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Wizard11

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  1. Like
    Wizard11 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, In Defense of the Twins Front Office   
    The Twins hired Derek Falvey (who hired Thad Levine) in the wake of a disastrous 103-loss season in 2016. By that point, the Twins had gone six straight years without making the playoffs, and during that span they lost more games than any team in baseball. 
    The following year, Minnesota stunningly reached the postseason as a wild-card team. Then they missed out in 2018, still finishing second, before rebounding in 2019 with one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. The Twins followed in 2020 with another division title. 
    To run all that back: this front office took over a team that had gone 407-565 (.419) with zero playoff appearances in its previous six years, and went 300-246 (.549) with three playoff appearances in the next four. 
    Does their success owe somewhat to the foundation built before they arrived? Of course. No one would deny that Terry Ryan and Co. had cultivated an impressive nucleus before being ousted. But during those years, the Twins repeatedly failed in the draft, failed in acquisitions, and failed in player development. The results bore that out.
    Let's be clear about something here: This current regime was so successful and so impressive through four years that they were repeatedly poached of talent, both in the front office and the coaching staffs they assembled. Not only that, but Falvey and Levine themselves have been courted by big-name franchises like the Red Sox and Phillies. 
    What did they say, according to publicized reports on the matter? 
    "No thanks, we're going to see through what we're building here."
    And so, to see flocks of fans calling for their heads because of one bad season, which is no worse than the ones we saw repeatedly before they arrived ... it's a little hard to take. 
    Falvey became the youngest head exec in the league when he took Minnesota's top job. Currently he is 38 years old, which is three years younger than the DH he traded to Tampa Bay last month. Up until now he never experienced serious adversity during his tenure, which speaks to how smoothly things have gone in the first four years. 
    The same could be said, by the way, for his managerial choice Rocco Baldelli, who was named Manager of the Year in 2019 (as the youngest skipper in baseball, with no experience in the role) and then won a second straight division title in his second season.
    These people have shown their mettle. They've won. A lot. I realize they haven't won in the playoffs, and that sucks, but they haven't had nearly the opportunity of their predecessors. 
    Are we not going to give them a chance to learn from failure?
    Obviously the free agent pitching additions from the past winter have failed at every level. But this front office has made plenty of good and savvy pickups in the past, which helped fuel the success of high-quality staffs the last two years. And in any case, Falvey wasn't really hired to sign pitchers. He was hired to develop them.
    On that front, the jury is still out. This operation was four years in when a pandemic came along and wiped out an entire minor-league season. The fact that Minnesota's upper minors are currently loaded with intriguing high-upside arms would suggest the mission was on track, and is just now getting back on the rails. 
    Soon we'll start seeing those arms (along with the ones acquired at the deadline this year) ushered into majors, and at that point we'll be able to make real assessments. But until then, you're judging an incomplete project. 
    This reassembled baseball ops department has been working ahead of schedule basically since they took over a moribund franchise in despair. They hit a setback this year, and it's been painful. Let's give them a chance to get back on track in the wake of a major disruptive event and humbling follow-up season.
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  2. Like
    Wizard11 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Trading Josh Donaldson Is the Right Call   
    The Twins have apparently begun to explore Donaldson's trade market, with a report out of SNY last week suggesting "very preliminary talks" have taken place with the Mets. JD makes sense for a team like that: in the championship mix, and capable of benefiting from a brashly confident former MVP who's shown he can still play at a high level.
    Donaldson's presence does little for the irrelevant 2021 Twins, so in assessing the sensibility of trading him to New York or elsewhere, the question becomes one of his future fit. Are the Twins doing themselves a great disservice by unloading Donaldson's 2022 and 2023 seasons – along with a 2024 team option – when all they're likely to get back is some level of salary relief and an unspectacular prospect or two?
    I would suggest: no, probably not. Let us consider the two aforementioned scenarios. 
    If the front office decides that its current collection of talent is fundamentally insufficient, and the next wave of prospects won't be ready quickly enough to fuel a return to championship contention within the next two years, then keeping Donaldson and his $21 million annual salary simply doesn't make sense, on any level. Not only is it an illogical expense, begrudged by ownership, but JD himself will likely become discontented by a non-competitive approach in what may be his final productive seasons.
    So what if they choose instead to rebuild on the fly and make another go of it in 2022? I think this is the right approach, and the most likely one. Here it becomes a little harder to argue that the Twins are better off without Donaldson, who's been a high-quality player when on the field.
    Nonetheless, three reasons I believe it's the right call:
    Donaldson is at high risk for injury and regression.
    I think we need to divorce ourselves from not only the idea of who Donaldson used to be – a 40-HR MVP-caliber superstar – and maybe even the image of Donaldson as he is now. Turning 36 in December, he's at a stage where rapid physical decline is commonplace, and that's evident enough from what we've witnessed on the field.
    His offensive skills are mostly holding up – albeit not at the level of his late-20s prime – but Donaldson's defense has gone from great to good, and his speed from bad to "yikes." The injury issues, recurring and localized in his legs, seem unlikely to dissipate as he ages toward 40.
    The nature of a long-term deal for a mid-30s player like Donaldson is that you expect to get the best value up-front, and deal with the likelihood of regression as a cost of doing business. The Twins have already moved past the ostensible good part of JD's contract, with fruitless results for the team. Now they're moving into a back end carrying more risk and less upside.
    Granted, these facts are plainly evident to any suitor for Donaldson, which is why the Twins aren't exactly in a position of ideal leverage. But a team like the free-spending Mets is more well-suited to take on that risk and the associated financial commitment than Minnesota.
    The Twins have depth at third base.
