Offseason plan for 2014
by, 09-29-2013 at 08:17 PM (409 Views)
A lot of ink has been spilled on the abomination of a season that encompassed the Twins 2013 year, and there are certainly differences of opinions as to what should happen next. Looking at the season in the rear view mirror, there were some good things to come from it. The most notable was the emergence of Brian Dozier at 2nd. Behind that was a pen that far exceeded expectations, especially given how bad the starting rotation was.
The upcoming season is going to be an interesting one for the Twins. It's theme will largely be a transitional one. Knocking on the door will be Byron Buxton (assuming his impressive pro start continues into AA), Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Josmil Pinto, Michael Tonkin, Logan Darnell, and Eddie Rosario. While a number of these guys won't be ready to start the year, they could all very well be making a case by mid-May, which makes a large scale overhaul of the roster somewhat difficult (and quite possibly not wise). In spite of this, one can be assured that a number of these guys will struggle, much like Arcia, Hicks, and Gibson did this season. Given that, expectations of competing for a division title should probably be put to rest for the time being, 2014 is going to mark the transition of a new core. The final record should be improved, and it's quite possible that team flirts with the .500 mark for the first time in a few years.
That said, there's still a lot of unanswered questions. Several players are nearing their last chances. Both Plouffe and Parmelee are going to have to show that their bats are worth something other than continual teasing. Newly acquired Alex Presley is in a similar position, as his recent minor league results have been impressive, but that has not translated into major league success. Like Parmelee and Plouffe, Presley will have 2014 to prove his worth, though he will likely find himself a role as a 4th OF should he fail in what is likely the last chance he's going to be given to earn a starting role on a major league team. If he does well, he may find himself traded again if Hicks and Buxton are both making a case that they are ready. Given his defensive value, Parmelee might find himself in the "Power bat off the bench" role should he fail in 2014.
Finally, we get to the garbage. The starting rotation was awful (and that's being nice), and while help looks to be on the way, there's one current member that's sure to be there opening day, and despite the vomit inducing thought, he's likely the opening day starter. Kyle Gibson will also be assured of a spot, even with his struggles. His first season back from Tommy John surgery should be considered mostly successful, even without the major league results. He will have a spot, and given his history, he should be reasonably expected to improve. Beyond that, there's little in the way of immediate help to the worst rotation in the league. With 3 spots open, Vance Worley should also, in my opinion, get another chance. His 2 years in Philly were decent, and despite an abomination of a season in 2013, I think a third spot should be reserved for him. This too will likely be his last chance. This leaves two open spots which will need to be addressed.
That said, we now need to come up with a plan. The first stop is coaching. The coaching situation is clearly stale, and the major league ranks in particular seem to be operating a bit too old school. To complicate that, a new wave of rookie prospects is nearing, and finding someone who is good with rookies is paramount. Ron Gardenhire is not that guy. Outside the organization, I'd likely target someone like Tampa Bay's Martinez or Cleveland's pitching coach. Inside the organization, Molitor or Gwynn should be options as well. Outside of the manager, Bobby Cuellar and Tom Brunansky are likely the only coaches I'd keep on the major league staff, and Bruno's leash is relatively short.
One big caveat prior to making any moves is the PTBNL in the Morneau trade. The assumption for this post is that it will be Duke Welker as rumored, though there are several intriguing options that could change the organization's overall direction, such as Stolmy Pimentel, who is out of options and may have a difficult time fitting into Pittsburg's plans.
Moving on to the pen, it was pretty strong, and with Tonkin knocking on the door along with good performances from Perkins, Theilbar, Burton, Swarzak, Fein, and Duensing, there isn't a ton of room. Given that this is clearly the position of strength, trading from this makes the most sense. It will be further complicated if the 2nd player in the Morneau trade is Duke Welker. Perkins value is the highest so I'd dangle him again this offseason to see if there are any takers, but would only trade him for some very nice help. Ideally, an Allen Webster and Matt Barnes combo from the Red Sox or something like it would likely get my attention. Webster is a top 100 prospect who did very well in AA and Barnes is more of a prospect in the Trevor May role. If a trade like that couldn't be made, I'd still likely deal Burton and/or Fein for some lower level pitching help. Given that several of the AAAA type starters could turn into decent relievers, I'd consider a bullpen trade even if Perkins got traded.
The rotation will also need to be addressed. Given the youth trend and the large amounts of money available that could be spent, I think the Twins should go hard after Masahiro Tanka who will be posted this offseason. It will likely be a 40-60M posting to get the job done, plus a 5 or 6 year contract of a similar value. Given that he's 24, I think this type of move makes the most sense for a transitional team, and should he struggle initially, there will be room for patience. I would also target a stronger veteran presence. Phil Hughes would top my list, and he will likely be a free agent without a qualifying offer (I would not offer him a contract if the Yankees gave him an offer). He would be my second major signing, and I'd target a 3 or 4 year deal for him.
Despite their poor showing, the position players won't change much in 2014. Locked in are Mauer (as a catcher), Willingham, Presley, Arcia, Doumit, Florimon, and Dozier. Plouffe and Parmelee will also get their last chances, and Colabello will also get another look. Hicks will start the season in AAA, and he will have to earn his next trip back to the major leagues, though I do think he eventually replaces Presley. I would go hard after the Cuban defector Abreau, though I don't think I would get him for the price I'm willing to offer, but since this is my offseason plan, I'm going to say they can get it done for 5/60. Doumit, while locked in, will see much less PT in this scenario, as he's relegated to 2nd catcher and occasional DH/OF play. Along with Willingham, both will be dangled at the trade deadline for anything they can bring back. Given his career, Doumit should be in line for a decent bounce back season, as will Willingham. Both could net something decent in the lower minors. Also of note, if Dozier's success continues, he will likely find himself moving back to SS assuming Rosario continues to impress. While he did well, there's not room for Pinto until Doumit is gone. He's the heir to the 2nd catcher role and should allow Mauer to get more reps at DH/1B/RF or wherever they choose to play him. Pinto could find himself on the ML roster if Ryan can find a buyer for Doumit this offseason, but I highly doubt he gets enough for him.
That leaves the following team:
C - Mauer
1B - Abreau
2B - Dozier
SS - Florimon (until Rosario is ready, at which point Dozier moves back to SS)
3B - Plouffe (until Sano is ready)
LF - Willingham (to be replaced by Buxton or Hicks at the trade deadline)
CF - Presley (potentially also to be replaced by Buxton or Hicks if both have done well and he is not.)
RF - Arcia
DH - Parmelee (who will also get reps in at 1B and OF, but will find himself battling with Colabello or Plouffe if he struggles)
SP - Tanka, Hughes, Gibson, Correia (this is another potential flip at the deadline), and Worley
RP - Swarzak, Theilbar, Duensing, Welker, Burton, and Tonkin
CL - Fein (in this scenario, I'd like dangle Fein at the deadline and replace him with Tonkin).
BN - Colabello, Masteroni, Escobar, Doumit.
Waiting in the wings: Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Meyer, May, Darnell, Pressley and Pinto. Also waiting would hopefully be whomever was acquired for Perkins (Webster/Barnes if we are lucky).
Unlike 2013, if the pitching fails, there are some higher upside arms in AAA that could come in and replace them. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if those guys struggle too, that's to be expected. In this scenario, there would also be a bit of a log jam on the mound going forward. This should leave the Twins with some good trading chips should they suddenly find themselves with more good starting pitching than what they have spots for.
While I don't see a team that will compete for the central, the rotation improvements along with modest bounce back years from Doumit and Willingham should lead to a team that can flirt with the .500 mark for most of the season.