When The Twins Offseason Moves Helped The Present And Looking To The Future

A few weeks ago, I was reading this post and its comments on Nick’s Twins Blog when I found this comment by Ed Bast. An excerpt from his comment states:

To me this deal just illustrates the overriding philosophy of this organization to always play for next year and three years down the road and five years down the road and never play for this year. As a small-market team this is admirable – with those sort of budget contraints it’s difficult to be competitive year in and year out, and the Twins for the 00s (sic) deserve credit for that approach.

This is partially true, as it does appear that the Twins are more interested in the future rather than the present. However, I think many fans seem to ignore the fact that 2010 was the season where the Twins went for it all.

During the offseason, the most notable signings involved Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and re-signing Carl Pavano, along with handing out contract extensions to Nick Blackburn, Denard Span, Joe Mauer, and Brendan Harris. The significant trade was swapping Carlos Gomez for J.J. Hardy. This led to a 94-win season and being crowned AL Central Division champions, but the Twins were still ousted in the first round by the New York Yankees in 3 games.

All those moves, along with the trades for Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes, signaled several significant changes for the franchise. First, the Twins showed that they were willing to add payroll. Second, the trade of Capps showed that they were willing to give up a prospect (Wilson Ramos) in order to acquire a current major league player.

Finally, the acquisitions were all one- or two-year commitments, which showed that the Twins wanted to improve the team for the short term. Is this not in contrast to what Ed Bast said above?

Sure, the Twins have made short term signings before. Livan Hernandez signed for one year, and was actually traded mid-season. They traded for Bret Boone and Phil Nevin years ago. However, the acquisitions of Fuentes and Capps brought in not only legitimate talents* but also increased payroll as I said above.

* Yes, even Capps. Three of the past four years, he’s had an ERA at or under 3.02 and an FIP at 3.28 or less.

It is for these reasons that I believe that 2010 may have been the best chance at a World Series run that the Twins have made within the past decade, and while many people feel that the Twins should continue increasing payroll for 2011, I don’t see it happening. Fans keep citing the profit that the Twins made with Target Field, but does anyone actually know what it was? Based on the lack of evidence and the inactivity this offseason, I don’t believe the payroll will rise as much as some fans were hoping. Also, with the moves made by the White Sox (Adam Dunn) and the Tigers (Victor Martinez), the Twins may not necessarily call 2011 a “rebuilding” year, but I think they’ll be a little less aggressive in filling their holes on the roster.

To be honest, I’m not exactly upset if this is the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I do want the Twins to play well and I love seeing them be competitive, but 2011 may not be the best year. They may just tread water, make some cheap moves, and hope that they pay off like Thome last season.

Why am I ok with this? Because I think 2012 is the next year the Twins can strike. Barring any expensive additions to the payroll, the Twins could have around $28.75 million* to play with for the 2012 season. It’s not as much as the Tigers had coming off their books this offseason, but it gives the Twins the ability to make a splash in free agency or acquiring an expensive player through a trade. However, it is important to note that this estimate ignores the likely raises through contract extensions to Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano, along with other differences in expenses that occur between the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the holdover players between those two seasons.

* The money $9.25 (Nathan) + $10.5 (Cuddyer) + $5.25 (Kubel) + ~$7 (Capps) – $1.5 (raise to Baker) – $1.75 (raise to Blackburn) – $2 (raise to Span) = ~$28.75

I want to reiterate one point because I’m sure it feels like I’m saying I’m ok with the Twins throwing away the 2011 season. This is not true, I want the Twins to get into the playoffs, and I would love for them to move past the first round. I just think that 2011 will be tougher than in some past years, and it may not be a bad idea to make some low risk moves in an attempt to still win next season, but won’t hurt the team if they don’t pan out. For sure, 2012 will be the next time the Twins will “go for it all.”

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36 Responses to “When The Twins Offseason Moves Helped The Present And Looking To The Future”

  1. Dez Says:

    However, if you look down the road, the Twins time to win is now. Sure maybe 2011 may not be the most strategic year for the Twins to go out and spend money, but looking ahead, the Royals have a dominate farm system that will make them the best team in baseball from 2013 and on. So that gives the Twins two maybe three years that they can actually compete for a Central division crown. I hope that they don’t squander that opportunity.

