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If You Want Bold and Aggressive Moves, You've Got to Live with the Risk


With an upgrade atop the rotation shaping up as a clear need at the trade deadline, the division leaders targeted and acquired a frontline starter. They gave up a hefty prospect package to gain extended control, but now this big trade is in danger of blowing up completely after underwhelming performance gave way to a mysterious shoulder injury.

Oh, did you think I was referencing Tyler Mahle? No, I'm talking about Frankie Montas.

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker and Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today

 

Frankie Montas was one of the hottest names on the market at the trade deadline, and was known to be pursued by Minnesota last offseason. The Yankees acquired him alongside reliever Lou Trivino in exchange for four prospects on August 1st. The results have not been as hoped.

Montas posted a 6.35 ERA in eight turns, including just one quality start, before undergoing an MRI on his shoulder this week. He landed on the injured list and there's a pretty good chance he won't pitch again for the Yankees in 2022. Barring further clarity around what's affecting him, Montas figures to be a bit of a question mark heading into next season, too.

The Twins can obviously relate. They've gone through a similar ordeal with their own prized deadline pickup. Like Montas, Tyler Mahle had some known shoulder issues when he was acquired. Like Montas, those issues have now grown more problematic, even though – in both cases – MRI results revealed no structural damage, before or after the trades.

This is what differentiates the Mahle outcome from, say, the Chris Paddack move, where the Twins accepted a rather extreme level of risk in the name of acquiring extended control of a good starter. That was a measured risk on its own, but it shouldn't be grouped with the one they took on Mahle, who (like Montas) was more typical of a deadline gambit.

It's the nature of the beast: as a leveraged buyer in a seller's market, under big pressure to improve, you're going to have to take risks – like ponying up big prospect capital for a talented arm with ambiguous health concerns, or buying high on a breakout All-Star reliever who lacks a convincing track record. 

Those who constantly advocate for these types of assertive showings from the front office now sound rather toothless when criticizing them in hindsight. While we can all see the overall results have been unsatisfactory – albeit hardly disastrous for a reigning last-place team – this front office was audacious in shaking things up. Isn't that what we want?

The big deadline moves. Locking down Byron Buxton with a creative extension. Trading their highest-upside pitching prospect for Sonny Gray. Unloading Josh Donaldson's contract. Signing Carlos Correa to a historic deal (albeit at the expense of investment in pitching). 

And going back a bit further, let's not forget about trading José Berríos to Toronto at the 2021 deadline, thus letting the Blue Jays sign him to a massive extension while flipping him into one of their breakthrough pitching prospects

That one looks pretty good now. Others don't. And it's beyond valid to criticize the front office for these many moves that haven't panned out, especially those like the Paddack trade, which carried huge red flags from the start. (Although, if we're being honest, they were kinda right about Taylor Rogers, just as they were Berríos?)

There's a big gap between "merits criticism" and "needs replacement." I'm not close to the latter point with Derek Falvey or Thad Levine, although changes at various levels of the organization are well warranted. In terms of leadership vision, we've experienced the opposite approach – one characterized by risk aversion and playing it safe. I dare say that's what sunk them last year when their biggest additions were Alex Colomé and JA Happ. 

As the saying goes, scared money don't make money. Sometimes those bold gambles don't turn out as hoped, and you've got to live with the consequences. It happens even to the Yankees. That won't stop them from staying aggressive and shooting their shots in the future. It shouldn't stop the Twins either, albeit at a different scale given their resources.

 


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1 minute ago, Linus said:

Or they could have built an actual pitching staff from the most robust free agent pitching market in years and skipped all this crap. 

But they didn't. So, given that, should they have done nothing? I mean, that's a completely different discussion....

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I have no opinion about Mahle or Montas but want to point out to people that Taylor Rogers is actually doing pretty well this season.

All the Tweets we saw comparing Rogers and Pagan’s Earned Run Averages during the month of July or whatever have painted a very misleading picture. 

The back-to-back day appearances have hurt Taylor Rogers’s ERA, as they did here in Minnesota, otherwise it looks to me that he has done just fine. Rogers would have really helped the Twins bullpen in 2022.

