Before we get into those three items, here’s a video that takes a bit of a deeper look at where the Giants and Red Sox were the past couple years and how they re-emerged after quiet offseasons.
You Don’t Need A Rebuild
All that recent success makes it easy to forget neither the Giants or Red Sox made the postseason the past two years (four years for the Giants). That’s especially noteworthy since 16 teams qualified for the playoffs in last year’s shortened season.
With aging rosters and former stars on bloated contracts, both orgs were in the type of position where rebuilding had to have been considered. Yes, Boston traded away Mookie Betts prior to last season, but they never turned it into a full-on tear down, throw in the towel type situation.
Meanwhile, several of the league’s bottom teams repeat their place in the standings year after year. Some organizations like the Houston Astros have made rebuilds work in the not-so-distant past, but they are looking more like the exception than the rule.
Re-tooling can work.
You Don’t Need A Flashy Offseason
The Twins spent more on free agents this past offseason than both the Giants and Red Sox. The Twins shelled out $41.75 million while the Giants spent $41.35 million and the Red Sox were at $38.95 million. On the flip side, those teams actually acquired a greater number of players (10 signed for the Giants and eight for Boston), choosing to spread the wealth more than the Twins (six players).
Meanwhile, the top two spending teams last winter (the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies) and three of the top-five spenders (adding the New York Mets) all missed the playoffs. And if there’s any team that “won” the 2020-21 offseason it was the San Diego Padres. That’s where their winning streak ended.
The offseason most definitely matters — the 2021 Twins are as much proof of that as any team — but big splashes and flashy signings (or lack thereof) still don’t guarantee anything.
You Don’t Need A Lavish Bullpen
There are some expensive, big-name bullpens among this year’s playoff participants but Boston and San Francisco are not among them.
The Red Sox have a couple of highly-paid members of their bullpen, but Garrett Richards isn’t there by design (he was signed as a starter) and Adam Ottavino was acquired as a salary dump. It’s not as if either of those guys is exactly a difference-maker, either.
In fact, the Red Sox bullpen leader in WAR was Garrett Whitlock, their Rule 5 pick. They had eight different pitchers record saves in the second half alone, including former Twins great Hansel Robles.
The Giants have done even more with a great deal less invested. They signed Jake McGee to a modest two-year, $7 million deal, just $2 million of which was paid this season. Oh, and he was their highest-paid reliever. McGee ended up as one of only nine pitchers to save 30 games this season.
San Francisco had a handful of underpaid studs in their pen including Tyler Rogers, Jarlin Garcia, Jose Alvarez, Zack Littell (ouch) and Dominic Leone. When McGee went down, however, it was rookie Camilo Doval who stepped up and was the National League reliever of the month for September. He had a 4.99 ERA and a 7.0 BB/9 in 28 games at Triple-A this season!
Sometimes a reliever just happens. That’s exactly the kind of thing the Twins need next year.
The Giants ranked sixth in bullpen WAR (per FanGraphs) and the Red Sox were ninth, a spot ahead of the Mets, who ended the year with four of the top-20 paid relievers in baseball (Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand, Trevor May and Edwin Diaz). The Mets also only won four more games than the Twins this year.
The Twins have a long way to go from 89 losses back to contention, but they don’t need to tear it down, have an extravagant offseason or spend big on risky bullpen arms to do so. The Giants and Red Sox are proof of that.