    The indispensability of Donaldson is contingent on the quality of his potential replacements. When they signed him, third base was a position of clear organizational scarcity. Today, that's not quite so true.
    First and foremost, you have the emergence of José Miranda as a top prospect. He raked in Double-A, he's now raking in Triple-A, and he's 23. Miranda is on the verge of big-league readiness and his contact-heavy profile lends itself to at least staying afloat in his early exposure to the majors, if not quickly taking off.
    It wouldn't be a matter of putting all eggs in the meteoric Miranda's basket, either. Luis Arraez has played 250 career innings at third in the majors. Royce Lewis played primarily there in his last competitive baseball action during the 2019 Arizona Fall League. Miguel Sanó will still presumably be around next year. 
    The Twins have options. And while none are Donaldson-caliber players, it's not entirely clear that any would be all that drastic a drop-off from the version you're getting at ages 36 and 37, to whatever extent his health makes him available.
    The Twins have bigger priorities and JD at third base was always a luxury.
    The Twins never needed Josh Donaldson. They signed him late in the 2019-20 offseason because they had spending flexibility, missed out on their free agent pitching targets, and saw an opportunity to level-up an already great offense. He was a luxury they could afford at the time, but much has changed since, and now you really wonder if he's one they can still afford. 
    Even without Donaldson and Nelson Cruz, the Twins would be poised to field a solid offensive unit next year. The pitching staff is another story. They're going to need all the help and resources they can get. While no other team is going to take on the entirety of Donaldson's remaining ~$60 million commitment, any fraction of that spending flexibility will be useful to the front office as it addresses a needy rotation and bullpen, not to mention shortstop. 
    In the event he's traded, whatever the Twins are able to get back in exchange for Donaldson is going to look underwhelming on its face. It won't be a fun situation to navigate from a PR perspective. But when you look at the realities of a team that currently figures to have about $40 million in hand for the offseason, the logic of trading Donaldson is difficult to deny. They're staring down a wealth of key vacancies and he's a risk-laden expensive veteran. 
    The Twins have their work cut out if they want to turn around a last-place team and bring it back to respectability, much less World Series contention, in short order. Popularity can't be the guiding principle in the difficult decisions that lie ahead. 
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  3. Like
    Wizard11 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, It’s Time to Pay Jose Berrios   
    Yes, Berrios wants a hefty payday, and no, he isn’t one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball. The three players he’s most closely tied to in this contract situation are Luis Severino, Aaron Nola, and Lance McCullers. The former two got paid prior to the 2019 season. McCullers just got his payday. They are all 27 years old, save for Nola who just recently had a birthday. None of that trio would qualify as top 10 pitchers in the game either.
    Nola and Severino took four-year deals at $45M and $40M, respectively. McCullers agreed to a five-year deal that starts in 2022 and is for $85M. Jose reportedly wanted something close to what the Phillies and Yankees did for their starters; that isn’t happening now. He’s going to get something closer to what the Astros paid out, and that’s more than a fair valuation. I don’t think Berrios would find a $17M AAV on the open market, but I’d be shocked if he couldn’t get something in the $12-15M range.
    Really though, this conversation is less about dollars and more about sense. Over the winter Minnesota paid J.A. Happ $8M and Matt Shoemaker $2M both on one-year deals. That $10M has immediately become a sunk cost as both have been downright terrible, and the stability intended for the back of the rotation has been non-existent. I’d have preferred to see the Twins aim higher when rounding out the group, but we’ve seen that troubles there as guys like James Paxton haven’t even thrown a pitch for their new team.
    I think the point with Berrios is this, you already have a commodity that you know, he should be entering his prime, and there’s never been a question of his durability. Sure, he’s faltered in August and September, but it hasn’t ever been injury related. He’s not an ace, and he may be a borderline number two at times, but it’s fair to say he’s a top-half of the rotation arm that flashes even more when he’s on. The alternative is one of unknown, or one I think we can bet against.
    Touching again on the unknown, you’re dealing with bargain bin arms hoping that a middle-of-the-road veteran is enough for the sake of stability. Maybe they’re injured, ineffective, or both. The option we can probably bet against is a big ticket purchase. Trevor Bauer made a good deal of sense from a roster construction standpoint, but he was never going to be interested in Minnesota, and the Twins were never going to drop that kind of coin. Nothing precludes the Twins from spending, but top free agents don’t see this as a destination either.
    Looking ahead to the upcoming offseason, there’s more than a few veteran arms that should hit the market. Plenty of them will be paid handsomely, and some of them may even be interested in talking with the Twins. Giving Jose Berrios something like $80M over the next five years isn’t going to stop any opportunity to engage those arms either. If development continues to happen, you’d hope this rotation has a desire to include Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran as soon as next season. Maybe one of them turns out to be an ace, and maybe neither do. Either way, pitching being a focus, moving on from Berrios solely to pay someone in hopes of replicating his production seems silly.
    Finding an ace is among the most difficult things to do in baseball. There’s maybe 10 of those guys in the game, most are developed internally, and if they do ever hit the open market Minnesota isn’t the first choice they’ve got on their list. Building a rotation with guys that all have the ability to pitch like an ace on any given night is a much more attainable goal, and both Kenta Maeda and Berrios fit that bill. Beyond there the Twins don’t have answers. Michael Pineda has been a steadying presence, and maybe they bring him back again this winter, but Berrios should be inked into that future as much as anyone.
    It's easy to spend someone else’s money, and the Pohlad’s have plenty of it, but the thought process runs deeper than that. Plenty of money comes off the books again this winter, and while 2021 has been a disaster, a new opportunity to reload will be in front of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Including someone like Berrios as part of that makes more sense than it does finding the next guy discarded from another organization to replace him.
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