Monday, May 7, 2012

A Move the Twins Can Make Now

My fandom for this team is wavering - I can admit it. In March I was optimistic that the Twins could put the 2011 disaster behind them and have a respectable season, hell maybe even a winning season. It is now clear that my 'rose-colored glasses' were on and those glasses now lay broken in pieces on the ground. Reality is a bitch sometimes. After watching historic offensive ineptitude over the last 5 games, watching the team get no-hit and swept by the Angels and handled easily by the lowly Mariners, it's getting to the point where I can't follow this team on a daily basis any longer. I'm not going to stop being a fan - it just hurts too much to continue watching day after day. All that said, I think it's time that the Twins front-office took a realistic look at things. This team isn't going to win anything this year...and likely won't be winning anything next year either. The current team in inept on a number of levels with too many holes to address all at once. So, knowing that the mountain lay in front of you, first steps need to be taken and taken soon. The first thing I would do is see what you can get for Matt Capps.

There are a number of teams right now with struggling and/or injured Closers. Potential teams that would be looking for a closer include: Yankees, Marlins, Nationals, Blue Jays, Angels, Red Sox, Athletics, Giants, and on and on. Trading for Matt Capps was the beginning of the fall for the Twins and dealing him now could be the beginning of the healing process. I know that not all of the teams I mentioned above are going to be interested in an overweight closer with a suspect history of success in the 'Closer' role, but surely there must be a team or two out there who could be duped into giving up a prospect or two for the 28-year-old right-hander, just as the Twins were 2 years ago. The bottom-line is that the Twins aren't really going to need Capps and there is currently a lot of potential demand for someone with his experience. Not only that, you clear the remainder of his $4.5M salary off the books.

There are other players the Twins could trade. Denard Span, Carl Pavano and Josh Willingham come to mind. None are more useless to this team, however, than the portly Capps. The Twins have a strained bullpen already, but with the way the starters have pitched it doesn't really make sense to hold on to a guy like Capps given the closer situations on so many other teams. The Twins have to start turning the ship around by rebuilding their depleted Minor League system and that happens by trading expendable talent like Capps.

Beyond trading Capps, this organization needs to take some serious time in thinking about their philosophies towards pitching and hitting. The "pitch-to-contact" philosophy that has now become the punch-line to jokes when referring to the Twins, is obviously flawed. Without good defense to back up these types of pitchers, the results are bound to be disastrous. From an offensive standpoint, the brass seem to put an emphasis on the elusive concept of "team speed" but a) poorly utilize the speed they do have and b) don't understand that "team speed" and winning don't correlate very well. The teams that are successful have a balance between "power" and "finesse". They have the boppers who can hit one out at any moment and they have the scrappy singles and doubles hitters who can pester the opponent with speed. They have power arms and they have control pitchers. They don't get stuck trying to hoard one type of pitcher or hitter. They put a high value on players whose strengths translate into winning matter the particular way in which they go about it.

I want to be optimistic about this team, but Twins fans, I'm afraid we're in for a few years of losing baseball before things get better. There are a lot of factors, both internally and externally, working against this team. The division has gotten better. The Twins minor league system has some talent, but that talent is currently at the A and AA levels and is not nearing maturity to the Bigs. The current squad of big-league talent isn't that good. Payroll will continue to shrink as attendance wanes. The Twins don't have much to offer in the form of trade-bait. In summary, this team needs Terry Ryan's savvy more than ever, to dig out of a hole that has quickly gotten very deep.

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