Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Great Challenge Begins

Coming off a truly horrendous season of baseball, Minnesota's front office faces an unbelievably daunting task: retool a devastated roster on the fly and return a 99-loss club to contention.

It will be a steep uphill climb. As Phil Mackey noted earlier this week, no team has ever won their division a year after losing 98-plus games. One could certainly make a valid case that a short-term rebuilding period, with an eye toward competing in 2013 or 2014, would be appropriate. Given the circumstances, though, it's safe to say that's simply not going to happen.

Obviously we don't know what specific moves the Twins will make in the upcoming offseason, but it should be pretty easy to guess their general approach. The consistent message will be that they already have the pieces in place, and that getting players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span healthy will be the biggest key to a rebound. That's a fair slant.

But the problems with this roster run deeper than non-production at the top level. In some areas they absolutely need to get better and in others they would like to get better; there's not one position on this team with enough health, strength and depth to instill much confidence.

The Twins finished the 2011 season ranked 28th in the majors in OPS, 25th in starting pitchers' ERA and dead last in bullpen ERA. They also need to get significantly better defensively, especially in the infield. In other words, there are a whole lot of cracks in the foundation, and with payroll likely to creep back down toward $100 million, the front office won't have a ton of cash available for renovations despite some salaries coming off the books.

I expect considerable roster turnover this winter but I wouldn't anticipate much in the way of blockbuster moves. It's more likely that the front office will look to fill holes and build depth through numerous relatively minor signings and trades while holding steady to the idea that their returning core players are going to dictate the club's fate in 2012.

All in all, not a bad strategy. But the quality of these moves will determine whether the front office can regain the trust of an embittered fan base in the wake of a poor offseason and an even worse campaign.

I'll be following the action here all winter, and I hope you'll all keep stopping by to provide your thoughts on things as they develop. We'll get started tomorrow by prioritizing the areas of need.


Kelly said...

There seems to be a disconnect on this team. Take Delmon Young. He batted 7th or so for most of his time here. We trade him to the Tigers, a better team than we were this year for sure, and he hits in the 3 hole. And succeeds. Leyland knew what to do with him is all. And all Delmon does is lead the team with a game winning homer last night, his 2nd in 3 games in the playoffs. Did I hear the announcers say that maybe all he needed was to get out of Minnesota?

Some will say he under achechieved with the Twins, but you have to wonder if Gardy had something to do with that. He'd be happy with seven singles hitters who know how to bunt. When was the last time a Twin hit 40 homers?

And take pitching. We have mediocre pitchers. Long time since we had a front liner, and we traded him away for a bunch of magic beans.

Our bullpen is a shambles.

Sure it was bad year for injuries, but I see no committment to winning big on this team. Just fill the seats and take the fans' money.

We need to build a team that is not caught up with Gardyball. He and Smith managed to ruin a team that had maybe the best overall lineup going into 2010.

This will just get worse as their is no vision and the cupboard is bare.

Gee Nick I sound like you last spring.

Anonymous said...

The bitter, vocal portion of the fanbase seems to be completely infatuated with the long ball. If I remember right Rod Carew and Paul Molitor were never home run hitters, but they got RBI totals in the 100's nearly every year because they could hit the ball. Joe Mauer has had one bad season here in Minnesota that was completely devistated by injuries. All he has ever done besides that is win three batting titles, three gold gloves, and an MVP award...as a catcher! I am so sick of hearing about how "Mauer never hits home runs". Who cares? He is one of the best hitters ever to play the game, and even if he doesn't hit the long ball his slugging percentage is high because of all the doubles - he lead the league in slugging the year he won the MVP, and it wasn't just the 28 home runs that let him do that.

JB_Iowa said...

My biggest fear is that this organization will make stupid long-term moves in a desperate attempt to take advantage of M & M's "prime years". Maybe they will both be healthy next year but I'd say the odds are against it -- particularly with Morneau. I'd prefer that the Twins take a little longer view than trying to turn it around for next year (cuz it isn't going to happen in any meaningful way).

I was disheartened last winter about this team and obviously nothing this year has changed that.

I will be VERY interested to see if this coaching and front office staff remains intact. While we have obviously been told that Gardenhire and Smith are staying, does that mean that there won't be any "new blood"?

Surely somebody can see that continual inbreeding (rotation of positions and/or promotion from within) leads to stagnancy.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, there's a lot of revisionist history going on re: Delmon Young. Lots of players play better when they get a change of scenery. That doesn't mean it's the Twins' fault he played like a bloated, unathletic, uninterested corpse for four months, and for pretty much his entire tenure here save 2010. It was time for him to go. If the Tigers want to pay $8 million for him to flail around for an entire season, that's a good thing from the Twins' perspective.

