• Five Goals For The Second Half

    Technically, the actual halfway point in Minnesota's season came and went back in the first week of July, when the Twins played their 81st game at home against the Yankees. Yet, with the All-Star Game and its requisite four-day break falling in mid-July, it's tidier to simply use the Midsummer Classic as a milestone bisecting the MLB season.

    So, now that we've passed both the official and unofficial halfway points in what is clearly going to be a losing campaign, where do we go from here? The playoffs might be out of the picture, but that doesn't mean there aren't positive things to be accomplished. Here in the final 70 games, winning takes a back seat to the following five priorities:

    1) Limit Joe Mauer's innings behind the plate.

    Two years ago, Mauer's future as a catcher was very much in doubt as he battled mysterious leg problems and exhibited diminished skill defensively. He has authoritatively erased any such concerns since then, setting a career high in plate appearances last year and ramping up his workload behind the dish this year while once again remaining remarkably healthy.

    Mauer is one of the best hitters in the league, and his production is vastly more valuable when he's catching. To give you some idea of how much his offense (.320/.402/.473, 30 doubles, eight homers) stands out at the position, consider that Kansas City's Salvador Perez, with a .711 OPS and four homers in the first half, was one of the American League's two All Star reserves at catcher.

    At some point Mauer will need to transition away from catching duties, but it's in the Twins' best interest to delay that eventuality as long as possible. Therefore, I would recommend drastically reducing his reps behind the plate in the second half. Catching is very hard on the body, and while Mauer's ability to avoid the disabled list while crouching for 500-plus innings this year has been admirable, there's no reason to expose him to much additional wear and tear in the second half of a lost season.

    The best approach: Play Mauer at catcher often enough to keep sharp, and no more. Give him a heavy uptick in playing time at first base and DH, while letting an alternative option (even Drew Butera) handle the punishment of catching. Hopefully, this will improve Mauer's chances of serving as a regular catcher in future years where it might matter more.

    2) Load up on future assets.

    The Twins are in sell mode, and Terry Ryan has made no secret of it. The chief objective for the next couple weeks, and beyond, will be adding as much minor-league talent to the system as possible in exchange for expendable parts. Justin Morneau, Jamey Carroll and other candidates are likely to fetch modest returns, but anything that Ryan is able to acquire would be a bonus when giving up expiring contracts.

    Of course, the only way the Twins are going to be able to add any impact prospects is by trading Glen Perkins, who figures to be one of the hottest names on the trade market. While the general manager is understandably reluctant to part with his elite closer, it's known that he is open to the idea should an offer sufficiently wow him. As should be the case.

    3) Straighten out struggling youngsters.

    Aaron Hicks is hitting .197. Kyle Gibson has a 6.45 ERA. Oswaldo Arcia was recently demoted to the minors amidst a brutal slump.

    No, things haven't gone swimmingly for the group of promising rookies that have been ushered into the major-league fold this year, but that's not particularly surprising nor worrisome. The key in these final months will be doing whatever is necessary to set these individuals up for future success, because the Twins need them to be crucial components in a turnaround going forward. If that means more time in the minors (as in the case of Arcia), so be it. If it means working through it in the big leagues (as in the case of Hicks), all the better. We'll have to trust that the Twins know what's best for the development of these young talents. Hopefully each can finish the year in a good place.

    4) Evaluate borderline talents.

    While the Arcia demotion is justifiable, I have a harder time understanding the decision to send Chris Parmelee to the minors. He has nothing left to prove in the International League, which he completely dominated last year, and the Twins are reaching a point where they need to make a decision on the 25-year-old. They don't want to enter next season in the same position they entered this one -- with Parmelee being an unknown quantity who has crushed Triple-A pitching but struggled in limited time against major-leaguers -- yet that is exactly the situation they're headed toward.


    Fortunately, outcomes have been better for fellow uncertainties Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier. Each has shown signs of becoming a solid long-term fixture, albeit with considerably more stability than Parmelee has enjoyed. I'd like to see plenty of all three, as well as Pedro Florimon, in the second half, so as to help inform offseason decisions regarding the positions they play.

    5) Don't be afraid to lose.

