• The Elephant in the Room

    Earlier this week, Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press asked Terry Ryan whether the team's recent run of success has affected the way he's preparing for the offseason.

    "Regardless of what you look like right now, you still look at the club and figure out where you're headed and where you need to add," Ryan told Walters. "My focus and our focus will always be, as you go through a season, to look at what you've got and what you've got coming up."

    What the Twins have got and what they've got coming up are one in the same: bats.Their lineup is looking strong, and everyone is locked in for next year and beyond. In the offings, you've got Chris Parmelee obliterating Triple-A, while Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia thrive in Double-A.

    Where they need to add, clearly, is pitching. Everyone agrees on that. Opinions differ on the scope of the project.

    Should they focus solely on adding young, high-upside arms, even if it means disassembling their current core and delaying their window of contention by a few years?

    Or should they try to keep this group largely intact, picking up pitchers wherever they can and hoping for some good things to happen in 2013?

    From my perspective, there are a number of ways to work toward putting a contending team on the field next year that don't jeopardize the organization's long-term outlook. And not doing so would be an injustice to the franchise's most valuable (and highly-paid) asset: Joe Mauer.

    You may have noticed that Mauer has been rather awesome this year in spite of the club's struggles. After a sluggish start, he's turned it on the summer months and is back to ranking among the elite in batting average and on-base percentage while logging significant time at catcher.

    The likelihood that Mauer keeps playing at this level diminishes a bit next year. And a little bit more the year after that. And so on. That's because he'll turn 30 next spring, and historically baseball players have often started to show decline as they age into their fourth decade of life. Particularly guys with substantial injury histories.

    The time to build a championship-caliber team around Mauer is now, while he remains in his physical "prime." As the years pass, it becomes more difficult to center plans around him, and as long as he's consuming close to a quarter of the payroll there's really no other choice.

    As the Twins ponder whether to take a long-term approach in putting a competitive product back on the field, what they need to ask themselves is whether biding their time and stocking the farm is worth wasting the best years of Mauer's career.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Elephant in the Room started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 64 Comments
    1. Loosey's Avatar
      Loosey -
      I think the injustice that everyone is trying to describe is the fact that the Twins signed Mauer to a 23M/year contract for him to help the team win baseball games. They didn't just sign him to have be a good player on a mediocre or worse club. It makes no sense to spend that kind of money if you aren't in it for the long haul and to spend money on guys around him, otherwise he is basically an expensive trophy wife the team parades out there. It's an injustice to him, the fans, and other teammates.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      Joe Mauer is to the Twins what Kevin Garnett was to the T-Wolves in the mid-2000's. I liked both guys and they were both very good players. But it was evident to everyone (except apparently KG himself) that he wasn't going to win anything if he was "the guy" and there wasn't much else around. His contract and his silly demands for playing with certain guys (Troy Hudson, et al) made sure that there wasn't another star as a sidekick.
      Garnett's time here is widely looked back on with disappointment. Best player in franchise history, and only once in 12 years here was he surrounded with enough talent to get past the first round of the playoffs. People blamed it on his huge salary and its impact on the rest of the roster, as they do now with Mauer, but at the end of the day it was McHale's failure to make good moves and identify good complementary pieces that held Garnett back.

      Mauer is headed down a similar path, but his story isn't done being written yet.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      Joe Mauer is to the Twins what Kevin Garnett was to the T-Wolves in the mid-2000's. I liked both guys and they were both very good players. But it was evident to everyone (except apparently KG himself) that he wasn't going to win anything if he was "the guy" and there wasn't much else around. His contract and his silly demands for playing with certain guys (Troy Hudson, et al) made sure that there wasn't another star as a sidekick.
      Garnett's time here is widely looked back on with disappointment. Best player in franchise history, and only once in 12 years here was he surrounded with enough talent to get past the first round of the playoffs. People blamed it on his huge salary and its impact on the rest of the roster, as they do now with Mauer, but at the end of the day it was McHale's failure to make good moves and identify good complementary pieces that held Garnett back.

      Mauer is headed down a similar path, but his story isn't done being written yet.
      This is an interesting comparison because one year Mauer was surrounded by both the Cy Young and the MVP winner (which is a rare occurrence) and with enough talent to have the second best record in the league (and one win away from the best) and still were a series and out. I think that the Twins have had way more talent than the Timberwolves did, but they never won in the post-season. I'd probably argue that the 2006 Twins had better talent that the Vikings team that got cheated by the Saints and the refs and did not make the super bowl recently... They just seem to not execute in the post-season (and the last couple seasons during the season as well...)
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      Joe Mauer is to the Twins what Kevin Garnett was to the T-Wolves in the mid-2000's. I liked both guys and they were both very good players. But it was evident to everyone (except apparently KG himself) that he wasn't going to win anything if he was "the guy" and there wasn't much else around. His contract and his silly demands for playing with certain guys (Troy Hudson, et al) made sure that there wasn't another star as a sidekick.
      Garnett's time here is widely looked back on with disappointment. Best player in franchise history, and only once in 12 years here was he surrounded with enough talent to get past the first round of the playoffs. People blamed it on his huge salary and its impact on the rest of the roster, as they do now with Mauer, but at the end of the day it was McHale's failure to make good moves and identify good complementary pieces that held Garnett back.

      Mauer is headed down a similar path, but his story isn't done being written yet.
      This is an interesting comparison because one year Mauer was surrounded by both the Cy Young and the MVP winner (which is a rare occurrence) and with enough talent to have the second best record in the league (and one win away from the best) and still were a series and out. I think that the Twins have had way more talent than the Timberwolves did, but they never won in the post-season. I'd probably argue that the 2006 Twins had better talent that the Vikings team that got cheated by the Saints and the refs and did not make the super bowl recently... They just seem to not execute in the post-season (and the last couple seasons during the season as well...)
      Had there not been a tommy john surgery, Mauer would have had a rookie of the year playing with him as well.
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