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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. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I absolutely consider risk. I have an MBA and have done risk management at different times of my career. There is a bigger risk of a prospect not working out than of a FA being too expensive when you have 50-70MM in your budget. The vast majority of prospects don't work out to be good MLB players. And even if they blow $20MM on a guy, they have 1 player signed for more than $5MM in 2 years. One. And no one in the system needing a big contract in the next 4 or more years. There is really no risk at all to the budget of signing one or even two FAs to 5 year deals right now.

      There is risk they don't work out, but since they have plenty of budget room, the impact is near zero.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Pohlad: “We’re committed to spending [50-52%] of revenue, and with the increase in revenue from the new stadium, there’s going to be ample dollars to pay players. It will make a huge difference" (STAR TRIBUNE, 9/14/07).

      Forbes estimates the Twins revenue at around 220m so a payroll budget of 110 is in line with what Pohlad said he'd spend. We are at around 50 right now.

      Why are people so afraid of the Twins spending money? The Pohlads are one of the richest pro sports owners they will not need to go on food stamps if a free agent they sign goes in the tank. They managed to survive with Blackburn, Morneau, Nathan and many others producing nothing. The Pohlads will be fine, they said they'd spend now prove it. Give us a better product on the field please.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      BTW, I am what some of you like to call a turnaround specialist so I have been a year or less away from losing my job for the last 20 years. It has never happened, not even close. Impatience, and subsequent risk taking is the surest way to really screw it up. Some of you do not consider or calculate risk. You are playing with Monopoly money. The people entrusted to manage the teams assets and profitability do not and absolutely should not think this way. There is a very long list of underperforming highly compensated players that demonstrate the risks. The surest way for the Twins, or any other team trying to compete with a fraction of the budget of the top markets, to prevent the retention and/or building a team around the core that is a year away is to get wrapped up in long-term deals right now. This is especially true with players who's hjistory suggests they are a risk from day one, much less in the final years.
      Of course there's risk in signing free agents. That is basically always the case, without exception. What you seem to be saying is, "I'm not against spending, but spend wisely." That's no different from what anyone else is saying. Everyone has their preferences as far as names on the market, but at the end of the day it's up to the Twins -- Terry Ryan, his scouts, his analytical department -- to determine which guys are worthy of an investment. Certainly some guys who are signed this winter will fizzle, or will become liabilities in the latter part of their contracts, but that is by no means a universal truth. I'd like to think the front office has some confidence in its capability to pinpoint the best candidates to perform well over the life of a multi-year deal.

      The risk that this organization should be more concerned with, at this point, is the risk of sending out the same group of unqualified pitchers (or more similar guys) and getting the same horrendous results.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      You are playing with Monopoly money. The people entrusted to manage the teams assets and profitability do not and absolutely should not think this way. There is a very long list of underperforming highly compensated players that demonstrate the risks. The surest way for the Twins, or any other team trying to compete with a fraction of the budget of the top markets, to prevent the retention and/or building a team around the core that is a year away is to get wrapped up in long-term deals right now. This is especially true with players who's hjistory suggests they are a risk from day one, much less in the final years.
      But they oporate with a fraction of the budget by choice. Their revenue is not a "fraction" of most teams. So if you are against the Twins taking on risks in the form of free agents, can we assume that you disapprove of the risks the other teams make in free agency? Are the Twins right for not taking these risks and all the other teams are wrong? Because the results on the field don't indicate the Twins are right. Unless the goal we are talking about is making money and not winning baseball games.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Ha, I absolutely consider risk. I have an MBA and have done risk management at different times of my career. There is a bigger risk of a prospect not working out than of a FA being too expensive when you have 50-70MM in your budget. The vast majority of prospects don't work out to be good MLB players. And even if they blow $20MM on a guy, they have 1 player signed for more than $5MM in 2 years. One. And no one in the system needing a big contract in the next 4 or more years. There is really no risk at all to the budget of signing one or even two FAs to 5 year deals right now.

      There is risk they don't work out, but since they have plenty of budget room, the impact is near zero.
      I never felt my MBA offered any proof I could run a large organization. And, looking back, the education was helpful but inconsequential in comparison to the actual experience. I am afraid we are just going to have to be two guys with MBAs who disagree.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Never said it "proved" anything.

      What is the risk of spending $20MM on free agents for the next 5 years? Who needs to be paid that is on the roster now? How would that stop them from spending another $40MM in years 3 and beyond? Willingham and Doumit and KC come off after this year, that's another $15MM free to spend.

