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    "There isn't any shortcut to get where we want to go."

    Although the above quote from Terry Ryan was published back in February, the sentiment has been a common refrain for the Twins' general manager throughout his ongoing efforts to rebuild a broken product in Minnesota. No shortcuts.

    And why not? It's a nice-sounding way to quell the growing calls from a disgruntled fan base for aggressive measures to restore the franchise to contention. Shortcuts sound bad. They sound lazy, and sloppy, and potentially harmful in the grand scheme.

    But when you more closely examine that mentality, and the present state of the organization, it's awfully tough not to be disenchanted by the front office's apparent commitment to building internally and avoiding impactful additions that may prove costly.

    In terms of position players, the Twins are set up to fill their needs from within the system. Whether in the outfield (Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks), the infield (Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Danny Santana) or catcher (Josmil Pinto) there are a number of candidates to lend support at the major-league level within the next few years. On the pitching side, the situation is considerably more dire.

    Alex Meyer is presently lighting up radar guns in Arizona, touching 100 MPH with his fastball, and he is the shining beacon in the high levels of the organization. However, he also may be the lone hope for top-of-rotation support within the next several years. Kyle Gibson stumbled in his big-league debut and appears to lack dominant upside, though I remain confident in his ability to become a quality MLB player. Trevor May could be destined for the bullpen. Beyond those three, there aren't really any legit pitching prospects to be found on the farm above Single-A.

    Names like J.O. Berrios, Kohl Stewart and Lewis Thorpe deservedly draw attention, but they're all teenagers and shouldn't realistically be expected to become rotation staples for four or five years, at least. So if indeed the Twins are unwilling to take "shortcuts" in the process of rebuilding their starting corps, we could be looking at a depressingly lengthy timeline.

    Considering just how far behind the pack the Twins are lagging in the starting pitching department, it's hard to imagine Meyer and the existing mish-mash of iffy talent aligning to create a rotation that is any kind of true asset within the next handful of seasons. Outside help is needed. That might require taking steps that could be viewed as shortcuts. It might require an approach that Ryan has consistently eschewed: building through free agency.

    Of course, there are other ways to acquire ready or near-ready pitching talent. We saw that last year, when Ryan dealt away Denard Span and Ben Revere to bring aboard two high-level prospects and an established guy in Vance Worley. But the Twins are now almost completely bereft of desirable trade chips at the big-league level, and giving up prospects sort of contradicts the whole rebuilding concept. Signing free agent talent costs nothing but money (and maybe a second-round draft pick, if you're ambitious).

    Now, obviously, any move that endangers the club's long-term outlook would be ill-advised at this point. So Ryan should clearly avoid making sizable commitments to aging veterans that would restrict his ability to spend in future years. But there are plenty of 30-and-under pitchers entering the market, and the Twins aren't remotely close to hitting any sort of payroll ceiling, now or in the near future.

    Ryan and his staff have frequently scoffed at the notion of taking shortcuts to address their problems, but the current layout of the organization calls for an influx of more immediate pitching help, if the Twins truly hope to field a high-caliber rotation within the next several years. As loyal as ownership has been to Ryan, Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the gang, I can't imagine they'll continue to stick with the current leadership if the team remains stuck in a holding pattern while waiting for teenagers to develop into major-league pitchers.

    All of which reinforces my belief that the Twins will, indeed, spend this offseason.
    This article was originally published in blog: Shortcuts started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 99 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      I'm hopeful someone with better knowledge of the particulars than me will explain who among this lengthy list isn't being blocked by... their own progress.
      I don't really see anyone on that list who is being blocked either.
    1. VandyTwinsFan's Avatar
      VandyTwinsFan -
      From the above mentioned article:
      "He found that some batters, such as Jack Cust, Dan Johnson and Josh Willingham, hardly ever stray from their points of contact, indicating rigid swing patterns that could leave them vulnerable to specific pitches or pitch sequences. Other batters make adjustments, such as Ichiro Suzuki, Brayan Pena, Coco Crisp and Ian Desmond, who made contact at all points in the strike zone with regularity."

