• Accelerating the Rebuild Timeline

    When healthy, Joe Mauer is one of baseballís elite players, and a fitting centerpiece for a championship-caliber team. The Twins are aware of this, which is why they locked him up with a $184 million contract back in 2010.

    When they committed to paying the hometown star $23 million annually for eight years Ė until heís 35 Ė the Twins knew that the best value in the deal was likely to come at the front end. Thatís just a natural facet of baseball and pro sports in general; players are at their best around their late 20s and tend to decline as they age into their 30s as athleticism, quickness and durability gradually erode. Thatís especially true for a career catcher with a history of leg injuries.

    None of that means Mauer is bound to turn into a pumpkin any time soon, but as you watch him right now Ė 30 years old, fully healthy for the first time in years Ė youíre looking at one of the gameís premier players. We canít take for granted that he will continue to play at this level forever, especially while remaining at catcher. His unparalleled approach at the plate means heíll probably be a good hitter until the day he retires, but Mauer simply wonít be able to affect games in the same way if heís a plodding designated hitter or first baseman. Like it or not, thatís in his future at some point down the line.

    Despite their strong start to the season, the Twins would probably admit that theyíre not currently within a window of contention. Itís in their best interest to enter one sooner rather than later, and while there are various reasons for that, Mauer has to rank near the top of the list. All the talk we heard during the off-season about how the organization should set its sights on competing in 2016 never made any sense; are the Twins supposed to let three potentially great years from one of the best players in franchise history go to waste while waiting for prospects to (we hope) grow into big-league contributors?

    Fortunately, the rebuilding timeline doesnít look as daunting as some have feared. In part, thatís because a couple of guys that the Twins expect to be part of their next contending core Ė Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia Ė are already getting their feet wet in the big leagues. Meanwhile, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are obliterating their current levels and could be on the move more quickly than anticipated.

    Of course, pitching is the key piece in this equation, and in that department the Twins also seem headed rapidly in the right direction. Newly acquired starter Alex Meyer Ė who, letís face it, might be the single most important prospect in the system with the way the organization has put all its pitching eggs in the ďpotential aceĒ basket Ė is off to a torrid start in New Britain with a 1.69 ERA and plenty of strikeouts through three starts. His teammate and fellow new acquisition Trevor May has also flashed some dominance, though his command issues remain. Kyle Gibson has been solid in Triple-A.

    It seems likely that at least two, and maybe all three, of these young hurlers will get a chance to pitch in the majors at some point this year, putting them in position to fill out a rotation that already likely features one or two quality long-term pieces.

    Put it all together, knock on some wood, and youíve got an organization headed toward an ideal scenario: a group of promising young players with a bit of experience surrounding a still prime-aged superstar, with plenty of money available to fill in holes as needed.
    This article was originally published in blog: Accelerating the Rebuild Timeline started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 66 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Good article, though some analysis of the infield over the next few years would help.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Good article, though some analysis of the infield over the next few years would help.
      This article is well written and encouraging.

      Like Shane, I wonder about the infield, but at the moment I am hopeful that Dozier will provide a solution at 2B, and I like how Escobar seems to come through in the clutch. Also, Eddie Rosario seems promising -- maybe he will be ready to come up at the same time as Sano?

      Obviously there is a lot that might go wrong -- injuries, setbacks and failures to adjust to a promotion. But I think that Nick has made a credible case for the proposition that the Twins could be an elite team within a very few years.

      One final point -- it might be wise to try to acquire some high ceiling catching prospects, because no one know how long Mauer will hold up at that position and Doumit seems like a temporary solution.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      I agree with the premise of this article. The next contending team doesn't need to be far away, and Mauer's window is soon.

      If the Twins trade Morneau and Willingham...perhaps landing a SS prospect (Texas has three legit SS prospects, I think) and SP prospect, and grab a college arm in the draft, that could be three more pieces for a quick rebuild.
    1. Pitz's Avatar
      Pitz -
      Quote Originally Posted by AM. View Post
      I agree with the premise of this article. The next contending team doesn't need to be far away, and Mauer's window is soon.