      No one has offered a sufficient argument that, for this team with this money, signing free agents offers risk to their ability to sign other free agents in 3 years.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      There is, by my count, one player guaranteed money after 2014.
      Not only that, but as it stands now, of the young potential contributors to the next winning Twins team, Dozier has the most service time, and he won't be a FA until after 2018 (the same time Mauer's deal expires). Heck, Dozier won't even see a significant raise (2nd arb award) until 2017. The guys right behind him -- Arcia, Gibson, Hicks, Pinto -- are a year beyond that (no significant raises until 2018), and the "big guns" (Sano, Meyer, Rosario, Buxton, etc) probably won't see a notable MLB paycheck until 2019.

      Basically, the argument against spending big now (assuming 4-5 year deals) is that it might prevent us from spending big again in 2-3 years. But in 2-3 years, the argument against spending big will be that we have to be able to afford to retain our own players. I'm actually sympathetic to the latter argument. The former? Not so much. It sounds like more of a stalling or delay tactic to save the ownership some money in likely losing seasons of a stubbornly too-long rebuild process.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Not only that, but as it stands now, of the young potential contributors to the next winning Twins team, Dozier has the most service time, and he won't be a FA until after 2018 (the same time Mauer's deal expires). Heck, Dozier won't even see a significant raise (2nd arb award) until 2017. The guys right behind him -- Arcia, Gibson, Hicks, Pinto -- are a year beyond that (no significant raises until 2018), and the "big guns" (Sano, Meyer, Rosario, Buxton, etc) probably won't see a notable MLB paycheck until 2019.

      Basically, the argument against spending big now (assuming 4-5 year deals) is that it might prevent us from spending big again in 2-3 years. But in 2-3 years, the argument against spending big will be that we have to be able to afford to retain our own players. I'm actually sympathetic to the latter argument. The former? Not so much. It sounds like more of a stalling or delay tactic to save the ownership some money in likely losing seasons of a stubbornly too-long rebuild process.
      Or maybe the argument against spending big now is some of us don't see anyone worth spending big on? I'm all for spending big money but not on this sorry bunch of free agents. I just don't see the love affair with Santana/Jimenez.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      NBasically, the argument against spending big now (assuming 4-5 year deals) is that it might prevent us from spending big again in 2-3 years. But in 2-3 years, the argument against spending big will be that we have to be able to afford to retain our own players. I'm actually sympathetic to the latter argument. The former? Not so much. It sounds like more of a stalling or delay tactic to save the ownership some money in likely losing seasons of a stubbornly too-long rebuild process.
      I'll give you a third scenario: In 2-3 years the team is still terrible, the new core doesn't play well enough to demand big arbitration raises/extensions. But by that point the team will have drafted a whole new crop of top 100 specs. And so instead of making a FA splash in 2017, the timing for a big FA push gets pushed back to 2020.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      Or maybe the argument against spending big now is some of us don't see anyone worth spending big on? I'm all for spending big money but not on this sorry bunch of free agents. I just don't see the love affair with Santana/Jimenez.
      Who do you like in the 2017 class?
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Who do you like in the 2017 class?
      I fail to see what this has to do with anything. Last year I wanted the Twins to sign Grienke, Sanchez, or Jackson. I'm all for the Twins spending money but I just don't like the crop of players. I rather them try to make a trade.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      Or maybe the argument against spending big now is some of us don't see anyone worth spending big on? I'm all for spending big money but not on this sorry bunch of free agents. I just don't see the love affair with Santana/Jimenez.
      I don't think anybody here is in love with Santana or Jimenez. But those guys are leaps and bounds better than anybody the Twins have, and they're available. You can hold on to the money until next offseason I guess, but there's no guarantee that anybody better will be available then.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      Or maybe the argument against spending big now is some of us don't see anyone worth spending big on? I'm all for spending big money but not on this sorry bunch of free agents. I just don't see the love affair with Santana/Jimenez.
      People say this every year. And every year there are numerous free agents that prove to be quite effective. It'll happen this year too.

      For what it's worth, the lack of talent in FA is probably only going to get worse going forward since new revenue streams will make it easier for clubs to retain good players.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      People say this every year. And every year there are numerous free agents that prove to be quite effective. It'll happen this year too.