I guess I’m in the minority about the Berrios trade, too. I think Martin and Woods Richardson have big question marks. Berrios would have helped this team in 2022 too.

There must be a way to strike a balance between being upbeat about the state of the franchise but also not giving people unrealistic expectations. 
 

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2 minutes ago, Linus said:

Or they could have built an actual pitching staff from the most robust free agent pitching market in years and skipped all this crap. 

Takes two to tango. I feel like it's been made pretty clear that free agent pitchers generally don't want to come here, so that's not really an avenue for "building the pitching staff." Not sure it realistically is for any mid-market team? 

If they used the Correa money on pitching, would their outcome have really been any different? Again: signing him (to become their most valuable player) and relying on the internal arms was a measured risk, and a reasonable one. Then they got basically nothing from Paddack, Ober, Winder, Balazovic, or Canterino. Traded for Mahle to alleviate the shortage and got basically nothing from him. 

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5 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

The back-to-back day appearances have hurt Taylor Rogers’s ERA, as they did here in Minnesota, otherwise it looks to me that he has done just fine. Rogers would have really helped the Twins bullpen in 2022.

I guess I’m in the minority about the Berrios trade, too. I think Martin and Woods Richardson have big question marks. Berrios would have helped this team in 2022 too.
 

Both have a negative Win Probability Added and significantly below-average ERA so that seems like wishful thinking to me. More realistically, if either one was here (or both) and playing like they have, everyone would be complaining that the front office wasn't proactive in moving them.

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7 minutes ago, Nick Nelson said:

Both have a negative Win Probability Added and significantly below-average ERA so that seems like wishful thinking to me. More realistically, if either one was here (or both) and playing like they have, everyone would be complaining that the front office wasn't proactive in moving them.

Not me. 

On a similar note, I made the point elsewhere that based on the logic of trading Berrios and Rogers, when they did, the front office should also be looking to trade Gray, Mahle, and Maeda this offseason. Would you agree?
 

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11 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

Not me. 

On a similar note, I made the point elsewhere that based on the logic of trading Berrios and Rogers, when they did, the front office should also be looking to trade Gray, Mahle, and Maeda this offseason. Would you agree?
 

No, they sold high on Berrios. They'd be selling low on Mahle and Maeda.

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If the Twins had decided to stand pat at the deadline the collapse would have happened the same way. People would be upset they didn't even try in a season where they were in first place.

I agree, teams need to take a risk. They won't all work out. They shouldn't all work out. If all your trades work out then you probably aren't making enough of them.

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I'm a risk taker  , but I would not invest in damaged goods  ....

They did show the fans some aggressiveness  at the deadline with pitching acquisitions to compete for the division but not enough to contend in the playoffs  ... 

2 of the players acquired are not rent a player which to me was a shrewd  move , let's hope they have a better 2023 season  ....

2022 was better than expected  ...

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1 hour ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

I see a lot of bad Taylor Rogers outings (including one tonight) but I really wonder if people posting all the Pagan-Rogers comparisons really think the Twins were better off with Pagan. 
 

Pagan wasn't the type I'd have been hoping to get back, and indeed he was a throw-in (a possible DFA candidate at that), so comparing the two isn't productive. 

But I was all for trading Rogers, who I thought to be an injury risk until he proves he isn't, as long as they had a plan for replacing his important role in the bullpen.  They didn't do that, and compounded the error by trading for a player, in Paddack, who was a bigger injury risk (as the Mets later attested) than Rogers himself.  That's what made it a bad trade.  Not Pagan.

As for the article itself, it sets up a false dilemma.  The better option would have been to aim higher.  Beat Seattle's offer for Castillo for instance.  And we know from the Mahle trade what Cincy was interested in from us, so start from that and add something.  (No, I don't know what, but it wouldn't have to involve Royce Lewis etc.)

Prime talent will cost you, but going for second best is a false economy.

