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  • 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. TKGuy's Avatar
      TKGuy -
      I'm sure Ervin Santana will not have his option picked up. He was dealing in the second half last year, but has had a terrible year. Usually a 2 to 1 K/BB guy.

      Also, the Dodgers have 5 or 6 starters under contract. I wonder if they move Billingsley for a 1B. He is locked up for a couple more years, but has had injury problems

      I think a JA Happ or Jair Jurrjens would be in the same mold the TWins might look at.
    1. jm3319's Avatar
      jm3319 -
      i just wish they would have gone for broke a few years ago when they had a healthy Mauer, Morneau, Nathan, along with productive Cuddyer and Kubel along with some decent starting pithing. They needed to put the chips on the table and go big, instead of always planning for the "future." We are in that "future" now, and it's nothing to be proud of.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      i just wish they would have gone for broke a few years ago when they had a healthy Mauer, Morneau, Nathan, along with productive Cuddyer and Kubel along with some decent starting pithing. They needed to put the chips on the table and go big, instead of always planning for the "future." We are in that "future" now, and it's nothing to be proud of.
      That season never existed. Outside of 2010, the Twins haven't had decent starting pitching since Santana left. And in 2010, Nathan was injured. Morneau was out. The team was still very good but it still had significant flaws.

      The closest the Twins came to a season like that was 2006, when they should have handled the A's but didn't. They were a 96 win team (their best record since 1970) and straight-up choked in the playoffs.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      That season never existed. Outside of 2010, the Twins haven't had decent starting pitching since Santana left. And in 2010, Nathan was injured. Morneau was out. The team was still very good but it still had significant flaws.

      The closest the Twins came to a season like that was 2006, when they should have handled the A's but didn't. They were a 96 win team (their best record since 1970) and straight-up choked in the playoffs.
      It's sad to look back at 2006 and how well positioned that team was for a run of success. 25YO MVP Morneau. 23YO MVP-caliber Mauer. 27YO Cy Young Santana. 22YO rookie sensation Liriano. Awesome young bullpen led by Nathan. Hunter, Cuddyer, Bartlett...

      And yet, not one playoff victory since that season. Sigh.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      "And not doing so would be an injustice to the franchise's most valuable (and highly-paid) asset: Joe Mauer."

      - This was (and has been for other arguments as well) my argument for why the Twins needed to draft a pitcher (such as Mark Appel), and not necessarily the BPA (Buxton) this year in the draft. Pretty soon Mauer's "prime years" window will be gone, and during that time the Twins will never have had an ace, or even a true #1 (or even #2) pitcher to compliment him. "Injustice" is a great understatement to me. They're not going to spend the money on one in Free Agency, and I don't recall them ever sending off a major Prospect to get a stud SP via trade. Thus if they ever want one, they have to draft one. This year was the best chance at that they were going to get.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      It's sad to look back at 2006 and how well positioned that team was for a run of success. 25YO MVP Morneau. 23YO MVP-caliber Mauer. 27YO Cy Young Santana. 22YO rookie sensation Liriano. Awesome young bullpen led by Nathan. Hunter, Cuddyer, Bartlett...

      And yet, not one playoff victory since that season. Sigh.
      Excuse me while I go chug a bottle of scotch.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      "And not doing so would be an injustice to the franchise's most valuable (and highly-paid) asset: Joe Mauer."

      - This was (and has been for other arguments as well) my argument for why the Twins needed to draft a pitcher (such as Mark Appel), and not necessarily the BPA (Buxton) this year in the draft. Pretty soon Mauer's "prime years" window will be gone, and during that time the Twins will never have had an ace, or even a true #1 (or even #2) pitcher to compliment him. "Injustice" is a great understatement to me. They're not going to spend the money on one in Free Agency, and I don't recall them ever sending off a major Prospect to get a stud SP via trade. Thus if they ever want one, they have to draft one. This year was the best chance at that they were going to get.
      "Injustice" is an entirely inappropriate overstatement to me. Surely, both the Twins, Mauer, and his agent knew what they were getting into and what the possible, or likely, implications and consequences would be by signing the type of deal they jointly entered.

