Photo courtesy of: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
When the Twins entered the season, expectations were low and fans and analysts thought that if the Twins could find a way to stay around .500 for the majority of the season, it would be a successful year. Many around the organization and media were looking toward the future due to the immensely talented farm system the team had assembled. As a result, the team was not very active this past off-season. The front office made cheaper and shorter-term moves, assembling stopgaps on the roster until the next wave of talented prospects becomes ready to take over full time in the majors.
The fact that some of these stopgap moves have worked out and the team is suddenly approaching contention should not alter the strategy and plans under which this team has operated. The Twins have assembled a talented farm system by trading away big league pieces for prospects, making great international signings and drafting solid high school and college players. Now that the pieces are beginning to fall into place in the minors, the Twins must now play the waiting game for these prospects to mature and make it to the majors. Once that vision materializes, it is expected that the Twins will, yet again, become perennial contenders. Why would the Twins jeopardize that vision and progress for a team teetering on being simply relevant?
Typically, trade deadline deals are made for teams who believe they are one player or one trade away from becoming a legitimate playoff or World Series threat. As they are currently constructed, the Twins are not one player or one trade away from that unless that trade is historically lopsided. Even so, a trade that would make the Twins “instant contenders” would certainly cost their entire farm system, leaving the team bare in the future and setting themselves up for future failure and mediocrity. Thus, becoming buyers at the trade deadline makes little sense for the Twins.
If the Twins were to rattle off a run where they win 30 out of 40 games—or something similarly impressive—the temptation will be for the team to add another piece to solidify this team; in my opinion, if the team goes on a run of that caliber, I’d rather stand pat with the guys assembled and see what happens while waiting for even more improvement once the talented prospects contribute. If the team is good enough to get themselves in contention via a long winning streak, they’d be good enough to go to battle with in the playoffs where—I believe—the Twins would still be huge underdogs because of their lack of starting pitching depth; one player or trade cannot and will not alter that perception.
Standing pat and not selling out the future for a minimal post-season run is how a team can become a perennial contender. By not sacrificing the future and operating with the model “what is best for the franchise long-term”, a team can continue to compete without relying on free agency or trades to supplement its talent; the team would essentially become self-sufficient like the St. Louis Cardinals. They, despite losing Albert Pujols and other stars before him, have remained a perennial contender and legitimate threat at winning a championship year in and year out because they remain committed to not sacrificing the future for the present.
While it may take restraint by the Twins’ front office, the team must resist the urge to make a deadline trade to improve a team that is not constructed to win a championship. Winning championships is the ultimate goal in professional sports, not simply contending. If the Twins become buyers at the deadline and sacrifice their future in the process, they will never reach that ultimate goal.