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  • Twins Need to Focus on Future, Not Old Favorites

    Without exception, each spot on a team's 25-man roster is important.

    In any given week, it is likely that every last one of those players will see action in a game. On a contending team, all 25 openings should ideally be filled by guys who can play a meaningful and valuable role.

    Those roster spots can also be used to protect assets. A rebuilding team might choose to put a Rule 5 pick in the last bullpen slot, or stash a project who's out of options at the end of the bench.

    What is puzzling is seeing a future-focused team such as the Twins using its 25-man roster spots in a way that could only be described as haphazard.

    In their ongoing mission to reassemble veterans who took part in their last successful run, the Twins have repeatedly cast aside young players with potential long-term value in order to roster aging players in decline.

    First, there was Jason Kubel, who essentially beat out Chris Parmelee despite a poor 2013 and a mostly unimpressive spring. In fairness, that move didn't work out too badly, as Parmelee slipped through waivers.

    Kubel made good on the decision with a fast start, but he has fallen apart at the plate (28 strikeouts in his last 63 plate appearances) while Parmelee is raking in Triple-A.

    It's not clear that the correct decision was made here, but it was understandable and nothing was hurt at the end of the day.

    Giving a roster spot to 34-year-old Jason Bartlett, under the pretense that he'd be an asset as a play-anywhere utilityman despite having no history of doing so (not to mention being a year removed from playing), was much harder to figure.

    That blunder did hurt. Bartlett looked terrible, got hurt and retired. In order to stage this fiasco, the Twins waived and lost Alex Presley, who -- while no great shakes -- happened to play at a position where Minnesota has turned out to be dreadfully thin.

    And so we all stared apprehensively at Matt Guerrier's opt-out date on the calendar.

    To be clear, I have nothing against Guerrier. I liked him when he was here, and he can probably be a perfectly decent middle reliever. But that's no given, considering he's 35, and is coming off a bad year, and wasn't particularly impressive during his warm-up stint in the minors.

    On Thursday, the Twins called up Guerrier to avoid having him opt out of his contract. To make room for him, they didn't need to waive anyone from the 25-man roster, but they did send down Logan Darnell after a strong debut, and they had to outright pitching prospect Brooks Raley, who was snatched up by the Angels.

    I'll be honest: I don't know much about Raley. I've maybe seen him pitch twice. I know he's a big, hard-throwing lefty with some control problems and mixed results in the minors.

    But I also know that he's a full decade younger than Guerrier, and that the Twins liked him enough to claim him just a few months ago.

    The signings of Kubel, Bartlett and Guerrier seemed fine during the offseason because there is no inherent risk in non-guaranteed minor-league deals. But when the Twins are exposing and losing young, cheap players left and right in order to give these guys chances, all the appeal is lost.

    If you're going to fill these spots with veterans, why screw around with reclamation projects? Why not spend the money to sign established quality players?

    This is what's frustrating about the Twins. In many respects, they still operate like a penny-pinching, cash-deficient franchise trying to uncover hidden values that have been overlooked by the rest of the league.

    Too often they've whiffed on these projects, and the upside -- now and going forward -- with a player like Guerrier isn't great enough to be dedicating playing time and a roster spot to him over younger players with real long-term upside.

    I have a hard time wrapping my head around what the vision is here.
    Comments 112 Comments
    1. deanlambrecht's Avatar
      deanlambrecht -
      Bingo.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      I have a hard time wrapping my head around what the vision is here???
      Maybe because, in a stale, insulated bureaucracy, these are days of future passed, where old habits, like "old favorites", die hard?

      But seriously, the braintrust had an offseason meeting led by the head marketing guy (St Peter?)....whose "big, bold and bright vision" for generating fan interest in 2014 was trying to help the fans forget 2011, 12 and 13 by bringing back names from the when the team was last a winner....Garza, Santana, Kubel, Bartlett, Guerrier.
    1. dwintheiser's Avatar
      dwintheiser -
      Reminds me of the late 90s after Puckett's surprise retirement - the Twins brought in guys like Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, and Terry Steinbach, not because they'd help the team win, but because nostalgia-intoxicated diehards would keep watching and buying tickets. At least those fans were rewarded with milestones.

