• Shortcuts

    "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. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I think they will spend on 1 pitcher in the 10-15 million per season up to 4 maybe 5 seasons. They will need to sign another and they will but not the overly expensive variety and on a shorter 1-3 year contract. I wouldn't be surprised if Meyer starts getting more press from the Twins as the offseason wears on and the signings take place showing a rotation of

      1. Expensive pitcher
      2. Less expensive pitcher
      3. Dedunno
      4. Correia
      5. Meyer/ Gibson

      On a side note advertising will be fun next year with the rookies (Buxton, Sano, Rosario, Arcia, Meyer, Gibson,...and new "gunslingers signed this offseason" .
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      What's interesting is that free agency really isn't a "shortcut" at all (unless you forfeit a draft pick).

      If the Twins started trading prospects to eke out a few more wins next year, that would be a shortcut. But nobody's advocating that.
    1. ajstolt_09's Avatar
      ajstolt_09 -
      Free agency is not a shortcut in this case. Its supplementing the rotation, which is in dire need of assistance, with talent that we lack in the upper levels of the minors. Meyer and Gibson could both very well be members of the rotation hopefully earlier than June or July. Correia is a 5th starter who gives you decent innings and occasionally throws a quality game. Besides that, we need at minimum 2 pitchers to fill spots this year. I have no confidence in Diamond to come back and be a solid starter, especially with his unusually terrible strikeout per 9 rate. Worley? Maybe he can surprise us, but last year was a disaster and I wouldn't want to bet on him bouncing back in a big way. Deduno can be fun to watch but is WAY too inconsistent, although might be an option if we don't bring in quality free agents. Hendricks might be the next Swarzak.

      But I have to say, certainly looking forward to how this offseason plays out, and what happens with the kids down in spring training. A lot of things to keep an eye on
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by ajstolt_09 View Post
      Free agency is not a shortcut in this case.
      To me, free agency is the penalty the FO pays for not developing all the pieces they need for a winning roster. Just plead guilty, pay the fine, and move forward.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Bring on the shortcuts! The truth is that the Twins have not been terrible at drafting/finding pitching, they just haven't held onto the guys they've had because of the benjamins. They traded Garza away for DeLOLmon Young, Johan was sent packing for a pile of crap, Kyle Lohse, Liriano to name a few. Obviously the Twins could not have, or at least would not have been able to afford to hold onto all of those players, but maybe that's a big part of the problem, the unwillingness of the team to spend in the Dome days. The success of some of these guys after leaving the organization, in my opinion, places some blame squarely in the lap of Rick Anderson. The Twins need to spend to bring in some mid-front end rotation guys to get the team back on track.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      The Priorities that Terry Ryan needs to look for in a FA Starting Pitcher:

      1.) Age - He needs to be young enough to be around and contributing when the new wave of talent comes aboard in the next 2-3 years.

      2.) Upside - Someone who could possibly breakout and have a 15-17 Win season.

      3.) Innings Eater - This team needs someone who can last longer then 5 to 6 innings with a shot at winning the game.

      4.) History of Health - Sure, no one knows when a guys arm is going to go. But big money can't be spent on guys who have a past history of arm problems.

      So with that criteria, if I were Terry Ryan, I would be focusing my attention to this group of pitchers.

      Ricky Nalasco, Phil Hughes, Ubaldo Jimenez, and this one most won't like, but I would certainly put a flyer out for Jason Vargas. Ervin Santana won't be a Twin. To expensive and the loss of that 2nd round draft pick to the Royals eliminates him if your Terry Ryan. If Ryan can land one of these guys on a 3 or 4 year deal and sign one of the Johan, Josh Johnson types needing a one year make good deal I'd be pretty happy with those upgrades.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The Twins can afford to spend. If, as you say, the next group of pitching prospects are 4-5 years away, combined with the hitters you mentioned, the Twins will be free agency free and just into arbitration with most players. It is a juggling act. You want prospects to thrive in a winning environs if you can, and you don't want everyone to hit big buck status at the same time, but you also trade guys for less expensive talent as their service time progresses, or try and make contract calls in the initial or second arbitration years. We know 2014 may be a rebuilding wash, and with the lack of on-top pitching in the organization, 2015 would also be a rebuilding year. So are we now looking at 2016 or 2017 being competitive years and 2018 when the Twins might actually field a championship team? Or with the correct free agent pitching signees, could the Twins compete in 2015 and 2016 (and 2017) and work their young talent into the rotation, yes, with a little fast-tracking.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Of course there are shortcuts, they are used all the time. The problem is that Ryan is stuck on the same road, the only road he knows how to travel.
      Ryan is the kind of guy that will never give up that tired old tattered paper map and spend money on a GPS Navigator.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      To me it's only a shortcut if you use it in lieu of developing players. And since I think we all agree that player development is still top priority.....this really is nothing more than a public scarecrow Ryan is propping up. Free agency is a supplement for where your player development failed or was lacking. It's not a replacement.

      That mentality is such a deeply engrained part of the problem here.
    1. nick5253's Avatar
      nick5253 -
      The Twins should have been following the Cubs 'shortcuts' the last 2 years. Both clubs started from nearly the same place - the Cubs brought in Epstein in Oct '11, the Twins brought back Ryan in Nov '11. Both farm systems were utterly devoid of top talent as well as terrible at the MLB level.