      My brother and I would make bets on which pitch would strike Willingham out this year. It's interesting to see a report illustrating why he can't hit a breaking ball moving down and away (although, not necessarily located off the plate).
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Besides the salary issue for a "quality" free agent, there is the tacit admission that "the system" failed and talent had to be "purchased". IMO, it's not the money as much as the admission of guilt.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Nick, there's another side to TR's comment about there being no shortcuts that you didn't address - yes, he's implying that the Twins are not going to become a contender by signing a load of free agents, but he's also hinting that he expects the team to be bad for a while longer. Free agency is the Twins' best chance to improve in the short-term, as they don't have a whole lot of tradeable assets and their prospect "wave" is at least a season or two away.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      I'm hopeful someone with better knowledge of the particulars than me will explain who among this lengthy list isn't being blocked by... their own progress.
      I agree, but will play devil's advocate for a moment. What if Gibson, Hendriks, Meyer and May had all had the phenominal seasons we were hoping for? Then Correa and Pelfrey would have been blocking them. Pre-season, it wasn't a sure thing all would have production/injury concerns.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      Free agency is the Twins' best chance to improve in the short-term, as they don't have a whole lot of tradeable assets and their prospect "wave" is at least a season or two away.
      Of course if the Twins made some smart speculations on the free agent market they could get new tradable assets. The guys they signed over the last couple years had next to no trade value. Even Willingham after 2012, who many thought could bring a decent return, was reportedly not worth much.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Talk of specific players being blocked or not, instead of discussing "FA IS EVIL" is just what TR and the TWins want you doing.... you all fell nicely into the trap in less than 1 page of the thread!

    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      I'd be pretty happy if there were minor leaguers deserving major league playing time because of performance who weren't getting that playing time because there were better players getting it.

      I would consider that a pretty enviable situation for a major league team to be in. I don't consider the Twins to be in much danger of that happening any time soon, though.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      I agree, but will play devil's advocate for a moment. What if Gibson, Hendriks, Meyer and May had all had the phenominal seasons we were hoping for? Then Correa and Pelfrey would have been blocking them. Pre-season, it wasn't a sure thing all would have production/injury concerns.
      My particular response was to Thrylos's comment about MiLB FAs. I should have used Reply With Quote, in order to be clearer, although I thought that would come through when I said "organizational filler".

      But your scenario probably has a feasible exit strategy: deadline (or earlier) trades of the suddenly expendable pieces. Note, this is not the same as the strategy of signing guys with the express purpose to flip them.

      Would be a nice problem to have, wouldn't it?
    1. S.'s Avatar
      S. -
      The phrasing and use of the term shortcut really ticks me off, in the context TR is using it in. Using FA to acquire players to drastically improve your team (especially when you have a ton of glaring problems and a giant pile of money to spend) is a normal part of the game for most teams. That isn't a shortcut, it is the norm. We are taking the long route.

      I just don't understand why being efficient and utilizing all avenues is a shortcut in any way. No one is saying we need to construct a 25 man roster full of big name FAs. No one is saying we need to sign 5 top tier pitchers. It's like me asking for directions from Target Field to Xcel Energy Center and pretending that the suggestion of taking 94 is such an absurd idea. Sure, I could take 394 to 100 to 494 to 35E, but that doesn't mean that taking 94 is a shortcut.



      Disclaimer: I'm not actually saying these two situations are literally comparable but the point still stands.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by S. View Post
      The phrasing and use of the term shortcut really ticks me off, in the context TR is using it in. Using FA to acquire players to drastically improve your team (especially when you have a ton of glaring problems and a giant pile of money to spend) is a normal part of the game for most teams. That isn't a shortcut, it is the norm. We are taking the long route.

      I just don't understand why being efficient and utilizing all avenues is a shortcut in any way. No one is saying we need to construct a 25 man roster full of big name FAs. No one is saying we need to sign 5 top tier pitchers. It's like me asking for directions from Target Field to Xcel Energy Center and pretending that the suggestion of taking 94 is such an absurd idea. Sure, I could take 394 to 100 to 494 to 35E, but that doesn't mean that taking 94 is a shortcut.



      Disclaimer: I'm not actually saying these two situations are literally comparable but the point still stands.
      Using FA to drastically improve your team fails more often than it works. In that sense, I agree there's no shortcut. Using FA to fill some holes, or in this case, where it's painstakingly obvious that the next wave won't have enough SP is a bit different. It's targeted. The question at hand is whether or not that 5 year contract still going to be worth it in years 3-5 when said next wave is established.
    1. Heimer's Avatar
      Heimer -
      Take anybody with potential under 30.
    1. S.'s Avatar
      S. -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Using FA to drastically improve your team fails more often than it works. In that sense, I agree there's no shortcut.
      I probably could've just said to improve your team and taken out the "drastically". In the Twins case, it wouldn't take that much talent to drastically improve our starting pitching in it's current state, to be fair.

      Using FA to fill some holes, or in this case, where it's painstakingly obvious that the next wave won't have enough SP is a bit different. It's targeted. The question at hand is whether or not that 5 year contract still going to be worth it in years 3-5 when said next wave is established.
      Once you start talking 4 and 5+ year contracts it gets a bit more complicated, but the fact of the matter is our pitching is not suddenly going to get better without some combination of FA and trades, unless we're making assumptions that every pitching prospect we have in the minors is going to meet and exceed any expectations, hopes, or dreams we have about their ability. If in 3-5 years our biggest problem is a bad contract, then I'd say we've done pretty damn well. I'd much rather be bitching about a good team with a bad contract than a bad team with a rotation that bears any resemblance to what we trotted out there the last 2 years.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      There is a lot of presumtion here without even qualifying where it is that "we want to go. My presumption is that "where" means achieving several things. My guess is the first thing on the lists are things that provide sustainability. For example, improved process drafting, international signings, and development. It would be a safe bet the ultimate "where" is world series contention. That is not going to happen through free agency. That also does not mean they won't utilize free agency to put a better product on the field. So, I intepret his comment only so far as to conclude that he feels short cuts won't build a world series contender that is capable of sustaining a high level.