Anonymous said...

no team has ever won their division a year after losing 98-plus games

This is just stupid. It may be true, but it's meaningless. It's a small sample size.

In 1999, the Diamondbacks won 100 games after losing 97 games the year before. If the twins win an extra 35 games next year, I think they just might win the central. But you're right, the Diamondbacks didn't lose 99, they lost 97. Had they lost 99 the year before, certainly they would have sucked in 1999.

2008 Rays won 97 games after losing 96 the year before.

2011 Diamondbacks won 94 games after losing 97 the year before.

How about this?

Since 1998, the Diamondbacks have won their division twice after losing at least 97 games the prior season. They have won the division the year after winning 97 games the prior year zero times.

Guess the Twins should start preparing for the Yankees in round 1 next year.

Nick N. said...

I wouldn't consider a .298 OBP to be an asset in the three-hole, personally.

Pete Best said...

The Twins are screwed in many respects but no matter which way they proceed this offseason, everything depends on mauer and morneau returning to the thrilling days of yesterday. Not to say they can't but it's not likely. Morneau is a shadow of himself and mauer looked liked Mike Redmond last year when not on the disabled list. That's the best 2 players they got. They have no bullpen, not to mention closer. Their infield is the worst in the league...ofensively and defensively. Their starting pitching is terrible and cant stay healthy. When was the last time the Twins were actively competing with other teams for even marginally talented free agents? They don't go after a type A free agents when they have great teams, can't imagine they will be too aggresive when their personnel issues are bursting at the seams. Name 1 F.A. they signed who was considered an impact player who signed with the twins while being persued by other clubs? Hasn't happened. It's just not in thier d.n.a. But youth sure is and I bet that's where they're headed. Of course their upper minor league talent is terrible too. Sum it all up and it will take a miracle to finish .500 next year.

bob luggia said...

all jokes aside, has anyone ever seen jeter look this poor at the plate? a non factor.

Kelly said...

Whoever you are anonymous you are a candy azz for remaining anon. Carew was my favorite Twin. He drove in 100 RBIs one time, in 1977Singles hitters do not win MLB championships.


Mr. Obvious said...

We need franchise players to play like franchise players

Anonymous said...

Kelly...come on, you don't really expect us to believe that Delmon is capable of hitting 40 homers? A couple of solo homers in the post-season does not make him the second coming of David Ortiz. And are you backing up your argument by comments made by announcers John Smoltz and Ron Darling? Those two should be referred to as the real life Dumb and Dumber.

How much would you be ripping the Twins had they given J. Santana 20 mil a year and then watch him sit out the 2011 season with injuries?

Not committed to winning big? A 113 million salary...23 mil a year for Mauer, 14 mil for Morneau, 11 mil for Nathan, 10 mil for Cuddyer, 8 mil for Pavano, 7 mil for Capps, 5 mil for Baker and Kubel, 4 mil for Liriano and Blackburn, 3 mil plus the posting fee for Nishioka...The Twins have shown a willingness to spend and try to build a contender...where they can be scrutinized is how intelligently they have spent that money. And for all the flack Mauer and the Twins have taken for his contract...how many would be calling for their heads had they let him walk at the end of 2010? That would have shown a true lack of commitment to winning.

Letting Capps and Nathan walk and giving the closer role to Perkins would be a good first step toward fixing the bullpen...another would be moving Duensing back to the pen as a lefty specialist.

By the way what is a candy azz? Since azz is not an actual word you may want to clarify.

Anonymous said...

we need franchise players to play...lots of problems would be solved with a productive Mauer behind the plate and a productive Morneau at 1b for a whole season.

Anonymous said...

If the Twins lineup was the best overall in 2010 then why did they get swept in the playoffs? And how did Gardy and Smith ruin the lineup by putting out the same lineup while changing only Hardy and Hudson? Did Gardy and Smith make Mauer, Morneau, Span, Kubel, Casilla, Delmon and Thome miss large chunks of the season? They missed badly on Nishioka but the rest of the lineup was essentially intact going into 2011. You shouldn't downplay the impact this historic rash of injuries had on the 2011 Twins. No other team in the majors could compete without their 1, 3 and 4 hitters missing significant chunks of the season. They can't control Span or Morneau's battles with concussions or Mauer's knee, etc., etc., etc. Injuries were the most significant issue...and many of the minor leaguers were rushed into major league service before they were ready. The cupboard isn't as bare as a Twins hater like you would like everyone to believe.

oh snap said...

"No other team in the majors could compete without their 1, 3 and 4 hitters missing significant chunks of the season."

you must have a short memory, the2010 Red Sox were decamated by injury, yet managed 86 wins(give or take)in the east. hang up the injury excuse, more to it then that.