      if actions speak louder than words, then the front office knows the club isn't close to contending; they're just hoping that, by bringing back guys from the 'glory days', they'll keep convincing FOX Sports to keep the local broadcast contract fat until they can ride out the storm.
    1. Since71's Avatar
      Since71 -
      Amen!
    1. Jeff A's Avatar
      Jeff A -
      I've been hoping that this would be a rerun of the late 90s: get by with marginal vets until the young guys are ready. I'm just not sure I see it happening. As Nick points out, dumping Raley for Guerrier is not a move you make if you're trying to stockpile young talent. Trading Sulbaran for Nunez is not a move you make if you're trying to stockpile young talent. At this point, I agree with Nick. I don't know what the plan is, or even if there is one.
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      Good piece, Nick, well said. Twins mgmt on and off field is clownish. That's my take, but people need "foot in the door" articles, I suppose, more than my "door in the face" comments. But somehow Twins fans need to see just how poor the decision-making is at Target Field.

      I want to disagree with one word you use, and while it might sound nitpicky, I personally think it's a big deal. You say about Kubel/Parmelee: In fairness, that move didn't work out too badly, as Parmelee slipped through waivers. I want to point out that "in fairness" this is the sentence that doesn't fit. Fairness is not the same as hindsight, and in fact it may just be the opposite.

      Ryan/Antony did not know or probably believe that Parmelee would make it through waivers, and Parmelee was probably a miss by more than a few teams. Judging actions in hindsight is, hopefully obviously, flawed and leads to more and expanded poor decision-making.

      In fairness the article you write is right on. In hindsight the Twins got lucky with Parmelee.*

      *This commenter believes Parmelee is likely never a big enough deal to warrant (in hindsight) this strong of reaction, but at this point, there's still a chance he could be an important part of this team 2-3 years from now...when it matters. Not so for Kubel, whose 2014 numbers thus far are rather mediocre, btw.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      All you can do as a fan is avoid Target Field until the pohlads figure out it's time to clean house.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      After all these boondoggles can we retire the completely erroneous myth/meme around here that "the 25th spot is irrelevant"? That's something people have been using as a blanket to defend obnoxious roster moves for years now.

      Nick is right on.....EVERY spot counts and should never be tossed aside on a whim. When you practice that kind of nonsense you deserve this kind of karma. (As RB rightly observed)
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      I believe they brought in some veterans who they could trust to set a good example, take some pressure off the kids, and lead the clubhouse.
      A lot was made about this team lacking fire. The veterans set the tone. They picked up a handful of guys they trust (makeupwise) knowing that a few would stick and a few would not.
      It is in the young players best interests to graduate the minors into a functional mlb clubhouse with some veteran leadership.
      If you drop a replacement player to take a shot at one of these guys, that's no big loss. They can pick up another Raley or Mastro 20 times each season.
    1. tarheeltwinsfan's Avatar
      tarheeltwinsfan -
      The Twins are recreating the Equitable Old Timers Games by roster moves. "Those were the days my friends, we thought they'd never end."
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      I agree about the importance of the roster spots, and I don't understand this interest in promoting Guerrier. I'm pretty ambivalent about Raley. Twins Daily as a whole seemed to shrug their shoulders at best, and hoot at worst, when he was handed a spot on the 40-man, and he hasn't done anything to change my mind. I wonder how much leash Kubel has left.
    1. twinscowboysbulls's Avatar
      twinscowboysbulls -
      I like your stuff Nick, but this is probably the most spot on thing you have ever written. Checkmate, Twins FO.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Great article, Nick. In my opinion, this doesn't even boil down to the 25th roster spot. The Bartlett decision was dumb but it wasn't irreversible. Alex Presley has been Aaron Hicks this year. The two players are interchangeable, as evidenced by their 64 and 66 OPS+.

      What corks me the most about this entire situation is that the Twins had a bad roster situation and when faced with this adversity, they made the most incomprehensible move imaginable: they swapped relief pitchers. They bungled not only the 25th roster spot but the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 25th roster spots. That will kill a team. They had better options in the minors, they simply sat on their hands instead of doing something about it. To add insult to injury, they (again) showed favor to an aging veteran instead of going with the perfectly good option they already had on the roster or one of the (probably better) young options they had waiting in the minors.

