Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Twins rebuilding strategy is going to be slow

When the trade deadline passed on Tuesday afternoon, the Twins were left with all but one of the veteran players on their roster. Francisco Liriano was the only player to be dealt and that happened over the weekend. Before and after that time, there had been plenty of rumors surrounding players like Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, and Justin Morneau. All of those players found themselves still wearing Twins uniforms for their contest against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. It was a quiet ending to what had been a very rumor filled deadline for the Twins.

For the second year in a row, the Twins stood pat at the trade deadline even though the team didn't seem to be in contention. The 2011 version of the Twins had teased fans with some good play in the middle months of the season but the team would go on to one of their worst finishes in franchise history. Players like Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Matt Capps were all scheduled to be free agents at the end of the season and it seemed like the Twins should try and deal some of these players to contending teams. During last season, the Twins did have the possibility of getting draft pick compensation if some of these free agents left the club. Cuddyer, Kubel, and Nathan found plenty of money in new cities and the Twins were compensated for them leaving for greener pastures.

Many of the names being tossed around with the Twins at this trade deadline have multiple years of team control left before each player will be a free agent. This left the Twins in a position to want to be overwhelmed by a deal before considering an offer for their veteran players. In the case of Span, Willingham, Perkins and Burton, their contracts will all be very reasonable for next season if the Twins keep them for 2013. Morneau is owed around $20 million for the rest of this season and all of next season so a trade for him might have been more of a challenge to accomplish. There were no overpowering offers for these players so the Twins decided to stay the course with their rebuilding process.

The problem for fans of the Twins as the look at the rebuilding process from the outside is trying to understand what the organization's plan is for making this team back into a contender. It is the third season of being in a beautiful new stadium but fans aren't going to come out and watch a sub-par team on the field. The minor league system is ranked in the lower half out of all of the farm systems in baseball and that makes the road to rebuilding an even slower process. When the team makes one move before the deadline and it is for two very marginal minor league players, it is hard to view the organization as making a complete overhaul. From the sounds of quotes from Terry Ryan, the Twins wanted starting pitching back and other teams weren't offering the right packages.

Ryan and the Twins front office have another option when it comes to all of the players listed above. Since each player is still under team control for next year, there could still be trades made by the Twins during the offseason. The Winter Meetings for all of the GMs across baseball brings out plenty of trade speculation and it can be expected that all of these players will hear their names on the rumor mill again. Some of these veteran players are in the midst of their best seasons as professionals so there could be even better offers for the Twins if the players continue on this pace for the remainder of 2012. The Twins might be out of contention but plenty of the players in the line-up are competitive enough to be striving to finish the season on a strong note. There was no need to rush into a deal before July 31st and now the Twins will have the next few months to make a plan for the offseason.

One of the scariest thoughts for the future is the fact that the Twins might be looking at cutting payroll for the second straight offseason. In the first couple of seasons at Target Field, the Twins had a total team payroll of over $100 million and now the team sits under the $100 million mark for 2012. The first cut in payroll was hard for many fans to swallow since the team had a lot of revenue with their new ballpark. Another cut in payroll for the start of the 2013 season could bring out the torches and pitchforks from fans across Twins Territory. Terry Ryan has been able to put together some very good teams in the past with a small payroll but the Twins have a $23 million franchise catcher to pay and not many cheap minor league players ready to make a difference. It also always helps to be able to have extra money to pay for all of the parts to fill up a roster.

After a decade of excellence for the Twins franchise, it would be nice if the turnaround were quick and efficient. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be a slow process to rebuild this franchise into a contender for multiple seasons. The big league rotation seems like it is in shambles and there are holes at multiple levels in the minor leagues. It is going to take time and patients from fans to bring the team back to prominence in the American League. That's one the great things about the game of baseball; a team can be good for multiple seasons and then go through a rough patch for multiple years. The Twins are in the middle of one of those rough patches and it is going to be a slow process to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.

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