      The Cubs, however, have been aggressively building near MLB level talent through crafty FA signings that lead to trades. Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman among others were signed as cheap FAs and promptly flipped for impact minor leaguers in their 1st year. The Cubs have also been more aggressive selling off their own veterans: Soriano, DeJesus, Sean Marshall, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza - the returns from these guys are now showing up in the top 10 prospect lists.

      The Twins on the other hand balked at trading Willingham at the height of his value and let Cuddyer & Kubel play out their contracts. And they waiting until Liriano & Morneau were near their lowest value before trading them.

      I fully agree with the path the Twins are on - doing a full rebuild - because the system was so terrible, it had to happen. BUT, if you go this route, own it, commit to it, and make some smarter moves. Leverage the 20mil you have left over in 2013 to sign 2-3 guys that might bounce back for a half season and then flip em. This is one 'shortcut' the Twins would be well served to take.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      The question I'd ask is whether or not signing a FA is a shortcut (and Ryan's opinion of that). I think it can be, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it is. The article pointed out just how much promise exists in the higher minors and majors 1-9 in the order, and just how little exists in starting pitching. It would be foolish if these guys are legit to ignore the org need for pitching.

      What makes FA a shortcut, to me is the execution. Last year definitely wasn't the time to go crazy in FA. I'm not terribly sure this year is, but it should be clear at this point that the next wave WILL need more pitching than what the farm can supply. Spending money on younger talent that won't likely fall off a cliff makes a ton of sense. I'm not expecting the Twins to go out and get 3 guys, but 1 long term starter and 1 make good deal makes a ton of sense for this org.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I guess I don't understand why signing upper shelf free agents is a shortcut but signing the Correias, Carrolls and Marquis' is not. I fail to see the difference unless shortcut is actually code for money.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      I think the implication with free agency being a "shortcut" is that you're ostensibly trying to buy your way to contention. It's reasonable to want to avoid that strategy, because that's a losing proposition.

      But of course, no one's suggesting that the Twins use FA as their only talent acquisition pipeline, nor even the main one. What's frustrating is the notion that adding high-quality talent through free agency is somehow mutually exclusive from building internally, or that it makes no sense to sign impact players until the club has developed into a contender on its own. The Twins need to sign impact players in order to GET to that point, unless they want to sit around in a perpetual state of inertia. They simply do not have the pitching talent to compete and they won't for years unless they alter their approach.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Agree. There are free agent starting pitchers this off-season that a team can build from for the next 3-5 years.

      And if they do not, the pipe dream of the future when Sano and Buxton et al arrive, might be at risk.

      I did a little exercise today:

      -took 3 criteria for such pitchers who are free agents (age is one) and looked at who the Twins should sing.
      -came up with an "A list" with five names and a "B list" with four.

      The 3 top, in my opinion are here (along with the whole thought and elimination process).

      I think that the Twins a. can afford them and b. there is one very interesting name among the 3 who nobody has been talking about...
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      How is signing a FA a shortcut, but trading for guys is not?

      What is inherently "evil" about shortcuts? A shortcut is something that gets you to your destination faster. I've never read anyone here or anywhere say "stop drafting and developing players".

      This is a bogus boogeyman (worse than a straw man) Ryan has put out there as a PR effort. And, our great journalists in this state have let him get away with it. No one ever follows up and asks what a short cut is, or why trading for guys is ok, or how signing a FA that does not have a QO hurts in any way.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      How is signing a FA a shortcut, but trading for guys is not?

      What is inherently "evil" about shortcuts? A shortcut is something that gets you to your destination faster. I've never read anyone here or anywhere say "stop drafting and developing players".

      This is a bogus boogeyman (worse than a straw man) Ryan has put out there as a PR effort. And, our great journalists in this state have let him get away with it. No one ever follows up and asks what a short cut is, or why trading for guys is ok, or how signing a FA that does not have a QO hurts in any way.

      They funny irony about that boogeyman is that he is talking about how signing FAs is a "shortcut" on one hand, but on the other he goes and signs a whole bunch of never had been MiLB FAs who are blocking the prospects he says should be "developed within"...

      Scary. Actions speak louder than words.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Organizational filler is signed all the time. Who's being blocked?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Organizational filler is signed all the time. Who's being blocked?
      in 2013:

      Vargas
      May
      Dean
      Darnell
      Fuentes
      Z Jones
      Summers
      T Rogers
      Wheeler
      Rohlfing
      Hanson
      Koch
      A. Walker
      et al
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      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.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Organizational filler is signed all the time. Who's being blocked?
      Agreed. The Twins have been successful with minor league free agent signings to fill roster and occasionally some of them have really helped the Twins too.

      I'm all for signing free agents. I'm fine with the Twins signing the likes of Ervin Santana, Ubaldo, Hughes, Nolasco. I would have been fine with them signing Greinke and Sanchez last year. Those are good shortcuts (though a pitcher only pitches one in 5 games). But again, even if the Twins make the efforts, it does take two sides to come together.
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