      For what it's worth, the lack of talent in FA is probably only going to get worse going forward since new revenue streams will make it easier for clubs to retain good players.
      While numerous prove to be quite effective a majority don't. That's fine. That is what free agency is. The problem is when fans, on message boards, here, don't like specific free agents people act like we don't want the Twins to spend money. We just don't want them to spend money on certain players. It is nothing more than our personal opinions.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      What is short term? They have no money set aside for the next 5+ years. There is no downside risk here. None. They can not spend the money, and get nothing but profit. Or they can spend some money and maybe get better. From a fan's perspective, and from a baseball operations perspective, I fail to see the downside risk.
    1. goulik's Avatar
      goulik -
      Two words: Tanaka, Garza. We have the money and they are the quality everyone is wanting. I want us to finally go for it! Send Zygis Jet and pick them up!!
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      I fail to see what this has to do with anything. Last year I wanted the Twins to sign Grienke, Sanchez, or Jackson. I'm all for the Twins spending money but I just don't like the crop of players. I rather them try to make a trade.
      As opposed to the current crop of players the Twins curently have? Who would you trade and who do you suppose would want said player and for whom?
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      What is short term? They have no money set aside for the next 5+ years. There is no downside risk here. None. They can not spend the money, and get nothing but profit. Or they can spend some money and maybe get better. From a fan's perspective, and from a baseball operations perspective, I fail to see the downside risk.
      There are number of reasons only a very small segment of skilled / educated professionals are entrusted with P&L responsibilty. Most of the reasons are a lot more complex than recognizing the downside risk of long-term contracts and why a rebuilding team that is close to have a very good core would not burden themselves with those risks right now. It is also not all that complicated to understand that a mid market team has to get more production per dollar spent. The implications of the salary imbalance in MLB are also core considerations GMs of small and mid market teams need to follow to the dismay of fans.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      There are number of reasons only a very small segment of skilled / educated professionals are entrusted with P&L responsibilty. Most of the reasons are a lot more complex than recognizing the downside risk of long-term contracts and why a rebuilding team that is close to have a very good core would not burden themselves with those risks right now. It is also not all that complicated to understand that a mid market team has to get more production per dollar spent. The implications of the salary imbalance in MLB are also core considerations GMs of small and mid market teams need to follow to the dismay of fans.
      All of that's fine and good, but there is also a delicate balance in mid-markets (which, we're on the upper end of, not the lower end as you seem to be implying) in maintaining the fanbase. At this point, the Twins are risking losing fanbase support if they continue to rake in TF revenues and not do more to improve the team going forward.

      No one disagrees the Twins need to be cost conscious - all teams do to varying degrees - but there are real costs to doing nothing as well. At this point, if there are significant risks doing too much and there are significant risks to doing nothing - I don't think there should be any disagreement about which side we're far too close to. It'd be nice to see SOME risk taken.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      All of that's fine and good, but there is also a delicate balance in mid-markets (which, we're on the upper end of, not the lower end as you seem to be implying) in maintaining the fanbase. At this point, the Twins are risking losing fanbase support if they continue to rake in TF revenues and not do more to improve the team going forward. No one disagrees the Twins need to be cost conscious - all teams do to varying degrees - but there are real costs to doing nothing as well. At this point, if there are significant risks doing too much and there are significant risks to doing nothing - I don't think there should be any disagreement about which side we're far too close to. It'd be nice to see SOME risk taken.
      I am not implying that the Twins position among mid market teams matters. There are other financial factors that have more influence than the Twins specific revenue rank.

      1. There is $40-50M delta between the Twins and the lowest revenue teams in the entire league. The difference between the Twins and the next 8 teams below them is less than $20. How many of those teams have resigned their star player to a $23M/yr contract. Are those teams signing the 5+ year 75-100M FA? The one team that has taken on some of these contracts is Toronto. They went for the quick fix. How did that turn out?
      2. There is a $250M differential between the Twins and the Yankees/Dodgers. Two teams are not enough to completely shape how the Twins and other similar teams spend. However, when the Dodgers or Yankees decide they want Sabathia, Grienke or Tanaka, the problem is not a cheap FO, it’s a very unrealistic fan base.
      3. The top 10 teams all have 20M+ more revenue than the Twins but that is not in itself tremendously impactful. It is the aggregate incremental revenue of the top 10 that has the most impact on free agency and how lower revenue teams have to construct a roster. After those ten teams spend an amount equal to the Twins revenue, they have another $700M in revenue. If you have had economics 101, it is really easy to figure the top free agents are going to consumed with that $700 most of the time.
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