      If the Twins trade Morneau and Willingham...perhaps landing a SS prospect (Texas has three legit SS prospects, I think) and SP prospect, and grab a college arm in the draft, that could be three more pieces for a quick rebuild.

      There's been a couple time that I've thought it would be great if the Twins could get one of the Rangers SS prospects. However, I think the Rangers have their sights set much higher than Morneau and Willingham. I highly doubt that they will move any of their top prospects while Stanton and Price are potentially on the trading block.
    1. SeanS7921's Avatar
      SeanS7921 -
      I believe Mauer was fully healthy last year as well and had an awesome year. Great WAR, best OPS around, 300+ average. Now he is off to another great start. Nobody is blabbing that HE HAS to move from catcher and/or his career is in jeapordy. Still there is whining - He doesn't hit enough homers, he walks to much instead of going for the big hit and he doesn't play enough at catcher. Bleh.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      I believe Mauer was fully healthy last year as well and had an awesome year. Great WAR, best OPS around, 300+ average. Now he is off to another great start. Nobody is blabbing that HE HAS to move from catcher and/or his career is in jeapordy. Still there is whining - He doesn't hit enough homers, he walks to much instead of going for the big hit and he doesn't play enough at catcher. Bleh.
      The dude gets on base 44% of the time and has a .959 OPS, anyone who would whine about that is a moron and should probably not bring children into this world.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      The dude gets on base 44% of the time and has a .959 OPS, anyone who would whine about that is a moron and should probably not bring children into this world.
      One of these days you're going to quit beating around the bush and tell us how you really feel.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Add to that the fact that Aaron Hicks and Brian Dozier are finally emerging from their early season batting slumps, and things are looking bright indeed.

      Dare I say, "dynasty?"

      On a more serious note, I watch baseball for the entertainment value, not just to see the team win all the time. Things usually go wrong even with the best laid plans, but meanwhile it will be fun watching the new kids and the veterans cause a ruckus in the division.

      This season I look forward to witnessing some good defensive plays, while the new kid, Arcia, brings some much-needed power to this previously punch-less platoon. It was a good sign that his first home run landed near the base of the same flag pole that Jim Thome hit on Memorial Day a few years back. Good hit, kid.

      Of course, Thome hit the top of that flag pole... ;-)
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      I believe Mauer was fully healthy last year as well and had an awesome year. Great WAR, best OPS around, 300+ average. Now he is off to another great start.
      I think youíre mostly right, but I didnít get the sense that Mauer fully had his strength back over the first couple months last year. I mean, he was slugging .399 on June 1. In the latter part of the season he really seemed to hit his stride and added eight more homers the rest of the way, which is a relatively high number for him. This year heís already gone deep twice Ė he didnít hit his second homer until May 24 last year. Heís also playing catcher a lot more than he did last year.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pitz View Post
      There's been a couple time that I've thought it would be great if the Twins could get one of the Rangers SS prospects. However, I think the Rangers have their sights set much higher than Morneau and Willingham. I highly doubt that they will move any of their top prospects while Stanton and Price are potentially on the trading block.
      Profar/Andrus are completely out of the question but toolsy A ball prospects (Sardinas and Odor) are in play for guys like Willingham and Morneau. That of course depends on guys like Cruz and Berkman suffering their yearly injuries while Willingham and/or Morneau stay healthy and hit the ball.

      I think the key that makes the accelerating title work is that Sano/Buxton/Rosario look like they could play at 2 levels this year while Meyer looks like he could become at least an ace-lite for the Twins.

      Aside from Kepler's injury the only prospect disappointments have been hicks and Mays although I was hoping for more from Gibson.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      It seems like we've lost more dice rolls the last few years (injuries, SP failures, etc) than we've won. With the pipeline that's in place, we'll be a serious contender if a few of these prospects turn into boxcars (12's).