  2. Ed Bast Says:

    First off I am flattered that one of my rants inspired you to write this post. Second, I disagree slightly that the Twins went “all in” last year. It was pretty clear (at least to me) that the Twins did not (still do not) have the starting pitching to beat the Yanks, Rays, Rangers in a playoff series. So what do they do at the deadline? Trade their top trading chip for an average reliever in a move that Bill Smith said wouldn’t have been made if Capps didn’t have another year on his contract. It was a move that did nothing to improve their playoff chances (you don’t need a “closer” when you are trailing at the end of every game) and was made for the next season. Going into the 2010 season, yes, the club was aggressive. But then they sort of stalled out – the Yanks, Rangers, Phils, and Giants all made mid-season moves to help their team come playoff time. The Twins did not.

  3. ben Says:

    Dez, the Twins have a solid core, and reinforcements will be introduced gradually over years. The Royals need a lot of players to pan out to be competitive. It’s a huge stretch to call them the best team in baseball in 2013. When was the last time they’ve been even an average team? I’ll take the Twins’ chances over the Royals’ in 2013.

    Ed, 94 wins. Huge payroll increase. You really think the front office wasn’t trying to win in 2010? The Twins DID make mid-season moves – that’s not a subjective statement. It happened. And if you don’t think that Capps and Fuentes helped win games, you weren’t watching games before they were acquired. Rauch was struggling when they got Capps, and Perkins was the lefty out of the bullpen without Fuentes.

    Give the team you root for a little credit when they accomplish something. If everything short of a world series title is failure, then you’re going to be disappointed a lot.

  4. JimCrikket Says:

    I’m not sure I totally agree with Andrew, but I certainly am not in agreement with Dez and Ed. I think it’s WAY premature to declare that the Royals will be the “best team in baseball” based on their highly ranked farm system. They may have several highly thought of prospects, but they’re still prospects… not proven MLB players. There’s no reason the Twins can’t/shouldn’t continue to contend as long as they make smart decisions now that they have enough revenue to keep their best players through their most productive years and supplement them from the outside at times.

    Every team has to prioritize where they spend their money. You have to identify those players that it’s important to keep through age 30-32 and pay them for those years, while being willing to let others go. Then you need a farm system strong enough to continuously provide a couple of new “minimum-wage” players to replace the guys you lose. That means drafting smart and being active in the international marketplace. Finally, you leave yourself enough payroll flexibility to add quality pieces at mid-season to fill those needs that become apparent.

    It looks to me like the Twins are adopting a strategy that does all of those things. Does every decision turn out to be the “right” decision? Of course not. But the Twins have been right more often than they’ve been wrong.

    The Twins aren’t finished building their roster yet, but I’m confident it will be strong enough to avoid getting blown out early in the season by the Sox and Tigers. That will give the team a chance to see where they need the most help and go get it.

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  6. Ed Bast Says:

    Ben, I never said the Twins weren’t trying to win last year. I said they weren’t willing to take that last final step to be a serious playoff contender. Do you think they really believed they could win a World Series with Brian Duensing as a #3 starter? Nick Blackburn as a #4? These days, you need to spend money to win a World Series. It might cost you prospects (Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt) or it might cost you money (free agency). Of course the Twins shouldn’t do this every year. But teams like the Twins have a small window of opportunity to win a Series. They need to be smart about when to go for it and when to hold back the reins. As I originally said, as a small market team you can’t ever really afford to go for it. But the Twins are not a small market team anymore. Part of the Target Field sales pitch was how it would allow the team to compete for a World Series. They are in the top 1/3 for payroll right now. Will this last once the luster of the new stadium wears off? Of course not. As a fan, I’d like to see the club make a concerted effort to capitalize on their talented, expensive roster now, then focus on loading up for another run later in the decade.

    Look, I give the Twins credit for what they were able to accomplish as a small market team in the 2000s. But they are not a small market team anymore. I think fans have every right to expect more from a club that now has, what, double the revenues at their disposal? So far they have not demonstrated to me a committment to winning in the postseason, nor an adeptness at managing a higher payroll – after all, we are only in the 2nd year as a bigger market team, and we are already seeing the sort of salary-dump (Hardy) that serious contenders simply don’t make.

    I love the Twins, and I am optimistic that they can right the ship yet this offseason or midseason next year. But I think it’s fair to question the direction the front office seems to be going this offseason. It seems to me that the Twins are reverting to small-market decision-making, which I think is a mistake with all the talent on this team.

  7. ben Says:

    These days, you need to spend money to win a World Series. It might cost you prospects (Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt) or it might cost you money (free agency).

    The Twins did spend money – they increased their revenue greatly and had one of the top payrolls in baseball. They also traded one of their top prospects midseason.

