• Accelerating the Rebuild Timeline

    When healthy, Joe Mauer is one of baseball’s 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 – until he’s 35 – the Twins knew that the best value in the deal was likely to come at the front end. That’s 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. That’s 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 – 30 years old, fully healthy for the first time in years – you’re looking at one of the game’s premier players. We can’t 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 he’ll probably be a good hitter until the day he retires, but Mauer simply won’t be able to affect games in the same way if he’s a plodding designated hitter or first baseman. Like it or not, that’s in his future at some point down the line.

    Despite their strong start to the season, the Twins would probably admit that they’re not currently within a window of contention. It’s 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 doesn’t look as daunting as some have feared. In part, that’s because a couple of guys that the Twins expect to be part of their next contending core – Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia – 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 – who, let’s 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 “potential ace” basket – 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 you’ve 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. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      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.
      Right, but SF has been able to develop a succession of front end pitching, which is the real success of their formula. It's kind of incredible that the Zito deal didn't hamstring them.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      Right, but SF has been able to develop a succession of front end pitching, which is the real success of their formula. It's kind of incredible that the Zito deal didn't hamstring them.
      Anyteam can over come one bad contract, it's when you start talking about multiple bad contracts when things get dicey
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Anyteam can over come one bad contract, it's when you start talking about multiple bad contracts when things get dicey
      Mauer's a great player. But before long his will be a bad contract. I just don't see the Twins carrying two 20 million dollar players over the next several years...
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      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?
      Yes, that's the key. The Mets invested so heavily in Santana, they basically were done for. (That, and their owners were Bernie Madoff's best clients.) The history doesn't really look too good on long-term $100+ million contracts for pitchers. Find me one that worked, and I'd give you a gold star.

      None of the guys who were available this past offseason were worth it. Greinke was the best guy out there and he is almost guaranteed not to be worth it. The Tigers and Mariners signed their guys before they became available. Those two have the best shot at justifying investing in an ace.

      All that said, if Price wants to come pitch for us at a reasonable rate, I'd have him. If there's ever an argument for going for it, it's after this year, when there are some decent guys available.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      46.25 Million. Right now that is the Twins payroll obligations for next year. Now that doesn't take into account any arb. eligible or minimum players but even with them figured in which includes Worley, Plouffe, Swarzak, and Roenicke as 1st year Arbitration and Duensing and Butera as 2nd year arbitration cases. I can't see any of these guys breaking the bank. Maybe Worley and Plouffe get paid decent but I'm thinking even with all these guys the Twins will be sitting at around 55-60 million in salary before any free agent or trade acquisitions.

      I don't see the Twins signing an Ace ever. I hate to say it I just don't think they will and I'm not sure they should. Now by an Ace I'm talking a 100 million or more free agent who is an absolute top 20 pitcher in the league when they sign. Guys like Greinke, CC, Cliff Lee, Halladay. However, next year there are a number of guys who could be great upgrades over most of our rotation in the form of Josh Johnson, Dan Haren, TIM LINCECUM!!! (if he ever returns to form). Ubaldo Jiminez, and a few others.

      While none of these guys are true Aces right now, unless Lincecum rediscovers his past form, they all could be a good #2ish veteran starters that could round out a nice rotation with Diamond, Meyer, Gibson, Worley, and May there to fill the rest of the rotation out. It seems they'll have some moola next year and it will have to go somewhere.

      Sadly the collection of positional free agents is uninspiring to say the least so it really wouldn't surprise me to see the Twins spend on some pitching next year. Then again, I thought that would happen this past offseason and it just meant pelfrey and Correia.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The FA list upcoming years is going to be really sad, expect payrolls under 70MM for years, and that's with one guy making $23MM....
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      What's the risk in signing bargain basement players every time you sign a guy? How's all the pitching working out they have signed as FAs the last decade?

      You gotta play to win. If they really aren't interested in playing, they should not have asked for my tax dollars.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I pretty much agree with this article; the Twins look to have a bright future and the future is soon.

      I would probably add a fourth pitcher to the list: DJ Baxendale who, based on what I saw from him this spring training and the way he has been pitching in Fort Myers so far this season, he would probably be the second best SP prospect in my list (after Meyer) at this point. Move to AA this season, to AAA to begin the next and to the Twins to end, is not out of the question (the Sano/Rosario path).

      I think that the Twins can accelerate the future but I cannot see it happening before 2015, unless several players have breakthrough 2014 seasons. They got to be smart and trade people over the hill and with 1-2 years left to the contracts (Morneau, Willingham, Doumit, Carroll) and potentially get some value. Also, they need to figure out whether to add prospects to such trades and quit holding on to mid-tier prospects like Hermsen, Baresford, (or even Hendriks) etc who are not going to be stars in the majors, to get better value in trades...
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      The history doesn't really look too good on long-term $100+ million contracts for pitchers. Find me one that worked, and I'd give you a gold star.
      Sabathia? Lee?

      Then again, there aren't too many to choose from...
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      The FA list upcoming years is going to be really sad, expect payrolls under 70MM for years, and that's with one guy making $23MM....
      There are a few decent at best names coming out next year for starting pitchers in Haren, Garza (not gonna sign here), Phil Hughes, Gavin Floyd, Ubaldo Jiminez, etc. and I don't see much point in looking to 2015 yet as a lot of those guys will get resigned before free agency hits.

