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  • Breaking Better

    Last year, when the Twins reached the All-Star break, they were 14 games below .500 and 12 games back in the AL Central. In 2012, they had entered the break at 13 games below .500, and 11 games back in the division.

    Against that backdrop, their present standing -- 44-50 and 10.5 games behind the first-place Tigers -- looks downright palatable.

    The Twins had firmly established their irrelevance by the end of July after crumbling around the break in each of the past two seasons, and a week ago it appeared that they were caught in the exact same downward spiral once again.

    Yet they rebounded to win five of their last six games and a soft schedule following the All-Star Game could help the team set itself up much more favorably as it enters the latter portion of this season.

    The Twins will open their unofficial second half with a 10-game homestand, in which they'll be facing teams that are all close to them in the W/L column. Two of those teams (Cleveland and Chicago) are just ahead of them in the Central, giving Minnesota a solid opportunity to escape last place.

    A good run here isn't going to suddenly put the Twins in position to surge and capture the division, and it probably won't bring them especially close to a wild-card spot, but that was never the realistic mission.

    The mission -- and likely the standard by which Ron Gardenhire, his staff and perhaps the front office will be chiefly evaluated -- is improvement.

    Here at the break, they have an improved record compared to the past couple years, but that's meaningless. What matters is how they finish.

    The complete shut-down in the final months has been a recurring theme over the past three seasons, and a heck of a frustrating one at that. Sure, the late-season losses have helped the Twins accumulate a lot of high draft picks, but ending each year on such a sour note, with few enduring positives to cling to, takes a toll on the fan base.

    The Twins are determined to avoid a repeat this year, and that's good to see. They've been more proactive with making moves, and they've been spending money (with varying results). To me, the increased efforts to hasten this stalled out rebuilding process are quite apparent.

    While that's all good to see, hopefully the Twins won't let their resolve to stay afloat and finish better cloud their priorities as the trade deadline approaches.

    There's really no question that this team needs to be a seller, but playing that role does not equate to waving a white flag.

    If the Twins are to shake their post-break demons and finish respectably for a change, it needs to be on the shoulders of players who are either young or under contract long-term. Even if the team can stay hot and approach .500 over the next couple weeks, you'd hope the big picture will remain clear, and that guys like Kurt Suzuki, Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia will still be made available, albeit for meager returns.

    Much like the exhibition that took place at Target Field on Sunday, the rest of the Twins' season is about the future. That doesn't mean it isn't about winning, but they need to find success that is driven by players like Josmil Pinto, Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor May, not aging veterans with expiring contracts.



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    Comments 43 Comments
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      While that's all good to see, hopefully the Twins won't let their resolve to stay afloat and finish better cloud their priorities as the trade deadline approaches.

      Absolutely the key. I don't want to see them get caught in the "we're competitive" trap that they have somehow imagined for themselves several times in the last 3 years.

      At this point, I don't care what the record is at the end of the season. I care about who I see playing in the 2nd half. I want to see Meyer and May, Pinto, Santana, maybe some Aaron Hicks if he can have a successful month or so at AAA, maybe a little Tonkin or Darnell and some Vargas in September.

      I know they need to manage options and service time but let us see the hope for the future. That'll be worth much more to me than a few extra wins on the W-L record.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      Nice write up. Selling should not stress anybody out. Suzuki’s OBP and Avg may be tough to replace and Morales’s run production but beyond that who (what contributions) could they get rid of that are not replaceable with younger players and/or stop-gaps who are in the system? If they get the right offers, take them and forge ahead. If they can end up with 75 wins with brighter lights for next spring then we are good.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      It is nice they have a better record. I hope the 2nd half sees more of the future being part of the process.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I have to commend them on these last six games. After the KC and NYY series, I was expecting an absolute disaster heading into the break.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      While that's all good to see, hopefully the Twins won't let their resolve to stay afloat and finish better cloud their priorities as the trade deadline approaches.

      Absolutely the key. I don't want to see them get caught in the "we're competitive" trap that they have somehow imagined for themselves several times in the last 3 years.

      At this point, I don't care what the record is at the end of the season. I care about who I see playing in the 2nd half. I want to see Meyer and May, Pinto, Santana, maybe some Aaron Hicks if he can have a successful month or so at AAA, maybe a little Tonkin or Darnell and some Vargas in September.

      I know they need to manage options and service time but let us see the hope for the future. That'll be worth much more to me than a few extra wins on the W-L record.
      I couldn't say it any better, so I won't even try.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Real improvement will be any that is carried into next year.

      There are some players that we can have more confidence as part of the solution than last year at the break.

      Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson all improved their stock in the last year.

      Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee show signs that they are capable of being a role player on a good major league team.

      Glen Perkins and Casey Fien continue to be solid in the bullpen.

      Danny Santana has shown a glimpse of the player he might become in his small sample.

      Trevor May looked like he might be a reliever last year and now there is hope of a mid rotation starter.