  8. ben Says:

    Payroll, not revenue

  9. JimCrikket Says:

    Hardy was not a ‘salary dump’. People may not like to admit it, but average to slightly above average middle infielders that hit in the #9 spot (when healthy enough to hit at all) are not worth $6-7 million. On a team where Hardy could be a middle of the order hitter, maybe. But the Twins have actually committed more total money to Nishioka than they would have paid Hardy this year and his replacement next year (no way he would be around more than one more year).

    And there’s more to “managing a higher payroll” than what they spend on free agents. They’ve invested MUCH heavier in the international market for a couple of years now than they ever used to. Maybe when Sano, Kepler and others are in Minnesota, people will give the FO some credit… but probably not.

  10. Ed Bast Says:

    Yeah also when you have a higher payroll you don’t go sign Blackie, Span, Cuddy, et. al to player-friendly deals just because you can. You don’t allocate $20mil in 2011 to “closers”. Etc. Don’t forget, the “payroll issues” the team is having this offseason is largely the FO’s fault (though I will never fault them for resigning Mauer – I will have a problem, though, if they use his contract as an excuse not to spend money elsewhere).

    And if you think JJ Hardy’s true market value was 2 minor league relievers, you’re off your rocker. Look no further than the Bartlett trade for proof of that.

    I do give the Twins credit for investing more heavily in the international market, but let’s wait until these teenagers are here before lavishing praise on the FO. People seem to think that just because these players are international they’re guaranteed to succeed. They’re no different than any other minor leaguer, and as far as infielders go, this organization is about as bare as it gets for the near future.

  11. ben Says:

    And if you think JJ Hardy’s true market value was 2 minor league relievers, you’re off your rocker. Look no further than the Bartlett trade for proof of that.

    You think Bartlett is a better indicator of Hardy’s value than Hardy is? The only way to know his market value exactly is to put him on the market. They did, and now we know. Do you think they took the worst offer just to annoy fans?

  12. Ed Bast Says:

    As I have said twice now, they took a lesser offer to cut salary. It’s pretty simple, actually. Do you think Bartlett is that much better than Hardy? By nearly every statistical measure, Hardy outperformed Bartlett last year, in far fewer games.

    Good lord, if it wasn’t a salary dump, I’d be calling for Bill Smith’s head – you honestly believe that trade was equitable in terms of talent?

  13. ben Says:

    As I have said twice now, they took a lesser offer to cut salary.

    What is the better offer they turned down?

  14. Ed Bast Says:

    Are you joking? Again, if you believe that trade was made in the interest of improving the team on the field, and that elite shortstops who can also hit a bit grow on trees, I’m sorry, but you need to stop drinking the Twins kool-aid and come to grips with the fact that your beloved club backed itself into a financial corner this offseason. How else can you possibly explain trading an above-average major league fielder and hitter at a premium defensive position for 2 minor league players at the most replaceable position in baseball?

    I ask you again: do you think this was an even trade talent-wise? It seems to me you believe every trade represents fair market value on both sides solely because it’s made.

  15. ben Says:

    Are you joking?

    Nope

    if you believe that trade was made in the interest of improving the team on the field

    Don’t think I said that

    elite shortstops who can also hit a bit grow on trees

    Or that

    backed itself into a financial corner this offseason

    I agree that their commitments to other players (largely Mauer) are playing a factor in what they’re able to do this year.

    How else can you possibly explain trading an above-average major league fielder and hitter at a premium defensive position for 2 minor league players at the most replaceable position in baseball?

    Because that’s the best value they could get for him. Hardy’s value is diminished by his injury history and his price tag.

    It seems to me you believe every trade represents fair market value on both sides solely because it’s made.

    Are both sides going to get the same production out of the players they acquire? Probably not usually. But a player’s market value is based on what teams are willing to pay, by definition. It is in a team’s best interest to take the best trade offer. Factoring in talent, upside, injury risk, team control, price, etc, a team is going to choose the trade package with the best value.

  16. Ed Bast Says:

    Do you believe this was an even trade talent-wise?

  17. ben Says:

    I believe they got what they judged to be the best deal offered.

  18. Ed Bast Says:

    Way to evade the question.

    Let me try to sift through your answer. Apparently you believe once a team decides to trade a player, they should do so at whatever cost, even if the best deal offered is for 2 minor league players at the one position where they have some minor league options. So in the end, an even distribution of value doesn’t matter, only that the trading team got something out of it.

    I’d say this is woefully poor strategy, but I guess given the wonderful Garza, Santana, and Ramos trades, we should give you and Billy the benefit of the doubt.

  19. ben Says:

    I don’t think they made this trade because they were short on minor league pitchers if that’s what you’re getting at. I do think they decided to trade him at all costs – since there were rumors that he may be non tendered. If that’s the case, yes, get the best package you can get.

