I’ve never told anyone this story…
Mostly because I just made it up...
And also because if I didn’t make it up, you still wouldn’t believe it…
I had never been more excited to attend a baseball game than I was to attend Game 1 of the 2010 American League Division Series against the Yankees. It was the first playoff game to ever happen at Target Field and my seats were great.
I remember that funny feeling – nothing like Game 163 – when things were happening, either good or bad, and the crowd just seemed disinterested. It was really weird… and part of me figured it was a lot of people that were there because it was the first playoff game, not because they really wanted to be there. Corporate big-wigs sitting in their over-priced padded seats for the first time since April, probably.
As I took the walk back to my car, knowing that a three-game sweep was inevitable, I noticed a glimmer in the parking ramp stairwell. It was a lamp. Not a lamp that the Amish use to guide their buggies around my neighborhood; no, it was a lamp that looked a lot like the one in Aladdin.
So I picked it up and rubbed it.
And sure enough, out came a genie. It wasn’t the blue genie that you’re all picturing. It wasn’t like that at all. The genie was darker, pudgier and had a funny eye. “Holy smokes! You’re Kirby Puckett!” I was sure of it.
The genie replied that he wasn’t, he was just a genie… but he talked real fast and laughed real deep and we both knew: he was Kirby Puckett.
He told me he was going to grant me three wishes, but he needed to warn me: No matter what I wished for, the next three seasons were going end with 90 or more losses.
I immediately realized that prolonged losing might mean trading away Joe Mauer. So without thinking, I used my first wish. “I wish for Joe Mauer to spend his entire career with the Twins.”
Kirby the Genie shook his head, “Alright.”
I thought more about the upcoming seasons. How hard was it going to be to make it through the next three years? “I wish that the Twins will have a Top 3 farm system going into 2014.”
I knew that couldn’t happen overnight and, even with three great drafts that alone wouldn’t lead to a contending team in 2014. So I used wish number three.
“I wish the Twins would have the space and the willingness to spend big when they get back to the point where they can compete.”
Kirby winked, laughed and told me he’d grant my wishes. And with that, he was gone.
Well, here we are. We’ve suffered through the three straight losing seasons. We’ve got Baby Jesus for life. We’ve got a Top 3 if not the Top 1 farm system. And we’ve got the means to spend now, adding pieces for 2014, but keeping our eyes on 2015 and 2016.
I’m going to make five moves this offseason:
1) Sign Phil Hughes. While he’s not the #1 fans are hoping for (who is?), leaving Yankee Stadium and coming to Target Field is going to steer his career down a whole different path. Plus, he’s on the right side of 30. I’ll give him 3 years and up to $33 million. I’m going to give him $3 million just for signing, $9 million per year and have a buyout of $3 million on a fourth year at $13 million. I agree, it’s excessive… but it’s a willingness to spend, just like I wished.
2) Trade for Chad Billingsley. This is another move that comes with risk. Billingsley did, in fact, miss 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery and there is no guarantee that he’ll even be ready when April rolls around. Oh, and he is the final year of a 3-yr/$35 million contract. But here’s the deal: The Twins have shown interest in Billingsley before and, even though they’re strapped with cash, Billingsley is on the outside-looking-in when it comes to L.A.’s rotation. And the kicker, there is some belief the Dodgers weren’t happy when Billingsley decided to try the rehab and PRP therapy in lieu of surgery, which happened anyway. I’ll offer a mid-level prospect (Matt Summers, maybe?) and in return the Dodgers pick up $6 million of this year’s contract, that leaves the Twins paying the other $6 million and the last $1 million installment of the buyout. They also get the chance to pay him $11 million for 2015 or cut him loose. (That’s the $14 million minus the $3 million of the buyout that was paid already.) A risky move for 2014 that could potentially be a huge steal for 2015.
3) Trade Oswaldo Arcia to the Rangers. With Nelson Cruz on his way out and David Murphy a free agent, there is a corner outfield spot available. The Rangers have also said they’ll explore moving Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler to make room for Jurickson Profar. If the Twins could package Arcia in a deal to get Andrus without giving up the farm, I’d do it… I just don’t see that happening. More likely, I see the Twins sending Arcia to the Rangers in exchange for a couple minor-league arms: RHP Luke Jackson, who would start in AA, and Victor Payano, a 6-6 lefty who was in high-A last year but is still very projectable. Jackson is a hard-thrower who misses bats but walks a bunch, too. There might have to be a little more going back to Texas, but that’s the price of business.
So why trade Arcia, you wonder? Well, I’ll start the year with an outfield of Willingham-Presley-Parmelee/Doumit, which, admittedly, isn’t pretty. (Would it be that much prettier with Arcia out there?) But eventually Hicks comes back up and isn’t terrible. And after the All-Star break, Buxton comes up. I’d also move Eddie Rosario back to the OF and picture late 2014 with an outfield of Rosario-Buxton-Hicks.
4) Sign A.J. Pierzynski. I want to let Pinto get some more AAA at-bats under his belt. I don’t know what it will cost to get A.J., but if I could get him for a year at $8 million, I could handle that.
5) Get lucky on the scrap heap. I’m looking at you, Johan. Maybe it’s a $3 million, incentive-laiden deal with a team option of 2015. Even if Santana passes, there are a number of names that could be interesting as reclamation projects: Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona, Ryan Vogelsong and Edinson Volquez are just a few names that could fit with small guarantees and big incentives.
This puts the Opening Day payroll at a very manageable $92,805,000. It also puts the team in position to spend going into 2015 as well, with less than $37 million committed to Mauer, Perkins and Hughes, the only three guys under contract.