      Kurt Suzuki has outperformed anyone's expectations and has increased his market value. This is exactly what you hope for when signing a veteran coming off a bad season. They have an opportunity to cash in on his performance and consider resigning him in the winter.

      Let's hope we can add Alex Meyer, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Josmil Pinto to the list in a year.

      On the other hand, Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco are critical to the teams success in 2015-2017. They need to approach their previous level of performance when they return this year.
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      I want them to stay competitive, but players who have the ability to help for the next few years need to have priority for playing time.

      The following players need to be shopped to see what they might get:
      Willingham, Correia, Morales, Suzuki

      I would not want to trade Suzuki unless they can get more than a marginal prospect. The first three on that list all have potential replacements ready to go.

      I would like to see only 12 pitchers on the roster to allow a stronger bench with more options. This means one of Burton, Guerrier, Swarzak or Deduno are traded/released/DFA'd.

      By August 1:

      C - Suzuki
      1B - Mauer
      2B - Dozier
      SS - Escobar
      3B - Plouffe
      LF - Arcia
      CF - Santana
      RF - Parmelee
      Bench - Fuld, Fryer, Colabello, Nunez, Herrmann

      I'd actually rather see Hicks in CF and Santana at SS, with Herrmann in AAA. I just don't see that happening. I would like to see Hicks in AAA soon if he keeps hitting (.354 BA in last 15 games).

      SP - Hughes, Gibson, Nolasco, Meyer, May
      Bullpen - Perkins, Fien, Duensing, Guerrier/Burton, Thielbar, Deduno, Swarzak
    1. Circus Boy's Avatar
      Circus Boy -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      While that's all good to see, hopefully the Twins won't let their resolve to stay afloat and finish better cloud their priorities as the trade deadline approaches.

      Absolutely the key. I don't want to see them get caught in the "we're competitive" trap that they have somehow imagined for themselves several times in the last 3 years.

      At this point, I don't care what the record is at the end of the season. I care about who I see playing in the 2nd half. I want to see Meyer and May, Pinto, Santana, maybe some Aaron Hicks if he can have a successful month or so at AAA, maybe a little Tonkin or Darnell and some Vargas in September.

      I know they need to manage options and service time but let us see the hope for the future. That'll be worth much more to me than a few extra wins on the W-L record.
      Great observations! New initials for JB: GM!
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by Circus Boy View Post
      Great observations! New initials for JB: GM!
      There would be no saving the Twins in that scenario.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      I would like JB's comment if I could.
      No need to have guys not in the future plans hanging around taking up playing time of possible future players to add a few wins.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I have a slightly contrarian view. I don't think the Twins should trade the veterans unless we have a replacement ready for them. If Pinto is not going to be the starting Catcher then we should keep Suzuki. I am not sure I want Parmelee starting over either Morales and Willingham. Hicks however is different but for now he would take over CF. Corriea does look like he might have someone ready to take his spot. It depends since Nolasco has been so bad and who the 4th starter is going to be between Pino or Deduno but May needs to be called up and if Pino staying the rotation then Corriea needs to be traded. if Pino goes back down then May can come up and we can keep Corriea. apparently Meyer is coming up next year and Berrios could be here next year as well.

      I don't really see anyone ready to come up to replace the veterans we have. With out ready replacements and without a decent return, our best return on these players is to enjoy watching them strive for a winning season this year. it shows the younger players a winning, competitive atmosphere which is important in their development.

      For now I am going with likely trade Corriea and maybe Willingham. But the return needs to be better than nothing. A C or preferably C+/B- prospect in both cases. Again I think its better to set the winning example for the next group coming up.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      I don't see their record improving much compared to the past few years but at least now there are several guys close to being ready so I agree w/ everyone else that it's time to trim the fat and fully commit to the youth movement. There is a small flicker of light far off at the end of the tunnel.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Pinto should be playing up here, imo. The stats say that Suzuki isn't very good at framing, and at some point, they need to trust the young guys to be here and get better here (like Dozier).
    1. Gaettifan's Avatar
      Gaettifan -
      I'm sorry, but I don't see the value in trading any of those veterans. The return is always the same. "The Twins agreed to trade X veteran for Billy Nochance today. Nochance is a right-handed reliever with a 5.45 ERA in 24 innings at AA Bumtown, VA. He works in the high 80s, sometimes touching 90. He has 11 Ks and 15 walks this season with a 1-3 record. He's 28 years-old." None of the veterans mentioned will bring back a player with any hope of being useful in the major leagues. Trading veterans is a way for the owners to save money. As a fan, it doesn't benefit me one bit.
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gaettifan View Post
      I'm sorry, but I don't see the value in trading any of those veterans. The return is always the same. "The Twins agreed to trade X veteran for Billy Nochance today. Nochance is a right-handed reliever with a 5.45 ERA in 24 innings at AA Bumtown, VA. He works in the high 80s, sometimes touching 90. He has 11 Ks and 15 walks this season with a 1-3 record. He's 28 years-old." None of the veterans mentioned will bring back a player with any hope of being useful in the major leagues. Trading veterans is a way for the owners to save money. As a fan, it doesn't benefit me one bit.
      It benefits you as a fan in that it allows young players a chance to prove themselves in preparation for future years. Trading Correia allows Meyer/May to start for the Twins and get their feet wet, rather than waiting until next year. You are correct in that the players we get for the vets may not ever pan out, but Correia, Willingham, Morales and Suzuki are all potentially gone at the end of the season. If they can get something of value, why not? I don't advocate just dumping them for a bag of balls, but I think Ryan has been able to make trades for good prospects in the lower levels (think Butera for Sulbaran).
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      I have to say I'm pleased, surprised and proud how the Twins have rebounded the past week in Seattle and Colorado. This team has shown fight and resiliency this year, something not always seen the past two years. (I tend to give a pass on the 2011 team as we returned the majority of our roster from 2010, quality guys and players, with horrible injury problems) Despite some early moves out of ST that were highly questionable, mass injuries in waves first to the OF, then the infield, even when losing the team has been competitive, very seldom losing by more than a run or two, even mounting effort end comebacks in some of those losses. This is a far more competitive team than the past couple seasons.

