Wille's Way: 2014 Minnesota Twins Offseason Blueprint
by, 11-10-2013 at 01:26 PM (922 Views)
Well, it has been roughly two months since I last blogged and since then, the baseball season has come to a close and the Minnesota Twins still haven’t found their way out of the abyss of mediocrity. I have personally made the transition away from blogging at RantSports.com and have instead decided to blog solely on TwinsDaily. Many factors have gone into my decision; but at the end of the day, this is the best fit for my current
At any rate, let’s focus on the Twins. The season has ended and the team limped to a disappointing 66-96 finish. While everything seems doom and gloom right now around Twins' Territory, the one saving grace is that this is the best time of the year for struggling franchises: the off-season. It is during this time that fans get to dream about landing that transformational free agent that will be the missing piece to their respective team’s troubles or completing a mega-trade that lands their team an All-Star. From years of being a Twins’ fan, we know the key to that last phrase was the word dream.
The Twins have never been a team that has actively pursued top-flight free agents to fill in gaping holes or deficiencies on their roster. They simply prefer to save their money and build from within their farm system and for the better part of the past decade, that seemed to work just fine; but let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Terry Ryan was starting to feel the heat on his General Manager’s seat and finally got the “all clear” from management to spend actively this off-season? Would the Twins’ strategy finally change under those circumstances? I believe the answer to that question is yes and I also believe that those circumstances are the current reality of the Twins’ franchise.
Statistics came out this weekend that revealed that the Twins have lost half of their television audience due, in large part, to their back-to-back-to-back losing seasons. Take that into consideration with the fact that attendance has been declining and the team is set to host the 2014 MLB All-Star Game and you have all the makings of an organization that may be forced to listen to the voice of reason out of necessity.
This brings us back to the current state of the Twins. The problem is simple: the team has a dire need for starting pitching and there are numerous question marks surrounding the team’s everyday lineup; the answer to those problems, however, is very complex. As is the case with many other bloggers who cover major sports teams, I also believe that I can peer into a magic crystal ball and can predict the future while solving their respective team’s problems. If and when those predictions come true, I will act like I knew it was going to happen all along and will gladly pat myself on the back for being so insightful (heavy sarcasm). All kidding aside, like so many bloggers have done before me on this site, my solution to these complex issues will come in the form of an Off-Season Blueprint.
My blueprint is based off the notion that I believe the Twins will be more active this off-season in pursuing free agents and remaking this team than they have been in years past, which isn’t saying much. With that said, I also am operating under the assumption that the team will be willing to spend some money on free agents, but they will not surpass an 80 million dollar payroll. Listed below are the results of operating under such assumptions:
Lineup (in order of Batting Order)
1. C- Joe Mauer $23 Million
2. 2B- Brian Dozier $0.5 Million
3. LF- Mark Trumbo $4.7 Million (Arbitration Eligible) **Assuming he gets an increase**
4. DH- Jason Kubel $2.5 Million (1 yr/$2.5 Million dollar contract with club option for ’15)
5. 3B- Miguel Sano $0.5 Million
6. 1B- Ike Davis $4.0 Million (Arbitration Eligible) **Assuming he gets an increase**
7. LF- Aaron Hicks $0.5 Million
8. CF- Alex Presley $0.5 Million
9. SS- Pedro Florimon $0.5 Million
IF- Eduardo Escobar $0.5 Million
1B/OF- Chris Parmelee $0.5 Million
C- John Buck $2.0 Million
C/OF Ryan Doumit $3.5 Million
Starting Lineup Salary= $36.7 Million
Bench Salary= $6.5 Million
Total Position players= $43.2 Million
I’ll address the elephant in the room right away: Yes, I believe the Twins would be willing to go out and trade for Mark Trumbo. I can promise that I am in full control of my thoughts and that I am mentally stable when typing this article. The Los Angeles Angels are reportedly shopping him due to the fact that they believe Albert Pujols will be healthy and ready to go next season and they already have a replacement in the outfield for Trumbo with the J.B Shuck/Peter Bourjos platoon. They also are reportedly looking to acquire starting pitching (like everyone else) and are in need of a young third basemen. The Twins happen to have a young third basemen that would likely peak the interest of the Angels and his name is not Miguel Sano. That third basemen happens to be Travis Harrison. Harrison is 21 years old and his .253 with 15 HR and 59 RBI over 129 games in Class A last year for the Twins and is projected to be a solid defensive third basemen with great power upside. That upside, coupled with the inclusion of pitchers Kyle Gibson, Jared Burton, and utility-man Trevor Plouffe, could very well be enough to get Trumbo away from the Angels and into the Twins’ lineup. Plouffe would provide the Angels with a utility player that can hold down the position until Harrison is ready and Gibson would also give the Angels a young arm with some upside despite his down year in 2013.
I personally think Gibson is not going to develop into anything more than an average back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and dealing him now while he has age and upside on his side would be a plus. By including Burton—who also had an up-and-down 2013—the Twins would lose one of their best relievers, but he is a player who the Angels may covet to improve their bullpen and if he is the difference in completing the deal or not, the Twins ought to include him.