      Sustaining the orgaization also has several implications for management and organizational development. Nobody here is referencing these issues but I would bet TR is considering them when he makes these statements. We should not assume the very limited context of free agency as "short cuts".

      All anyone hears is that they won't spend. Bad contracts and/or players past their prime are a real detriment to any organization but they are absolutely killers when they are 5+ years for teams outside the very top revenue generators. The risk and impact often does not appear to be considered here. Looking back on top FA signings the past few years, there is at least as much failure as success. Fielder ranked 14th in WAR last year at 2.2. That salary would be an albatross for us and with that body type he could be really bad the last 2-3 years of his contract. Swisher ranked 13th in his first of a 4 year deal. Hamilton delivered a WAR of 1.9 for $25M in his first year. I don't like his odds of being better in the last couple years of that deal. BJ Upton's WAR was -.6. Michael Bourne had a WAR of 2.0. Edwin Jackson and Ryan Dempster were at very best mediocre. Pujlos could very well be back next season but he deliver a WAR of .7 last year and that contract could be a real clunker for 4-5 years. Reyes WAR ranked 15th at 2.2. Buehrle had an almost identical ERA to Correia.

      I am not a scout but Sanatana and Jemenez seem really risky to me. I hope they don't risk a future that appears to be very bright and sustainable by signing one of these guys to a 5 year deal and giving up a high draft pick. Feldman, Nolasco, Kazmir, Hughes all offer substantial upgrades without the risk. Burnett or Orroyo might even make sense on a 1 year deal with a 2nd year team option. Two of those 6 SPs + Morales or Loney and I will loook forward to 2014. Maybe Johnson as a 3rd high risk/reward add.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      There is a good post at MLB Rumors with this graph. Worth a read.

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/

    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      I think FA starting pitcher signings are fraught with risk and intricacies that are far more complicated than simply dropping a bundle on the best available arm as a shortcut. The key is aligning a player's peak ability with the development of the rest of the team. It makes no sense to sign a high dollar starter if the rest of the lineup is not positioned to win. Many pitchers have such a limited window of productivity, that an ill-timed investment could leave many teams holding the bag on a guy who is past his prime when the rest of the team is ready for primetime. It is for this reason that it makes way more sense to develop within the system and add a key piece at the exact right time - namely at the trade deadline when the team is competitive or at a point when the team is clearly the dominant team in the division. See Tigers for insight here.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Using FA to drastically improve your team fails more often than it works. In that sense, I agree there's no shortcut. Using FA to fill some holes, or in this case, where it's painstakingly obvious that the next wave won't have enough SP is a bit different. It's targeted. The question at hand is whether or not that 5 year contract still going to be worth it in years 3-5 when said next wave is established.
      why is that the question? Are most contracts worth it? The questions should be about what you can afford, not if it is worth it every year of the deal. Remember when everyone said Hunter would not be worth it in Anaheim?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      and propects aren't fraught with risk?
    1. S.'s Avatar
      S. -
      Quote Originally Posted by MileHighTwinsFan View Post
      It is for this reason that it makes way more sense to develop within the system and add a key piece at the exact right time - namely at the trade deadline when the team is competitive or at a point when the team is clearly the dominant team in the division.
      In order to need a key piece to push our rotation over the top, we would need to already have a rotation that was near the top. Our current rotation is near or at the bottom in pretty much every way. I have no clue how you can look at the pitching in our system and think that somehow in the next few years our pitching rotation will be good enough to only need a "key piece" without seriously utilizing FA and trades in the meantime.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      My particular response was to Thrylos's comment about MiLB FAs. I should have used Reply With Quote, in order to be clearer, although I thought that would come through when I said "organizational filler".

      But your scenario probably has a feasible exit strategy: deadline (or earlier) trades of the suddenly expendable pieces. Note, this is not the same as the strategy of signing guys with the express purpose to flip them.

      Would be a nice problem to have, wouldn't it?

      I should have caught the implication that you were thinking of minor league filler as opposed to major league filler. Not that there's much distinction between the two for the Twins.

      I'm interested in moving any and all expendable vets. I guess I don't care if they were expressly signed to be flipped or not. I'd like the idea of my GM playing the market with those ulterior motives though.
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