      I don't think any court in the land would find that Mauer has been done any "injustice" at all. This statement is just plain silly and absurd on its face.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      I am disappointed. When I saw the title for this article, I thought I would be reading about Matt Capps.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      "And not doing so would be an injustice to the franchise's most valuable (and highly-paid) asset: Joe Mauer."

      - This was (and has been for other arguments as well) my argument for why the Twins needed to draft a pitcher (such as Mark Appel), and not necessarily the BPA (Buxton) this year in the draft. Pretty soon Mauer's "prime years" window will be gone, and during that time the Twins will never have had an ace, or even a true #1 (or even #2) pitcher to compliment him. "Injustice" is a great understatement to me. They're not going to spend the money on one in Free Agency, and I don't recall them ever sending off a major Prospect to get a stud SP via trade. Thus if they ever want one, they have to draft one. This year was the best chance at that they were going to get.
      Not taking the BPA in the draft is a slippery slope to step on. You make excuses for doing it one year and it's not hard to come up with reasons to continue doing it every year thereafter.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      "Injustice" is an entirely inappropriate overstatement to me. Surely, both the Twins, Mauer, and his agent knew what they were getting into and what the possible, or likely, implications and consequences would be by signing the type of deal they jointly entered.

      I don't think any court in the land would find that Mauer has been done any "injustice" at all. This statement is just plain silly and absurd on its face.
      Yeah, hard to get upset for a guy who entered into a legal contract knowingly and is getting paid $23M/year. The true injustice is to the fans who have funded the stadium and pay to go see the games.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Excuse me while I go chug a bottle of scotch.
      Or anti-freeze.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      Yeah, hard to get upset for a guy who entered into a legal contract knowingly and is getting paid $23M/year. The true injustice is to the fans who have funded the stadium and pay to go see the games.
      Precisely.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      "Injustice" is an entirely inappropriate overstatement to me. Surely, both the Twins, Mauer, and his agent knew what they were getting into and what the possible, or likely, implications and consequences would be by signing the type of deal they jointly entered.

      I don't think any court in the land would find that Mauer has been done any "injustice" at all. This statement is just plain silly and absurd on its face.
      It's not so much that it's an injustice to Mauer himself. He's making his money and he's had a couple shots in the playoffs already.

      More so, it's an injustice to the Twins themselves and their fans. Here they have this once-in-a-generation talent, a Hall of Fame caliber player that they paid an enormous amount of money to lock up. Now they're going to waste his best remaining years in a semi-rebuilding effort rather than doing everything they reasonably can to build a contender around him? Seems like a regrettable decision to me. Considering the condition of his legs and the likelihood that he'll need to fully switch away from catcher at some point, there's a very good chance Mauer's value will start fading fast as he ages into his mid-30s and it's awfully tough to build a great roster around a fading player earning ~25% of the payroll. People in the long-term rebuild camp often overlook this.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      it's awfully tough to build a great roster around a fading player earning ~25% of the payroll. People in the long-term rebuild camp often overlook this.
      Detroit is going to figure this out the hard way in a few years.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      It's not so much that it's an injustice to Mauer himself. He's making his money and he's had a couple shots in the playoffs already.

      More so, it's an injustice to the Twins themselves and their fans. Here they have this once-in-a-generation talent, a Hall of Fame caliber player that they paid an enormous amount of money to lock up. Now they're going to waste his best remaining years in a semi-rebuilding effort rather than doing everything they reasonably can to build a contender around him? Seems like a regrettable decision to me. Considering the condition of his legs and the likelihood that he'll need to fully switch away from catcher at some point, there's a very good chance Mauer's value will start fading fast as he ages into his mid-30s and it's awfully tough to build a great roster around a fading player earning ~25% of the payroll. People in the long-term rebuild camp often overlook this.
      If you take out the part of your post that starts with "It's not so much...", and ends with "...More so,", I'm in 100% agreement with you. I argued along those lines previously this spring that the nightmare of 2011 so coldcocked the Twins that they were unable to move forward with "the plan" as envisioned in 2009- and were returning to their comfort zone of the late 70s/early 80s and 90s years of meciocrity while they pare the payroll of existing big $ contracts.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      It's not so much that it's an injustice to Mauer himself. He's making his money and he's had a couple shots in the playoffs already.

