• 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. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      It's fascinating how less than a month of regular season play has changed both short-term and long-term expectations. Nobody realistically expects the Twins to make the playoffs this year, but .500 is now looking like a goal that could be within reach. The timeframe for contention has also shortened from 2015-16 to 2014-15. Perhaps the Twins front office is not as clueless as many were suggesting this off-season?

      In reference to Hicks getting his feet wet in the majors this year, the cynic in me can't help but observe that it's not just his feet that are wet, but his whole body - diving into the deep end of the pool, where the water is over your head, will do that to you.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So, if .500 is in reach, how much better off would they be if they signed a legit FA or two? This is why Dave Cameron says teams should never punt on a season.....
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      So, if .500 is in reach, how much better off would they be if they signed a legit FA or two? This is why Dave Cameron says teams should never punt on a season.....
      Given the performances from Correia so far, one can make the case that he was indeed a "legit FA" signing. And I recall quite a few people in these forums advocating not just punting 2013 but 2014 as well.

      Just sayin'...
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      So, if .500 is in reach, how much better off would they be if they signed a legit FA or two? This is why Dave Cameron says teams should never punt on a season.....
      Dave Cameron says a lot of things. This is the same person that criticized the Twins for paying 'a lot of money' to Kubel (2/7 guaranteed) because a 'similar' player (Hinske) was signed for a lower cost. I will agree that punting isn't smart but that doesn't mean that you stray from a long term plan. You also don't stray from that plan based on a hot start that likely results in a 70-75 win season regardless.
    1. Pitz's Avatar
      Pitz -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      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.
      We are in agreement over Profar/Andrus. While Sardinas or Odor for Hammer/Morny might be a fair value, my point is that I don't think the Rangers will really trade any of their pieces when they likely have a guy like Stanton or Price in mind. Would you trade those A ball ceiling guys for post prime players, if you knew you might be able to use them for superstars in their prime? They might not need to be included in the deal, but the Rangers also won't want to leave their system bare if they do make a play for those elite guys.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      This touched on a lot of good reasons and none drew on a small sample size of a surprising (and somewhat lucky given our SP) start to the season. I think even pie-in-the-sky optimists would have struggled to predict Arcia up this soon. Couple that with ridiculous domination from a few of our best specs and there is reason to be hopeful.

      All that said it worries me that two potential chips to further that rebuild ( Moreau and Hammer) are somewhat subpar so far. Their turnaround and trade vale could have a huge impact in this plan.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pitz View Post
      We are in agreement over Profar/Andrus. While Sardinas or Odor for Hammer/Morny might be a fair value, my point is that I don't think the Rangers will really trade any of their pieces when they likely have a guy like Stanton or Price in mind. Would you trade those A ball ceiling guys for post prime players, if you knew you might be able to use them for superstars in their prime? They might not need to be included in the deal, but the Rangers also won't want to leave their system bare if they do make a play for those elite guys.
      This all depends on several things.

      Actually landing a guy like Stanton or Price is the big one. Neither of these guys might end up being available and there will definitely be a lot of competition for them. If they don't land an elite guy they could be very tempted to go after Willingham for a pretty solid prospect package (more than Sardinas) or Morneau for one high risk A/rk ball player.

      In addition they might not want to move Profar at all since going after Price or Stanton would still require gutting the farm system even if they use Profar as the main piece. If they want to keep their top prospects then it might make sense trading a couple of high risk guys that are ranked #6-20 in their system. They also have a lot of these high risk lottery ticket prospects in their farm system.

      There will be other teams also interested in Willingham or Morneau.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      It will be hard to justify trading a guy like Willingham however if this team remains marginally competitive though.
      Even if Arcia isn't good enough already to quite stay with the team, there's a mild logjam at the corner outfield positions. If Willingham could bring them a starting pitcher, the team might be better poised for a mild/premature playoff run with Wilkin in the outfield and whatever pitcher Willingham might fetch for the rotation.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Is the rebuild accelerated to the point where you consider keeping Morneau and Willingham or one or the other? Will Morneau outproduce Parmelee over the next three years, and if so, at what cost will it become prohibitive? If Willingham doesn't stick around to DH, whose going to take most of that at bats there, a rotation of players who have more value when they are in the field?

      Investing in an "Ace" can be a quick way to kill a rebuild too. Though, it's hard not to covet a certain Bluejay pitcher with hometown roots...
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by sbknudson View Post
      It's fascinating how less than a month of regular season play has changed both short-term and long-term expectations. Nobody realistically expects the Twins to make the playoffs this year, but .500 is now looking like a goal that could be within reach. The timeframe for contention has also shortened from 2015-16 to 2014-15. Perhaps the Twins front office is not as clueless as many were suggesting this off-season?