    PS, I didn’t make any of the trades you cite, but thanks for the vote of confidence.

  20. Ed Bast Says:

    But they tendered Hardy a contract though… Anyway to everyone but Ben the Hardy trade was a blatantly obvious cost-cutting move, and it’s an ominous sign for an organization one year removed from opening a gleaming new stadium. As I mentioned before, teams serious about contending for (and winning) a World Series simply do not trade away their above-average starting shortstop for minor league relief pitching. It is a move rebuilding teams make, or teams in the middle of a fire sale, and that’s what concerns me most about this offseason.

  21. ben Says:

    Ed, if you go back to the beginning of these comments, you were talking about the twins being unwilling to spend dollars and prospects to win in 2010.

    To be honest, your argument has been a bit of a moving target and I’m not sure what it is at this point. You criticize the front office for making trades, but also criticize them for being unwilling to make trades.

    As for the original point, this front office has shown a clear willingness to address needs through trades. You have pointed out several. They have also demonstrated their commitment to winning by spending money. The payroll increased significantly in 2010, and it will be even higher in 2011.

    I’m not even saying I agree with the moves the Twins have made. I’m saying your statements are not fair.

  22. Ed Bast Says:

    You act like the club heroically decided to spend more money out of the goodness of their hearts. In reality their payroll increase was tied solely to their increased revenue from Target Field. They did a great job last offseason putting the team in position to win. My only gripe with last year was their unwillingness to take that final step and get a starting pitcher to give them a fighting chance in the playoffs. Instead they made a poor trade that they admitted was more for 2011. I believe, and did during the year, that 2010 was the best chance the team had since ’91 (I could make a case for ’06) to win a World Series, except that they were missing a big piece, which they failed to add.

    Now we are seeing them dump salary and make some strange moves that as of today leave this team weaker than the one that got routed in the playoffs in October. I do not trust that ownership is 100% committed to winning not only the division but in the playoffs, and I don’t believe the front office has demonstrated a particular competency in fielding a roster that can succeed in the playoffs. Trading for the sake of trading doesn’t make it right – and Bill Smith’s resume contains a handful of awful trades.

    My point has always been that this organization has a narrow window of opportunity, which includes last year and probably this year and beyond that, who knows. They came up short last year, and have made the team worse so far this offseason. Those are facts, and facts are more than fair.

  23. ben Says:

    You act like the club heroically decided to spend more money out of the goodness of their hearts. In reality their payroll increase was tied solely to their increased revenue from Target Field.

    Are you serious? I’m saying they decided to spend more money to put a better team on the field. What exactly would make you happy? Do you need them to pinky swear that they prefer winning to losing?

    My only gripe with last year was their unwillingness to take that final step and get a starting pitcher to give them a fighting chance in the playoffs.

    Who did you want? Cliff Lee was not a viable option.

    My point has always been that this organization has a narrow window of opportunity, which includes last year and probably this year and beyond that, who knows. They came up short last year, and have made the team worse so far this offseason.

    You forgot to include the part where they aren’t willing to spend money or trade players. That’s where the evidence (that should be very fresh in your memory) demonstrates that you are wrong. They spent money. They traded players. In 2010.

  24. Ed Bast Says:

    If you honestly believe the Twins would have had the same payroll in 2010 in the Dome as they did at Target Field simply because they were suddenly committed to winning, you need a little education in economics my friend, and also how the Pohlads run a company.

    Why wasn’t Cliff Lee a viable option?

    Again, you seem to be of the belief that as long as a team spends some money, and trades some players, they are beyond criticism.

    I am of the belief that there is a such thing as spending money unwisely (e.g. Mikey Cuddyer contract), or not spending enough (i.e. not getting a starting pitcher at the deadline), or making ill-advised trades (i.e. Santana, Garza, Hardy, Ramos).

    If you want to go back to 2010, here goes: I believe they needed to add a starter to compete for a World Series. They did not (in particular, they refused to give up Hicks for Lee, which goes back to my point about always playing for a few years down the road) and got swept. Cause/effect? Not sure, but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt. If you really believe the Twins had a legitimate shot at winning a World Series with Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn in their rotation, that’s fine, we can agree to disagree. If not, what is your point?

  25. ben Says:

    If you honestly believe the Twins would have had the same payroll in 2010 in the Dome

    Didn’t say that.

    Why wasn’t Cliff Lee a viable option?

    Because what the Rangers got (and what the Yankees were apparently willing to give up) was more than the Twins could (or should) pay.

