chances of making the postseason, and what that would be worth when weighed against the small influx of marginal talent they got for weakening those chances.

Edit: or what birdwatcher said, much better than me.

I can understand both this, and that bird guys comments. And that's the trouble with this whole argument/analysis. There are so many "what ifs". So here's another one: What if Falvine not only took into consideration the teams likelihood of a WC spot, but also came to a conclusion that The players he gave up were not exactly going to be necessary to reach that relatively low bar. And if I remember correctly Kintzler is a FA. plus we received $500k in pool momey? Falvine is paid to come to these assumptions, way earlier and with much more at stake than I am. The bottom line, is taking the trades off the table, we still end up losing to NY (as usual) and we don't have Kintzler, the trade, and the money. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the discussion. I just cannot see any reasonable action that would have improved our status in the one and done, or our status as we sit here. But I can envision numerous ones that don't.
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If they don't add any great pitching, and the odds are five percent or even ten, that they make the playoffs, should they just start trading players off this off season? I hope not....

i think most people believe 85 wins isn't going to do it. And that was the thought before two AL teams added potentially big pieces. 85 wins doesn't do it in most years to begin with. So the Twins are going to have to add that pitching or be left behind.

 

If the Twins don't add great pitching then I don't know what they're doing. Would seem like they don't want to win then.

 

I want them to start winning now because the young core isn't getting any younger, but with your parameters, I'd say yes. It's the which players though. Santana, yes, unless he's pitching so well that his option vesting wouldn't be bad. Dozier, yes, unless he's already been extended. I'd also be fine with keeping him and giving him a QO. Gibson, yes (probably yes no matter what). I wouldn't do anyone else.

 

This team can't win without better pitching. They need to knock about 100 runs off of their RA to compete with the big boys. Can they do that in one year? Might not be realistic, but I don't know. But they better start taking a big chunk out of it ASAP.

Edited by Twins33
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When I assess the quality of decisions like the trade deadline ones, I judge several things separately: the logic behind the move, the quality of the decision process itself, whether the execution of the decision itself matched intent, the philosophic underpinnings of the decision, and one's values.

 

Like a few others here, were I the man in charge, I would value the chance to advance so highly that even some almost arbitrary 5% chance would be enough for me to avoid ANY decision with an even higher arbitrary chance of reducing those odds. 

 

They did not make the decisions to deal Garcia and Kintzler with an intent to increase those arbitrary odds.

 

The ultimate outcome can't be known in advance. That's not relevant to me.

I think your analysis model is a good one, but the analysis still needs to be performed correctly.

Your choice to focus only on the team's performance in 2017 and to disregard the long-term health of the franchise makes your judgement about the logic behind the move (IMHO) illogical. 

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Making the one game playoff is nothing like a $100 pot. Trading (folding) some non-essential impending free agents was the smart move.

The pot is 4 months of games and 100 mil payroll. Many are ignoring the point of comparison. Any team at that point of the season is below 30% to win it all. Maybe less. Successful seasons don't always end in world series championships. I think the odds that prospect x or y contribute in a meaningful way to get us to a even the same position we were in at 5% with Kintzler or Garcia.

Edited by Jham
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The pot is 4 months of games and 100 mil payroll. Many are ignoring the point of comparison. Any team at that point of the season is below 30% to win it all. Maybe less. Successful seasons don't always end in world series championships. I think the odds that prospect x or y contribute in a meaningful way to get us to a even the same position we were in at 5% with Kintzler or Garcia.

Well the odds that 2 marginal guys like Garcia and Kintzler are going to have a meaningful impact on the last 2 months of a season are also very small.

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I think your analysis model is a good one, but the analysis still needs to be performed correctly.

Your choice to focus only on the team's performance in 2017 and to disregard the long-term health of the franchise makes your judgement about the logic behind the move (IMHO) illogical. 

 

I've been a huge proponent of the concept of building for sustained excellence. However, once you have a chance like 2017, remote as it is, logic tells me to make decisions with a primary focus on the task at hand as long as those moves don't set the sustained excellence objective back in any significant way. I thought giving up Ynoa for a chance to eek out another win or two was an example of doing this. To make decisions with a primary focus on the future, decisions that theoretically reduce your current chances? I don't get that.  That said, I think it was a tough call, and I really like the potential for those moves to pay off.

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I don't know if anyone suggested going all in or called the season a failure. Seems like an exaggeration.

The position/complaints vary but how was anything other than a major acquisition going to change our chances in the playoffs.

 

If the complaint is that we traded Garcia and Kintzler, Again .... what is the point.  We did make the playoffs so it's hard to understand the argument that they would have helped us make the playoffs.

 

I am guilty myself of asking things like why didnt the go after Keven Maitan.  Turns out we did and he did not want to come here.  It's likely there are many of these scenarios that we don't find out about.  

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I've been a huge proponent of the concept of building for sustained excellence. However, once you have a chance like 2017, remote as it is, logic tells me to make decisions with a primary focus on the task at hand as long as those moves don't set the sustained excellence objective back in any significant way. I thought giving up Ynoa for a chance to eek out another win or two was an example of doing this. To make decisions with a primary focus on the future, decisions that theoretically reduce your current chances? I don't get that.  That said, I think it was a tough call, and I really like the potential for those moves to pay off.

Your point is well taken, just disagreed with. As I have said before, if I were a Houston fan I would have been totally on board with their trade for Verlander, and that trade may have been the difference between earning a World Championship and not doing so. As for the 2017 Twins, I think going into buy mode in July and August would have been a disservice to the franchise. When you are running a baseball team you have to know when to take your shot, and this was not the year to do that. IMHO, of course.

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