      Hats of to Karnak clone Dave who predicted the twins recent run before the break. "We're not worthy!"

      I don't know if it's a fair or accurate assessment, but, I've heard all season that the Twins second half should be, in theory, less challenging than the first half. And it would appear that starting the next "half" of the season at home could be a nice springboard. 6 games under .500 at this point, and more competitive at this point shows definite improvement. I don't believe the team cam make up 6 games with a blistering couple weeks in July. But if they could, or could close the gap to 2-3 games under, I like the chances to finish .500 or a couple games above...maybe.

      Why? Because even with the inevitable trades of Willingham and Correia, unsure of anyone else for various reasons, Santana and Mauer healthy, the hopefully healthy return of Nolasco, and an August and September that should, for the first time in 3 years, see some exciting auditions. For a team that is showing more "gumption" than it's predacessors, has some talented youngsters up, more to come, I can see a team with a goal and a spark.

      Of course, I remain an eternal optimist!

      I want to echo the sentiment to see the youngsters who are a part of the future the second half. Truly, I don't care if these kids come up tomorrow, or September 1st. I say this for three reasons: 1) I believe in developing prospects, not rushing, not promoting just for the sake of it. Sometimes finishing the milb season and getting that Sept. call up is the best course. 2) It sounds easy to type things like "trade so and so, and just cut so and so". In reality, it's not always quite so defined and easy to accomplish. 3) Even on a rebuilding team, working at getting younger, young prospects either knocking on the door or getting close, having a couple/few solid, quality veterans to lead and learn from is not a bad thing. Suzuki just as an example. I sooo want Pino to get his shot like he did last season to close out 2013. And even if the Twins did trade him, they could re-sign him during the offseason...maybe. But then again, he's meant a lot to the team this season. So maybe, as a whole, the Twins are just better with his knowledge and leadership. Just a thought, not an answer.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Bring up May, Darnell, Meyer, Tonkin, Pinto and Ramirez. Make room however you feel. Move Hicks to AAA, learn how to be a hitter.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      The team has certainly shown a lot more compete this year. The starting pitching, while not anything to celebrate has at least hung around long enough to keep them in the game more consistently than the past two years, they have been easier to watch at the very least.

      Gibson's progress has been positive, Arcia has shown glimpses of a long term power bat, Santana looks like he might be a player, Dozier is for real, Pinto appears to have a future especially if his defense moves closer to his ability at the plate, Parms and Plouffe look like they can be useful bench pieces on a good team and that doesn't even cover Meyer, May, Berrios, Sano, Buxton, Vargas et al that are on the cusp.

      Record or not, I'm feeling pretty optimistic.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      The team has certainly shown a lot more compete this year. The starting pitching, while not anything to celebrate has at least hung around long enough to keep them in the game more consistently than the past two years, they have been easier to watch at the very least.

      Gibson's progress has been positive, Arcia has shown glimpses of a long term power bat, Santana looks like he might be a player, Dozier is for real, Pinto appears to have a future especially if his defense moves closer to his ability at the plate, Parms and Plouffe look like they can be useful bench pieces on a good team and that doesn't even cover Meyer, May, Berrios, Sano, Buxton, Vargas et al that are on the cusp.

      Record or not, I'm feeling pretty optimistic.
      What he said.
    1. Torstein's Avatar
      Torstein -
      Stop the Seller's mentality and focus on WINNING! I can't believe how many fans suck into the selling talent at the trading deadline as a way to get better. I don't want washed up mediocre veterans taking at-bats away from young talent, but somehow our young talent always seems to be a year away. I've had it with losing and the Twins have a loser's mentality. It's time to stop thinking about August/September as a AAAA tryout period and try to win every game. I don't get why Twins' fans continually give this team a pass.
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