    Again, you seem to be of the belief that as long as a team spends some money, and trades some players, they are beyond criticism.

    No, I’m saying that your specific criticism is not fair.

    If you want to go back to 2010, here goes: I believe they needed to add a starter to compete for a World Series.

    They did compete for a World Series. They were eliminated by the Yankees in the playoffs. Who knows what would have happened with another starter, but if all else was equal, it wouldn’t have mattered. They didn’t score runs.

    what is your point?

    You’re right, I’ve been very ambiguous. Let me summarize my point.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:47 am: Ed, 94 wins. Huge payroll increase. You really think the front office wasn’t trying to win in 2010? The Twins DID make mid-season moves

    December 28, 2010 at 11:24 am: The Twins did spend money – they increased their payroll greatly and had one of the top payrolls in baseball. They also traded one of their top prospects midseason.

    December 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm: this front office has shown a clear willingness to address needs through trades. You have pointed out several. They have also demonstrated their commitment to winning by spending money. The payroll increased significantly in 2010, and it will be even higher in 2011.

    December 30, 2010 at 9:16 am: I’m saying they decided to spend more money to put a better team on the field… They spent money. They traded players. In 2010.

  26. Ed Bast Says:

    Okay. Your entire point was to remind us that the Twins increased payroll in 2010, to coincide with increased revenues, and that they made trades. Thank you for your brilliant insight in stating these facts. I agree that these facts are true. Most facts are. I like to take things a step further and offer opinions on certain matters. You seem content to refute my opinions while offering none of your own.

    For example, I say: the Twins needed another starting pitcher in 2010, and didn’t get one.
    You say: the Twins spent money and traded players in 2010.

    So did every team in baseball. What, again, is the purpose of restating these same two facts that nobody is denying?

  27. ben Says:

    Your entire point was to remind us that the Twins increased payroll in 2010, to coincide with increased revenues, and that they made trades.

    Almost. My point is that you need to find something new to bitch about. Disagree with their moves all you want, but quit saying that the Twins aren’t willing to pay players or make trades.

  28. Ed Bast Says:

    All that and it turns out all along you were only trying to put words in my mouth. Look at my comment in Andrew’s original post. Read it. What I said was: the money the team has spent this offseason and the trades it has made seem to be not for this year but for some vague future. That’s what I said. In my first comment here I “disagree[d] slightly” with the notion that the Twins went all-in last year, citing a failure to get a starter and a Bill Smith comment that the Ramos trade was made because Capps had another year on his deal.

    That’s what I said. I do disagree with many of the moves they have made. I don’t know how andy Twins fan could be happy with this offseason so far. Good for you if you are, but you are deluding yourself.

  29. ben Says:

    All that and it turns out all along you were only trying to put words in my mouth.

    the Yanks, Rangers, Phils, and Giants all made mid-season moves to help their team come playoff time. The Twins did not.

    These days, you need to spend money to win a World Series. It might cost you prospects (Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt) or it might cost you money (free agency).

    Your words. I didn’t put anything in your mouth.

  30. Ed Bast Says:

    Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes = 0 playoff wins. How exactly did they help the team come playoff time? Capps gave up a key insurance run. Fuentes got some mop-up outs in a loss. Helpful??? The Twins did not trade for nor sign a free agent starter last year. What free agents have they signed this year? How have they improved the team via trade this offseason?

    Just give it up, man. You have nothing useful to say, so you get in semantic arguments with others. Give it up.

  31. ben Says:

    Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes = 0 playoff wins.

    Liriano didn’t have any playoff wins either. Should they have dumped him at the deadline? Not getting your argument. At the time of the Capps trade, Rauch was imploding. The lefties were injured or moved into the rotation when they picked up Fuentes. The central was a close race until the white sox collapsed. Without those acquisitions, the Twins may not have made the playoffs.

  32. Ed Bast Says:

    I said the Twins did not make a midseason move to help their team come playoff time. My argument is that they did not make a midseason move to help their team come playoff time. They won 0 playoff games. Please explain which move helped them win in the playoffs.

    Fuentes pitched 9 2/3 innings for the Twins. Yeah he was the key to the division title. Capps converted saves at the same rate as Rauch. What a huge pickup.

  33. ben Says:

    Please explain which move helped them win in the playoffs.

    By this logic, trading for Hardy, signing Mauer, Hardy, Hudson, and Pavano are all failures.

    I think they played it right at the deadline. Their best chance was to go with what won them 94 games in the regular season. I really don’t think there were any clear upgrades to the rotation available. What they needed was to play more like they played going into September than they played at the end of September.

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