    I'm certainly not advocating that the Twins try to lose. That's not how professional sports teams operate, nor should they. But all decisions should be aimed at the betterment of individual young players, not giving the team a better chance to win. At the end of the day, the only real difference between losing 85 games and 95 games is draft position. The Twins have had picks in the top four in each of the past two seasons, and with those picks they have added Byron Buxton -- now viewed as the consensus top prospect in baseball -- and Kohl Stewart -- ranked this week by Keith Law as the game's No. 30 prospect despite being drafted out of high school about a month ago.

    Circling back to the Parmelee example, if the Twins think he was struggling because he was overwhelmed and needed to get things figured out in a lower-pressure environment, fair enough. But if they felt his struggles were affecting the team's ability to win... at this point, who cares?
    This article was originally published in blog: Five Goals For The Second Half started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 50 Comments
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Aaron Hicks, improvement at the plate. I'd like to see him at the top of the order again, just to see if he can handle it now.
    1. jm3319's Avatar
      jm3319 -
      I agree 100% with not being afraid to lose. It's the ideal mental approach for the team and the fans, cheering for them to do well and develop players. Don't worry about wins and losses. It's still about the future.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I do not get the Parmalee decision, unless they have made up their minds already. The top goal should be to understand what he and other fringe players are. Oh, and trade anyone you can for help.
    1. Cris E's Avatar
      Cris E -
      Parmelee is likely to knock the rust off and get tuned up in Roch until Morneau's spot opens for him. He hasn't gotten many plate appearances lately and Calabello has earned some time in the majors. But I'm pretty sure everyone agrees that Parmelee has more of a future than Calabello, and when it's time to move on Chris will get the call.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Parmalee hasn't shown enough to earn the job. If Morneau is traded, I would rather move Plouffe to 1B and bring up Sano.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Nice article Nick. I've said from the beginning that judging this season will be on the development of players who will be here when the team gets good again. Now that the Twins have acknowledged they are in sell mode, it makes sense that the team look to the future by adding players who might or will help, no matter what the record is for the balance of the season.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I'm curious...if Perkins is dealt (and hopefully guys like Burton and Fien too if the value is there) could we go the aggressive route and just plant Tonkin in the closers role right away?

      I know he's been flying through the system, but I'd kind of like them to go with someone young the second half of this season. Then next year slide a veteran in there and hope in the first half they can generate some saves-related value.
    1. Boone's Avatar
      Boone -
      I agree with pretty much all of this. One of the most important, I think, is "Don't be afraid to lose." Accomplishing the other 4 goals very much depends on not being afraid to lose.

      I especially agree with limiting Mauer's innings behind the plate. In a lost season, there is no reason to have him behind the plate the majority of the time. As long as playing him at 1B/DH doesn't significantly limit the playing time of Hicks, Arcia, Willingham, Parm, and Plouffe, I would argue that the Twins should all but eliminate his catching duties in September. Not only would this reduce the tear on his knees, but it would essentially increase his off-season by a whole month.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I think trading Ryan Doumit may be a necissary deed for accomplishing many of these tasks. If Mauer is going to play less catcher, it would probably be ideal for one of the potential future backups to get most of the left over playing time. Herrmann should get playing time, but perhaps later Pinto. If the youngsters are playing catcher, that leaves Doumit for OF/DH duties, but those spots and 1B should also be reserved for the future guys and Mauer. Even with a hypothetical Morneau trade, I don't see room for Doumit, except on the bench, when Herrmann, Parmelee, Colabello and Arcia are all back in the fold.
    1. BabyJesusBuxton's Avatar
      BabyJesusBuxton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dave T View Post
      Parmalee hasn't shown enough to earn the job. If Morneau is traded, I would rather move Plouffe to 1B and bring up Sano.
      1. Plouffe has a combined 13 innings at 1st base in his career. 2. Sano hasn't even proved he can hit AA pitching yet.