      In reference to Hicks getting his feet wet in the majors this year, the cynic in me can't help but observe that it's not just his feet that are wet, but his whole body - diving into the deep end of the pool, where the water is over your head, will do that to you.
      I know a lot of people on this board were looking at 70 wins or less. And Vegas agreed with them. But I never understood that. They were basing their conclusions on last year's rotation, which was an utter disaster, mostly due to injuries and lack of depth.

      You can't look at this rotation and say it is no better than last year's with a straight face. I doubt if Correia's line is sustainable. But other guys have plenty of room to step up. Diamond and Gibson e.g. Worley has had only one good start. Pelfrey's labored. And there's a lot of guys waiting for opportunities if he doesn't turn the corner. In short, they're getting about what you would expect by way of starting pitching at this stage, and they should improve. I said it before the season and I'll say it again, I see no reason to think this team will not be a .500 team at the end of the year.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      "When healthy, Joe Mauer is one of baseballís elite players, and a fitting centerpiece for a championship-caliber team."- I couldn't disagree more. 1 season he's performed at that level. Has he only been healthy 1 season?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      How does investing in an Ace kill a rebuild?
    1. James's Avatar
      James -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      "When healthy, Joe Mauer is one of baseball’s elite players, and a fitting centerpiece for a championship-caliber team."- I couldn't disagree more. 1 season he's performed at that level. Has he only been healthy 1 season?
      So exactly how many times do you have to win a batting title before you're considered elite then? Three times isn't enough? Because I'd rate those as elite seasons too. I would go as far as to say any player with a career batting line of .324/.406/.874 should be considered elite.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
      So exactly how many times do you have to win a batting title before you're considered elite then? Three times isn't enough? Because I'd rate those as elite seasons too. I would go as far as to say any player with a career batting line of .324/.406/.874 should be considered elite.
      For some, only HR and RBI make you elite...and taking into account position is irrelevant...
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      "When healthy, Joe Mauer is one of baseball’s elite players, and a fitting centerpiece for a championship-caliber team."- I couldn't disagree more. 1 season he's performed at that level. Has he only been healthy 1 season?
      Your schtick is getting old.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      How does investing in an Ace kill a rebuild?
      The money committed combined with the health risk. There's a whole list of pitchers who sign mega-deal, only to become a payroll burden almost immediately...
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So, picking the wrong ace, then. Much like, I don't know, picking wrong at number 4 this year, or using all of your draft picks on relief pitchers?

      Where, exactly, do you see them spending the money, if not on a FA over the next 6 years? The entire roster outside of Mauer will be near the league minimum, and they get $25MM for free next year.

      And, even if they totally guess wrong, and the player is bad, they still have plenty of money to pay 95% of the roster near the league minimum.
    1. Pitz's Avatar
      Pitz -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      This all depends on several things...

      ...There will be other teams also interested in Willingham or Morneau.

      This is my main point. The Rangers aren't likely to move any of their prospects (for aging players) until something is determined one way or the other regarding Stanton and Price. Despite there middle infield depth, right now I don't think the Rangers are a good trade partner for the Twins because of that. Fans should probably be looking elsewhere for those other teams interested in Willingham/Morneau...

      ...or maybe it could be more prudent for the Twins to hold on to them as suggested earlier in this thread. This could be a difficult decision the Twins have to make and is definitely an important one. It will be interesting to see how this season plays out. Hopefully fun to watch and fun to discuss!
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      The money committed combined with the health risk. There's a whole list of pitchers who sign mega-deal, only to become a payroll burden almost immediately...
      This is true, but there are examples where it doesn't prevent contention. See: Zito, Barry and the 2010/2012 WS Champions. Granted, even that example proves you have to have inexpensive, dominant pitching...

      I'd be perfectly okay with moving Morneau or Willingham for another SP prospect with an eye on generating our window from beginning in '14 to wide open in '15-'17.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      So, picking the wrong ace, then. Much like, I don't know, picking wrong at number 4 this year, or using all of your draft picks on relief pitchers?

      Where, exactly, do you see them spending the money, if not on a FA over the next 6 years? The entire roster outside of Mauer will be near the league minimum, and they get $25MM for free next year.

      And, even if they totally guess wrong, and the player is bad, they still have plenty of money to pay 95% of the roster near the league minimum.
      It's not about being lucky, it's about being risk adverse. I'm suggesting that there's a huge risk in investing hundred of millions into any arm. I'm not sure the Twins are ever going to do that for any player other than homegrown ones.

      Honestly, I'm not sure that the Twins will spend that money, unless a player really gives them favorable terms (like Josh Johnson returning home); I don't doubt that they will spend money on starting pitching, I'm just not sure we can expect them to go out and get a Grienke like player. I can also see the Twins resigning Morneau.
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