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I am not as down.  For the first time, I feel the Twins have excess starting pitching and a decent bullpen.  I would like to see them resign Fullmer as the bullpen to me seems to be the weaker area.  It is hard when you only have 3 or 4 starting position players available from the start of the year.  This is basically a AAA club they are running out there.  The good news is the Gordon at least looks like a super utility guy, and an outfielder or two will probably come through next year. (Wallner, Laurach, Kirloff).  Twins with this many young players will have money to spend.  The only question is whether they use is wisely.  

Mahle is the big question mark to me as is this arm injury serious or just a blip.  Do we extend him for a year or two to try and extract value if he is out for most of 2023.  How many of the Twins young pitchers develop and are we looking at 2023 or 2024.  Lots of good offseason discussion and plenty of room for risk taking. 

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30 minutes ago, ashbury said:

As for the article itself, it sets up a false dilemma.  The better option would have been to aim higher.  Beat Seattle's offer for Castillo for instance.  And we know from the Mahle trade what Cincy was interested in from us, so start from that and add something.  (No, I don't know what, but it wouldn't have to involve Royce Lewis etc.)

Prime talent will cost you, but going for second best is a false economy.

SS Noelvi Marte was the 11th rated prospect in baseball as the headliner. Along with an 18 year old toolsy SS and 2 intriguing arms. 3 of Seattle’s top 5 prospects in a better rated system than ours. 

Not including Royce Lewis like you suggest would have been a non starter. Even including him wouldn’t have gotten it done. 

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"Those who constantly advocate for these types of assertive showings from the front office now sound rather toothless when criticizing them in hindsight. While we can all see the overall results have been unsatisfactory – albeit hardly disastrous for a reigning last-place team – this front office was audacious in shaking things up. Isn't that what we want?"

The FO put the team, and themselves, in a horrible spot during the first half with injured starters, short outings, failed prospect development, and the worst bullpen in the league. Framing the failed deadline moves as "isn't this what we want?" is totally disingenuous. But hey, they tried, so no robust criticism to be found there...

Also, it's weird that last year has now become the measuring stick.

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In this extremely humble observer's opinion, there are 3 different ways you can take what would be considered risks.  You can risk money, you can risk capital, or you can risk reputation.  Correa and Buxton, for example, were financial risks.  If they don't come through, all you are out is money.  Paddock, Mahle, Lopez, etc., are risks of capital.  We had to give up potential future players for today's players.  If they don't come through, we are out future potential.  And if we do nothing, stand pat, so to speak, we risk our reputation as a competitive organization, and our potential fan base may turn their backs and not support us.  Three different types of risks, each with it's own reward or loss.  We need to evaluate each risk separately, and learn from both success and failure.  

We appear to be willing to spend money on every day players; not so much on pitchers.  We risk capital on trades for pitchers more than every day players, and look for players with control, accepting the injuries that might go with them.  And we go slowly with each risk, evaluating our fan base and their willingness to stay the course, or want something now to excite them and renew their attention.  We do not refuse to take risks, but are slow and leery every step of the way.  There are times for boldness, and times for standing pat.  We just don't seem to have mastered either one.  

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I was not a fan of Mahle at all, Nor Fulmer, who at the time the Twins had just pounded. But the FO had put us in the situation of desperately needing. So OK. That was about all that was left! But 4 month flash in the pan Lopez? It didn’t make sense that Baltimore would trade him. They were in contention too. They knew his hot-headed tendencies and did not trust the temporary success, it seems. Hosed again. 

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The premise of the article is correct.  The Twins were in a position to contend for the division and (commendably) made moves at the deadline to bolster a weak pitching unit. There are risks involved in making those moves and that’s part of the game. We all (should) get that. 

However, the two points the article misses are: a) the ability of the FO to assess the true level of risk prior to making the moves and b) the decisions made to put the team in the position of need to have to make such moves.

Re the first, over the past several seasons, it’s pretty clear the FO has systematically underestimated the level of “risk” (injury and performance) of the pitchers acquired at the deadline. Can that really be debated or do we just always chalk it up to bad luck?

Re the second, the poorer the construction of the pitching unit (and its hard not to argue that at this year’s deadline our pitching unit was in pretty bad shape), the more likely it will be that the FO’s ability to properly assess the risk will be impaired. Sorry, but bad moves upfront most certainly contribute to bad moves (i.e. poorer, less accurate risk assessment) later on.