      We've seen teams like the Royals struggle to turn a well-regarded farm system into MLB wins, so let's just hope we have enough rolls of the dice and can make the transition...
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I think you’re mostly right, but I didn’t get the sense that Mauer fully had his strength back over the first couple months last year. I mean, he was slugging .399 on June 1. In the latter part of the season he really seemed to hit his stride and added eight more homers the rest of the way, which is a relatively high number for him. This year he’s already gone deep twice – he didn’t hit his second homer until May 24 last year. He’s also playing catcher a lot more than he did last year.
      Yep. I think we'll see a return of the dominant Joe Mauer this season if he stays healthy. He struggled (by Joe Mauer's standards) early last season before picking it up.

      He probably won't put up 2009 numbers but I think he can improve slightly on his 2010 numbers, which were still pretty outstanding considering how Target Field played that season.
    1. adjacent's Avatar
      adjacent -
      I agree that this could be a good team pretty soon. I don't like to use words like contender because that depends on a lot of things that are not under control. One key is health, especially health of the young pitchers (and of Mauer). A rotation of Meyer, May, Gibson, Diamond and whoever takes the fifth spot doesn't look too bad. As for the infield, if the team looks good, you can always plug a hole with a free agent. By the way, I know it is too early to say, but Escobar is looking better and better.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post

      I watch baseball for the entertainment value, not just to see the team win all the time. Things usually go wrong even with the best laid plans, but meanwhile it will be fun watching the new kids and the veterans cause a ruckus in the division.
      I couldn't agree more... You and I are seemingly part of a very small club though.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I think you’re mostly right, but I didn’t get the sense that Mauer fully had his strength back over the first couple months last year. I mean, he was slugging .399 on June 1. In the latter part of the season he really seemed to hit his stride and added eight more homers the rest of the way, which is a relatively high number for him. This year he’s already gone deep twice – he didn’t hit his second homer until May 24 last year. He’s also playing catcher a lot more than he did last year.
      Ding ding! It's nice to see him fully healthy, and other than a dreadful series in Kansas City Joe has been on fire.

      It's amazing how much better this team is when he is producing like that. We all like to nitpick the ever living **** out of everything on here and its nice to be reminded that, hey at least we have one of the best catchers of all time playing for us!
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      For an early rebuild into contention this team still needs another close to MLB ready top of the rotation arm. Considering free agency will never be an option for this, the only alternatives would be to get lucky with a college arm early in the draft or get good value in a trade. It will be hard to justify trading a guy like Willingham however if this team remains marginally competitive though.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      If the Twins end up with Mauer and a bunch of guys making the MLB min on offense then FA is definitely an option to acquire an ace. That's the benefit of having a bunch of prospects grouped closely together.

      I already know that you will use the old 'the Twins have never spent a lot of money in FA' excuse but the Twins have only recently had a payroll above the league average. Since Target Field opened they have had payrolls full of moderately expensive vets (no payroll room) or an absolutely awful team where splurging big doesn't make sense at all.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Looks like wishful thinking to me. Pitching depth is still very poor- pitchers get hurt, or struggle once promoted to the Majors. The Twins don't have much in the way of catching or middle infield prospects. Prospects in general are risky bets, even highly-rated ones.

      There is potential to turn things around in the foreseeable future, but it is dependent on unknown events (e.g., the #4 pick in the draft, future trades, etc.). The Twins' recent performance doesn't really inspire complete confidence in a flawless rebuild.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I hope it is accelrated. I have no interest in 5 years of futility......

      But I think the margin for error is tiny. Every prospect has to work out. An actual good FA has to hit the market, and they have to sign him. There just isn't a lot of backup plan (and in some cases, there is no real primary plan).

      Let's hope they do somehow accelerate things. It would be more fun that way.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      This is a good argument to move Gibson up sooner rather than later. Some were calling for Hendriks to return. I don't think we'll see that any time soon. He's had four opportunities in the last year. Time to give Gibson a shot when a spot opens up, which could happen after Saturday's Rangers game with Hernandez on the mound.
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