      They had the ability to patch together a semi-competent offense and duct tape together an outfield for one game (a game which they lost because their pitchers gave up nine runs, not because of defensive or offensive shortcomings). They didn't do it and they deserve a lot of flak for the decision.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      For a team that talks about building from within....I have no idea what the plan is based on this year. Pelfrey over Deduno/Meyer/May/Darnell....Bartlett over anyone.....Guryere over any number of fine RP.....Doumit last year over other options......Pinto is barely catching.....the list is not short. None of this makes sense in the context of a rebuilding team.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I disagree, Brock. The Bartlett decision was dumb and it led to serious problems with the roster in the outfield. Suppose you keep Presley instead. You actually have a real outfielder next to Hicks for the first two months, instead of a DH and a first baseman. And when Hicks got hurt, you would have had depth in Mastro. instead, they let Mastro go to make room for Fuld, which did nothing to improve their depth. At one point, Fuld and Hicks were the only guys who could play center field above Low A ball. That says a lot about how stupid it is to carelessly discard center fielders because of some insane fantasy that Jason Bartlett is another Ben Zobrist. And so now we have a roster with zero center fielders and no real outfielders. Injuries made everything bad. But the Bartlett blunder turned it into a crisis.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I disagree, Brock. The Bartlett decision was dumb and it led to serious problems with the roster in the outfield. Suppose you keep Presley instead. You actually have a real outfielder next to Hicks for the first two months, instead of a DH and a first baseman. And when Hicks got hurt, you would have had depth in mastro. instead, they let Mastro go to make room for Fuld, which did nothing to improve their depth. At one point, Fuld and Hicks were the only guys who could play center field above Low A ball. That says a lot about how stupid it is to carelessly discard center fielders because of some insane fantasy that Jason Bartlett is another Ben Zobrist. And so now we have a roster with zero center fielders and no real outfielders. Injuries made everything bad. But the Bartlett blunder turned it into a crisis.
      We agree that the Bartlett decision was dumb but I don't feel the loss of Presley was crippling, as evidenced by the acquisition of Fuld in his place, a guy who has been much better than Presley this season.

      And we can't have it both ways. This article is criticizing the Twins for going with aging veterans instead of prospects, a valid criticism given the Guerrier move.

      But it's pretty tough to criticize the Mastro release when the Twins used that spot to pick up Kenny Wilson, a 24 year old centerfielder. They released Mastro, a guy who has lost a step and never looks to be a legitimate MLB player again, and acquired a young guy with marginal upside.

      Isn't that the type of move we generally applaud?

      The Twins lost four outfielders in a matter of four weeks. Any team is going to suffer under those circumstances. The real blunder in my mind is not attempting to fix this situation (which, again, was only for one game) by calling up some, you know, outfielders to patch together a roster for 1-2 games while Hicks gets ready to return.

      As of today, the Twins now have a centerfielder on the roster again. In my eyes, the problem wasn't that they were missing a centerfielder for a single game, the problem is that they didn't do anything about it while the minor league team was just 140 miles away.

      Call up Parmelee and maybe Arcia yesterday and this situation is still ugly but it's not catastrophic. At that point, the team has multiple (bad) options in the outfield for a single game and all you lose is roster chaff like Florimon and Herrmann in the process.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The problem is that the AA and AAA have no hitters on the roster that can play OF. None.* How is that possible, this far into a rebuild? I am all over having more elite players, and less depth.....but when your starter is Aaron Hicks, and your backup is a AAAA player, you might want to have some OF in AAA. Call me crazy...

      *assuming you count Arcia as a MLB player
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      The problem is that the AA and AAA have no hitters on the roster that can play OF. None.* How is that possible, this far into a rebuild? I am all over having more elite players, and less depth.....but when your starter is Aaron Hicks, and your backup is a AAAA player, you might want to have some OF in AAA. Call me crazy...

      *assuming you count Arcia as a MLB player
      Chris Parmelee. I don't understand why he has such a bad rep as a defender. He's not flashy in the OF but he's perfectly acceptable in a corner spot and has looked much better than Arcia.

      And you continue to underestimate how long rebuilds take. The Twins graduated two top 100 prospects in the OF just last year.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      We agree that the Bartlett decision was dumb
      it was dumb for precisely the reasons you are defending: they were flippant about who they gave that roster spot to. Every spot should be treated as having value, but the Twins ignored that and took your "bah! It's just the 25th spot! Who cares?" approach and that's why this became such an issue.

      Ignoring the value of every 40 man and especially every 25 man spot has been a plague for this team for awhile. Situations like this shine a light on how absurd it is that the Twins act this way and equally absurd it is that some defend it.
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