No, the problem is not that the Twins don’t spend money, but rather that they don’t know HOW to spend money. Said another way, they don’t correctly know how to spend money.
As we embark upon a quasi-deadline for homegrown talents like Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios, it seems the front office is faced with a decision to extend or deal both talents. Buxton would be looking at a payday north of $200 million as a free agent coming off a season of health. Jose Berrios wants to max out his value, and it seems he’s all but gone in this club’s mind. Those are problems, but only because they compound an already developing issue.
Way back when the Twins paid Joe Mauer. He was worth every penny and was underpaid throughout his career. Nothing about his contract hamstrung a mid-market team without a salary cap. What prevented the hometown nine from winning was the lack of supplementation on the roster, both in youth and acquired talent.
Fast forward to where we are now, and once again, the Twins are showing a lack of ability to spend wisely. This club paid Josh Donaldson nearly $100 million following one season with Atlanta. The Bringer of Rain posted a .259/.379/.521 slash line in 2019 while playing in 155 games. His first year in Minnesota was challenging in that the pandemic cut short any real season, but nagging leg injuries kept him to just 28 games and out of the most important during October.
Look at what Donaldson has done for Minnesota, however, and it’s nothing short of what this club should’ve hoped. After his 124 OPS+ in Atlanta, Donaldson has posted a .244/.358/.485 slash and 135 OPS+ with the Twins. The slugging has slid a bit, but the ball has changed, and arguably the only knock has been losing a step defensively. After an injury-plagued season a year ago, he’s been one of the most consistently available Twins in 2021.
So, here we are with a big contract given out to a free agent that’s performing, and Minnesota is looking at a teardown. Donaldson could be had for salary relief, Berrios could command prospects, and Buxton may be the most exciting asset the sport has seen in a long time. Once again, though, this club looks to have failed to spend.
Over the winter, the thought process should’ve been acquiring talent to supplement this group. Alex Colome and Hansel Robles had appeal on paper, but neither is the impact arm the provides insurance for the group headlined by Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were veteran starters with relatively decent floors, but neither would push Berrios or Kenta Maeda for the top of the rotation duty. When acquiring talent to raise the water level, this organization changed out oars and continued to tread water. Donaldson was a significant expense, and nothing was done to truly supplement him.
Here we are now facing an awful result, and the outcome could be moving assets for hope in the future. Target Field was opened under the assumption that Minnesota would be able to retain its homegrown talent. Watching Buxton and Berrios be moved isn’t a reality that is supposed to take place. Suppressed payrolls for much of the past decade should pave the way for an influx of dollars to be utilized around a core that’s shown it can compete. Right now, it feels like that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I don’t believe that Minnesota’s strategy should be to play in the pool near a $200 million mark. Acquiring top-tier talent only to keep them on an island and then piecing things out for another cycle when things go wrong looks like a misappropriated allocation of funds. Development isn’t linear and should be the focus internally. Still, it’s time this organization made financial commitments to those they’ve seen bear fruit and then continue to support the roster as a whole with acquired talent that makes more sense than just cents on the dollar.