Risks exist - everyone understands. But shrewd FO’s are better able to assess the true levels of that risk.

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9 hours ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

I guess I’m in the minority about the Berrios trade, too. I think Martin and Woods Richardson have big question marks. Berrios would have helped this team in 2022 too.

In a bizarre all or nothing season, Berrios has actually been pitching well of late.  I think he's always been slow to adapt. Remember his horrendous intro to the majors?

This time, he's had to adjust to a new team for the first time, AND a new country, with the pressure of living up to his contract. In the long run, the Jays may  yet be pleased with the outcome of this trade.

I don't know if Berrios spends the off season in Puerto Rico, but Toronto winters, where I live, are probably quite similar to Minneapolis🙂

 

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I will give the FO credit for making moves at the deadline to improve the team. That's what everyone wants if your team is in contention. What I won't give them credit for is acquiring players that aren't difference makers. 1. An injured pitcher (Mahle) to improve a weak rotation when they knew that pitcher was having problems is not a good move. On top of that Mahle is an average middle of the rotation pitcher. I would even catagorize him with a guy like Bundy. He's only had 1 good season in his career, 2021. but as with any player being evaluated by this organization that's all they look at, the 1 good season and they ignore all of the bad seasons somehow thinking or just hoping they will only get the good and not the bad. 2. Fulmer, he isn't a high end reliever, only an innings eater. 3. Lopez was having a great season. Why is it when he comes to the Twins he has a lights out initial game then the longer he is here he gets progressively worse? Maybe it's coaching? He was the only one with really good numbers coming in and they seemed to have ruined him since his arrival. If not, his numbers at Baltimore this year were an anomoly and his real ability is now on display again. 4. Leon, a third string catcher that can't hit and was on the AAA squad of the team you are trying to catch doesn't seem like much of an effort to improve but more of one to get by. Can't one of your own AAA catchers do the same thing? If not you're not doing a very good job of signing prospects. In retrospect, they did a horrible job adding those 4 players at the deadline. No matter how you look at it these 4 acquisitions were just bad and sometimes stupid goes with bold and aggressive.

 

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I wanted Montas.  I campaigned all winter and throughout the season for him.  And he's been a 2nd half disaster.  So I have egg on my face over that.  I can't be too critical of this front office for the moves they made.  They should have traded Berrios and were wise to prioritize Buxton over him.  Gray and Mahle will be valuable members of the rotation next season and we must wait and see on Paddock.  Maeda will be back.  And then you have young guns like Ryan, Winder and Ober.  I'm beating a dead horse here, but HEALTH has been something in short supply for the Twins and throughout the minor league teams in the last couple years.  They need to stay healthy.  I hope the front office stays aggressive this off-season.  They need to settle the Correa situation and then move quickly once it's decided.   

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I can live with the risk reward outcomes on the Twins trades this season and that's because most aren't truly complete until the end of next season. In Paddacks case 2 more seasons.

The Lopez trade is probably the one I like the least. That was a lot to give up for a guy with 4 months of success at his position. 

As for the prospect costs other then Povich and Hajjar what did we part with that we don't already have a lot of? How many 2nd basemen, 3rd basemen and utility players can we fit on our 40 man roster? Put one of them in the OF? Anyone remember Sano in the OF? 

The Rogers trade: If we gave up such great assets for such a terrible return. Why are none of those players still on the Padres roster?

If next season is a dumpster fire we'll recoup some of our prospect losses Aug 1st. 

***Patiently waits for my paycheck from the Twins PR department***

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1 hour ago, MTV said:

I still don’t like Spencer steer being a red. He’s a quality bat and the Twins could’ve used Mahle’s injury problem to use instead say…Austin Martin and Aaron Sabato? I would’ve been much more okay with that package.

Whoa.....let's pump the brakes a bit on Steer......he's hitting .218 with a .328 OBP....we have no idea if he's a flash in the pan or a legit major leaguer.  

90% of the posters on here were fired up when they acquired Mahle.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

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