Some spring training moves are bearing fruit. The question is when they will be most ripe?
Glen Perkins hasn't been especially effective this year, but he still profiles as possible closer long term, with well over a strikeout per inning. Even better, this spring he signed a deal that keeps his salary team-controlled through 2016 at a level considerably below that of a closer.
So how should the Twins play that? On the one hand, they could trade him now to a team that finds a left-handed reliever (with closer potential) especially appealing. Or they could turn him into a closer later the year and (provided he excels and stays healthy) he becomes even more valuable. Or, I suppose, the team could hang onto him in the hope that the next competitive Twins team could still have him around. But that is by far the riskiest of the choices.
The Twins flexibility is enhanced by another spring addition. Jared Burton has been more effective than Perkins (or closer Matt Capps) this year, despite handling earlier innings. He also has quite a bit of history being an effective reliever from before he joined the Twins. Finally, with 28 strikeouts and just 3 walks in 26 innings this year, he also looks like a possible closer.
Burton has another year after this one before he turns a free agent, and he just turned 31 years old. If the Twins were to ponder trading away Perkins any time over the next year, they could prepare by putting Burton in the same position that they put Perkins in spring training. Namely, offer him a long-term deal at a setup man's salary which puts him first in line when there is an opening at closer.
Or, they could just shop him around at the trade deadline. Or I suppose they could keep him as Perkins insurance.
In some ways, the road block here is Capps. With his closer role, he's blocking two guys who are probably going to be more effective. If the Twins can trade him - even if it is for very little - it allows them to increase the value of at least Perkins and put Burton in an heir apparent role, providing incentive for a long-term deal. And if he becomes the closer, and they mine the minors/waiver wire for yet another arm, they can move him....
This is how a non-competitive team can, fairly quickly, add core talent to their system. The team can afford to give relievers a chance to rediscover their stuff. They can afford to invest innings in them, even high leverage innings. And until the core pieces of a competitive team are in place, they can afford to let other competitive teams fight over these developed assets.
The question isn't if they should do it. The question is when the fruit should be picked.