Friday, November 14, 2014

A Small Market Response

Disclaimer: I am more of a football guy.  Now, having said that, I am a passionate Twins fan who lives in the heart of Hawk Harrelson Country™ and that fact has only increased my love for the Twins.  While the past four years have been tough I take solace in the White Sox sucking too…
I don’t have MLB Extra Innings, I went to precisely two MLB games last year (both Cubs games), I would rather attend the local Low “A” game than commute to The Northside, and I struggle to recite the past five World Series champions (only half kidding).  However, I religiously check my “Batter’s Box” app every night and every morning during baseball season to check the Twins box score and highlights.  I believe I know a fair amount about the Twins, not as much as Adam, but I feel I can hold my own.  It is because of this knowledge I am apprehensive about the Twins going forward.   So, here it goes… my response to Adam’s Royals and Twins small-market formula.
Yes, it is well documented; the Twins have a consensus top five farm system.  They play in a terrible division.  They are in a honeymoon period with a new manager.  The stars are aligning.  My problem, nothing has changed in the one spot that matters the most, the front office.  The fact that Bill Smith still has a job (albeit a made up one) is surprising and associating Terry Ryan with success, at this point, is kind of laughable.  The Twins seem to be successful in spite of management not because of it.  Looking back at the ESPN Transaction page you can see what the Twins have done.  For the sake of time and word count I only went back to 2010.  Since 2010, the Twins do not have a lot of “winners”.  Glen Perkins, Phil Hughes, initial signing of Josh Willingham, Kurt Suzuki all seem like winners with Hughes being a steal.  But a quick rundown of the losers is pretty amazing.  Jason Bartlett, Jason Kubel, Ricky Nolasco, Carl Pavano resigning, Matt Capps trade AND resigning, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Letting Hardy go, letting Vance Worley go, and the granddaddy of them all… Tsuyoshi Nishioka.  I am sure I am missing some on both sides and I realize some are minor signings but the fact that the front office even tried to fleece the fans is annoying and par for the course.  The jury is still out on the Denard Span and Ben Revere trades but by trading both the Twins left a void in centerfield that Aaron Hicks hasn’t been able to fill.  That blunder has helped propagate one of the worst defensive outfields in the league.  An outfield which plays its home games in the pitcher friendly Target Field.  I think this furthers the point; they seemed to have lucked into Byron Buxton fitting a huge need, not planned for it. 
To their credit, the Twins have seemed to pivot towards “toolsy”, high upside, position players and power arms in the draft and that has helped position them for a possible run at the division in a few years.  However, associating the drafting profile and the 40-man roster management with a blueprint or anything similar to other organizations… I just don’t see it. 
And lastly, for a team that moved into a tax payer funded new stadium six years ago and then almost immediately imploded, it is annoying to see Terry Ryan publicly state he is comfortable with where the payroll stands.  There has to be a middle ground between going after Jon Lester or signing Kevin Correia (like Phil Hughes contracts).  Heck, the 2015 opening day roster doesn’t even have that many “holes” they need to fill.  They are set at 1b, 2b, SS (Santana), DH, C, RF with placeholders at 3b and CF.  The Twins have the money for a few, targeted, middle to upper tier free agent signings and the fans have been more than patient.  Based on MLB Trade Rumors 2015 payroll estimate, they are projected to be 35% below their high water mark and 13% below 2014’s opening day number.  No one goes into business to lose money, I am not asking for that, but the Pohlad’s certainly didn’t have enough to buy the Twins by being bad at business.  That is why I have a hard time believing there is no margin at the bottom line to expand the payroll.  It seems to me the model, if you have been terrible for a long stretch is be patient, develop talent, and selectively sign free agents (a la the Cubs).  This all is based on the assumption you are correctly identifying talent which is an entirely different post.

I hold out hope that Paul Molitor will continue his more stat friendly ways and for a front office that decides to find a middle ground between bring the Dodgers and well... the Twins. I might even settle for a healthy Sano and Buxton. Here's to 2015.

1 comment:

  1. You raise a lot of good points, no doubt about it. Not to be overly diplomatic, but I think the reality lies somewhere between our two conclusions. Naturally, the kind of losing the Twins have done is going to lead to high draft picks. A monkey could probably have done well picking top draft picks. The kinds of free-agent moves the Twins have made, however, were done with the mindset of making slight improvements (i guess?) and not made with the mindset that the Twins were going to be contenders as a result of those moves. They are going after relatively thrifty, middle and lower rung talent and I think when you are talking about that kind of talent, there are going to be more busts than hits. The bottom-line is that Ryan had money to spend and had to at least make it seem like they were using some of it.

    Your comments on the Twins payroll are the most damning and I agree 100%. If the Twins aren't going to use the revenues they have managed to suck out of the fan base over the last few seasons to bring on a few bigger name free agents, then the least they could do is make an International splash here and there and further bolster their burgeoning farm system.