      I'm sure Plouffe could transition over to first base with some time to work on his footwork but that isn't my main problem. Let Sano develop. Once he shows he can consistently hit AA pitching then we can discuss whether he deserves a September call up. I am guessing this doesn't happen this year but I could see him getting time in the AFL.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Sounds like what this team needs is for Mauer to get Mono.
    1. AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS's Avatar
      AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS -
      Great article. You have to believe that if Parmelee doesnt come up again when and if Morneau is traded that the Twins have lost all faith in him. Im sure excited to see Colabello to get his shot at the big league level. Im all for the Twins tanking in the 2nd half. I would rather be the worst team with the #1 pick than winning a few games more and being like the 5th or 6th pick. I mean Gardy doesnt know how to manage a bullpen anyway so that is a plus. Limiting Mauers innings is definitely a good idea and im sure the Twins staff are already planning on that. I have a gut feeling that Hicks will really start to get it going in the 2nd half as well but not in the top of the lineup, he already proved that it was too much pressure so why put that on him again? Hopefully the Twins can get some decent prospects through trades but everyone should not expect more than a bag of balls for Morneau or Carrol if they are traded.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by BabyJesusBuxton View Post
      This is a pretty absurd comment on multiple levels. 1. Plouffe has a combined 13 innings at 1st base in his career. 2. Sano hasn't even proved he can hit AA pitching yet.

      I'm sure Plouffe could transition over to first base with some time to work on his footwork but that isn't my main problem. Let Sano develop. Once he shows he can consistently hit AA pitching then we can discuss whether he deserves a September call up. I am guessing this doesn't happen this year but I could see him getting time in the AFL.
      I couldn't agree more. Twins have zero depth between Plouffe and Sano. Sano is too valuable to the future to rush him now. Plouffe needs to stay at 3rd until Sano is ready in a year or two or three. On the other hand, there are several stop-gap solutions at 1 including Mauer, Parms, Collabello, all three of which could become longer term, to permanent (as permanent as can be anyways) and playing at 1 will not hurt the player's development into the future.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Aaron Hicks:

      Last 28 games: .271/.327/.521/.858
      Last 14 games: .265/.324/.588/.913
      Last 7 games: .250/.333/.625/.958

      When you bat 0.040 in your first 28 games, and that at the lead-off position, you never dig out of that hole.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Also on Mauer, he's had two historic slumps this year: One happened early when he tried to catch 5 days a week and his hands turned to mush; the other happened more recently when Doumit was hurt and Mauer had to catch everyday for a week. I think Gardy came up with the right formula for Mauer catching last year. No need to tinker with it.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Aaron Hicks:

      Last 28 games: .271/.327/.521/.858
      Last 14 games: .265/.324/.588/.913
      Last 7 games: .250/.333/.625/.958

      When you bat 0.040 in your first 28 games, and that at the lead-off position, you never dig out of that hole.
      Great numbers for Hicks. Are you suggesting that he should stay at the bottom of the order? Since the Twins lack a legitimate leadoff threat, perhaps it would be better to try his hand at leading off again during this testing period (not afraid to lose over the second half) rather than next spring.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Good job Nick!
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      A better reason to leave Plouffe at 3B is that if he has a solid second half and a strong 2014 those hitting stats are far more valuable as a trading chip if Plouffe is a 3B rather than a 1B.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dave T View Post
      Parmalee hasn't shown enough to earn the job. If Morneau is traded, I would rather move Plouffe to 1B and bring up Sano.
      Parmelee is pretty much on the same development path as Plouffe. Until recently, Plouffe really only had one good month of MLB. Parmelee will be a decent player eventually, probably better than Plouffe.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Again, if Terry Ryan wows us like he did during the winter trading period, see him standing pat. But decisions do have to be made.

      Is it better just to send players thru waivers in August and clear salary (yes, if they are no longer in the team's picture...maybe get a minor minor prospect). I can see the Twins putting Morneau, Roeincke, Carroll, Pelfry even names like Thomas and Ramierez, plus the time to send thru Wood and DeVries and remove them from the 40-man roster. I could also see Willingham being offered out there to see how far he goes. And Correia, too.

      I would immediately have sent Diamond back to AAA to pitch two starts during the break to see if he can handle AAA hitters and then make the decision if he is a long-0relief guy and occasional starter, tradebait, or something.

      Again, you can salary dump, hold the player back (and stifle game playing for the futre, or maybe do get a prospect in return...at the same level that you could probably get today.

      Perkins is a great question mark. He would be 33 in his walk year, when the Twins may just be competing. But who knows how good he will be at that point. Him and Burton could both be traded out for the future. The Twins don't need no closer this year, or even next. Fein could probably suffice.

      Duensing and Swarzak are also guys that should draw some interest and the Twins don't need them, salary wise, in their long-range plans. Let another team decide if they need them for more than a year or two.

      Butera...gone!

      With his wasted minor league seaosn, I see no reason for the Twins to even give Blackburn a look, unless they think they can lowball him for next season and truly want him back?
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.