      More so, it's an injustice to the Twins themselves and their fans. Here they have this once-in-a-generation talent, a Hall of Fame caliber player that they paid an enormous amount of money to lock up. Now they're going to waste his best remaining years in a semi-rebuilding effort rather than doing everything they reasonably can to build a contender around him? Seems like a regrettable decision to me. Considering the condition of his legs and the likelihood that he'll need to fully switch away from catcher at some point, there's a very good chance Mauer's value will start fading fast as he ages into his mid-30s and it's awfully tough to build a great roster around a fading player earning ~25% of the payroll. People in the long-term rebuild camp often overlook this.
      This is just my gut feeling but I don't think the Pohlad's really care. They seem to be in this for the business reasons more than the fanatical fan reasons. As long as the Twins are making them money everything else is a secondary concern. Now that's not to say that they don't want to win. I just think it's obvious they value the fiscal earning power of the Twins over the social or emotional bonuses of putting a championship caliber squad on the field. I don't think we should fault them for this either. The Twins certainly aren't a charity the Pohlad's should be expected to donate money to so they can win a championship. Even having an owner whose driven by fandom and that wants to do whatever he can to win isn't necessarily a good thing. Do you end up with Mark Cuban or Daniel Snyder?

      Sorry, while my original point was related to your post I seem to have wandered off somewhere in the middle. I am not trying to imply that you have made any claims about the Twins ownership.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      It's not so much that it's an injustice to Mauer himself. He's making his money and he's had a couple shots in the playoffs already.

      More so, it's an injustice to the Twins themselves and their fans. Here they have this once-in-a-generation talent, a Hall of Fame caliber player that they paid an enormous amount of money to lock up. Now they're going to waste his best remaining years in a semi-rebuilding effort rather than doing everything they reasonably can to build a contender around him? Seems like a regrettable decision to me. Considering the condition of his legs and the likelihood that he'll need to fully switch away from catcher at some point, there's a very good chance Mauer's value will start fading fast as he ages into his mid-30s and it's awfully tough to build a great roster around a fading player earning ~25% of the payroll. People in the long-term rebuild camp often overlook this.

      This is exactly why I don't like to hear talk of waiting for 2014 or 2015.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      This is just my gut feeling but I don't think the Pohlad's really care.
      Gut feeling? The Pohlads could be far more interested in their legacy than profit for all we know (after all owning a baseball team is rather vane, a self-effigy of sorts).
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      It's sad to look back at 2006 and how well positioned that team was for a run of success. 25YO MVP Morneau. 23YO MVP-caliber Mauer. 27YO Cy Young Santana. 22YO rookie sensation Liriano. Awesome young bullpen led by Nathan. Hunter, Cuddyer, Bartlett...

      And yet, not one playoff victory since that season. Sigh.
      I can't help but think of how the Twins celebrated after coming from behind and winning the central on the final day of the season. They were already in the playoffs, and there they were celebrating like the just won the World Series. I thought it was silly. I didn't get it.

      Then the playoffs start and they forgot to showup. This organization seems to think that's the ultimate goal...to win the Central. In the end, it just isn't that big a deal.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      "Injustice" is an entirely inappropriate overstatement to me. Surely, both the Twins, Mauer, and his agent knew what they were getting into and what the possible, or likely, implications and consequences would be by signing the type of deal they jointly entered.

      I don't think any court in the land would find that Mauer has been done any "injustice" at all. This statement is just plain silly and absurd on its face.
      That's not the type of injustice I'm talking about (his contract certainly is NOT an injustice...). You have a once in a lifetime player on your roster, and you aren't doing everything in your power to surround him with the other needs of the team to legitimately contend for a World Series title. That is the injustice.
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