I also have the Twins dealing for New York Mets First Basemen Ike Davis. Davis was born in Edina (is one of us) and had a solid 2012 season with the Mets which saw him hit 32 HR and drive in 90 RBI while hitting at a .227 clip over 156 games. The Mets are shopping the youngster after a down 2013 that saw him hit .205 with 9 HR and 33 RBI and he reportedly can be had for a mid-level prospect; however, with the Twins being stingy with dealing their prospects and with the Mets being active in rebuilding their team via trades/free agency, the Twins may have found a suitor to trade Josh Willingham to. The Mets need offense and a corner outfielder and trading a disappointing youngster for an established power-hitter and run producer seems just like the kind of deal that they would be willing to make, especially since Willingham is in the final year of his deal. If Willingham worked out, that’d be great and they can possibly sign him to an extension; if not, they aren’t giving up much since they are reportedly willing to accept a mid-level prospect in return.
You may also notice that Oswalso Arcia isn’t included in the lineup; that exclusion will make more sense as you read on.
Continuing on, I have the Twins bringing back fan favorite Jason Kubel on a “get-well” one-year deal to fill in a need for a run-producing outfielder after the trade of Willingham. Kubel would also hold down the fort in the outfield until Byron Buxton makes it to the majors and Hicks shifts over to left-field. Lastly, I see the Twins signing journeyman catcher John Buck to backup Joe Mauer, who will remain at catcher until Josmil Pinto is ready to take over every day catching duties. At which point, Mauer shifts to first base and Davis shifts to a bench or DH role depending on his production. I also believe Mauer batting at the top of the order could be a great ignitor to set the Twins’ offense into motion based on his ability to get on base and see a ton of pitches. He finally would be in a spot in the batting order that his hitting style is made for! Imagine the possibilities....
1. Jeff Samardzija $4.9 Million (Arbitration Eligible) **Assuming he gets an increase**
2. Phil Hughes $10.0 Million (3 yr/30 Million deal)
3. Johan Santana $5.0 Million (1 yr/5 Million deal—heavy incentives deal for performance)
4. Kevin Correia $5.5Million
5. Samuel Deduno $0.5 Million
1. Glen Perkins $3.987 Million
2. Casey Fien $0.5 Million
3. Caleb Thielbar $0.5 Million
4. Michael Tonkin $0.5 Million
5. Brian Duensing $2.0 Million
6. Anthony Swarzak $1.2 Million
7. Duke Welker $0.5 Million
Starting Pitching Salary: $25.9 Million
Bullpen Salary: $ 9.187 Million
Total Pitching Staff: $ 35.087 Million
Total Team Salary= $ 78,700,000
The major moves that will help reshape the Twins' most pressing issue over the past few years—their pitching staff—revolve around trading Oswaldo Arcia, Vance Worley, and Brian Duensing to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija. Certainly, Arcia and Worley may be enough to get Samardija away from the Cubs, but I think they will want more in return and Duensing is a valuable bullpen piece that will attract the Cubs. The Cubs need another left-handed bat to complement Anthony Rizzo in their lineup and they also need help in both corner outfield spots; hence, Arcia—who is young, controllable and has a ton of upside—would be of great interest to them. The question is: are the Twins willing to move Arcia and would they be willing to resign Samardzija—who is slated to become a free agent after the 2015 season—for $8-10 Million a season which is likely going to be his asking price?
I also have the Twins taking a chance on Phil Hughes who I believe could benefit from pitching in a ballpark like Target Field. In addition, I believe Hughes would relish the chance at playing in a smaller market for the amount of money—10 million a season—that a depth starved team like the Twins could be willing to pay him. Finally, I have the Twins signing another fan favorite to draw interest back on the ballclub: Johan Santana. Santana is coming off two shoulder surgeries and 21 combined starts over the past three seasons and will turn 35 years old soon; but fans would love to see him back with the Twins and as ESPN 1500’s Phil Mackey points out, he’d be a great mentor to young pitchers like Alex Meyer.
The rest of the rotation is filled out with the returns of Kevin Correia and Samuel Deduno, with ether being a likely trade or release candidate midway through the season when Meyer or Trevor May are ready to be promoted to the majors. The bullpen remains intact from last season with the only change being the removal of Burton in the Trumbo trade. The Twins will opt to fill the bullpen with “in-house” candidates and they will have plenty with Ryan Pressley—and whoever fails to win a starting rotation spot like a Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks, or Andrew Albers—also in the mix for possible reclamation projects in the bullpen.
All in all does my off-season blueprint make the Twins an immediate playoff contender next season? No I don’t believe so, but I do believe it puts the organization back on the right track to returning to the playoffs due to the fact that many impact prospects are getting close to making it to the majors and hopefully will make an impact once they arrive (I’m talking to you Buxton, Sano, Eddie Rosario and Meyer). I believe the roster that I have constructed is achievable if Ryan is serious and active about taking a few risks and giving up a few assets. My blueprint could also use a little luck in order to have all the "ducks line up in a row" if you will; so if anyone has any luck left over, send it my way. Under my blueprint, the team won’t break the bank, nor will they have to sacrifice future building blocks (Sano and Buxton) in order to upgrade their pitching staff and lineup.
This is just my thoughts on the how the Twins should proceed and although it may be a dream scenario, it is no more unrealistic—in my opinion—than anything else that is floated around at this time of year. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
Photo Courtesy of: Gary A. Vazquez-USA TODAY Sports