      It will be interesting to see if they go after one of the better names on that list or not. It kinda makes me think they might just hold onto Willingham since they'll have the payroll room if they want. Assume you've got Hicks and Arcia in 2014 with Parmelee switching to 1B, then you may as well continue to have Willingham play RF unless you can get good enough value for him.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Sabathia? Lee?

      Then again, there aren't too many to choose from...
      And you get a gold star. Sabathia gives me hope for Price, but let's be real. He'll get Verlander money. Nobody should get Verlander money.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      sorry, I think I got us off track.......................I'm going to do my best to ignore most threads for awhile that aren't about specific players or games, I think. I feel like I (and others) are running in circles.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      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.
      Anybody significantly increasing either long or even short term expectations based on the Twins finishing 10 percent of their season with the worst run differential in the AL Central is... well, I guess the polite term would be aggressively optimistic.

      And if you were really cynical about Hicks, you could have compared his MLB debut to drowning instead of just immersion. At any rate, it will be interesting to see how long he can sustain a walk rate above 15% with a batting average below .100 and K's in a third of his AB's.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Your schtick is getting old.
      "Getting" old?
    1. iastfan112's Avatar
      iastfan112 -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      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.
      Actually pitching doesn't look that terrible to me:
      Worley and Diamond look like reasonable depth in the rotation
      As far as pitching prospects go, Meyer and Gibson are reasonable bets to be contributers to the rotation.
      Add another quality arm from FA and you have a servicable rotation with a number of interesting arms behind(May, Hendricks, Berrios, one or several of the former college relief arms).

      Even MI is looking stronger prospect wise then it has the past decade or so with Rosario, Polanco and Goodrum all being intriguing. I've always felt pretty good about Dozier as well. If Escobar or Florimon somehow worked out, great.
    1. SockNet's Avatar
      SockNet -
      Competing in Mauer's prime is over with. The management is always "building for the future" and never embraces the now. Two years from now if we are in contention and need one piece to make a legit run, they wont make the trade. They didn't in 2010 when they just needed one more decent starting pitcher. I'm of the opinion that if they go all in for a few years when we are close and at least get to the WS, the fan base will be forgiving for the couple years the farm is depleted. Its better that being the best bad team in a bad division that doesn't really deserve to be in the play offs because the East has 3 teams with a better record and the west has 2.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      At any rate, it will be interesting to see how long he can sustain a walk rate above 15% with a batting average below .100 and K's in a third of his AB's.
      I don't think anyone expects this. That's because we're seeing A Tale Of Two Seasons, written in ultra-small-sample-size:

      April 1-13: 46 PA, 2 H, 3 BB, 20 SO, 3 R
      April 15-23: 21 PA, 2 H, 8 BB, 2 SO, 5 R

      Potential explanation: word quickly got around the league, "don't give this guy *anything* good to hit, because he'll get himself out". Around April 14, coaching and Hicks had some kind of meeting of minds, and after that he stopped going after so much of the slop outside of the strike zone. You don't get hits on those kinds of pitches, so the results are not fully there yet. But when word gets around the league again, pitchers will decide a .476 OBP is not in their interest, particularly for a speedy baserunner, and better pitches to hit will be offered. It remains to be seen whether Hicks will capitalize.
    1. ThejacKmp's Avatar
      ThejacKmp -
      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.
      Double bleh. A bleh in their faces.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      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?
      Trading Willingham is part of the accelerated rebuild imo since he should bring back a good prospect (preferably pitching or MI). Trading Morneau isn't as necessary because I don't think he will net a significant prosepct. It does make sense to trade him if that's the only way to get Parmelee/Arcia playing time.

      There are some that consider burn it to the ground style rebuilds as the only correct way to rebuild but I disagree. it's fine to have veterans as long as they don't block prospects and they don't have long term burdensome contracts. they also become tradeable assets (like Willingham or Perkins) but some might not be valuable to trade (Morneau, Doumit, Burton for example).
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Trading Willingham is part of the accelerated rebuild imo since he should bring back a good prospect (preferably pitching or MI). Trading Morneau isn't as necessary because I don't think he will net a significant prosepct. It does make sense to trade him if that's the only way to get Parmelee/Arcia playing time.

      There are some that consider burn it to the ground style rebuilds as the only correct way to rebuild but I disagree. it's fine to have veterans as long as they don't block prospects and they don't have long term burdensome contracts. they also become tradeable assets (like Willingham or Perkins) but some might not be valuable to trade (Morneau, Doumit, Burton for example).
      I agree that Willingham due to his age and the value he'd fetch should be the one to go. (I like your idea of getting Hansen from Pittsburg).

      I'm not sure Parmelee is going to hit as well as Morneau the next three-four years (of course, we need to watch this play out throughout the season). We don't know that Parm can even match Morneau's 2012 production, which we consider mediocre. I think it would be prudent to offer Morneau an incentive-laden contract spanning say three years, with an option, that might go as high as ten million a year, but would have a more modest baseline. If Morneau wouldn't take that I'd definitely extend the qualifying offer.

      The Twins have money to spend, and it's probably their preference not to spend big in free agency. I'd be disappointed if they let Morneau walk and go on to piecemeal the savings out over a couple of semi-high-profile free agents.
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