Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September Tanking and the Twins

The calendar turned to September over a week ago and some changes can follow a failing team in the final month of the year. Younger players continue to get more playing time over veterans like Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham. It is the time of year for the Twins to see what the future can hold and changes like this can bring up some other questions.

During the last two seasons, the Twins have been able to see the value of having a high draft pick. Byron Buxton and Kohl Stewart were added to the fold over the last two years to help bolster a minor league system that is considered one of the best in baseball. The higher a team can draft, the more money the club can spend, and the better prospects a club will likely receive.

This can lead to some questions of tanking in the final month of the year. Over at ESPN's SweetSpot Blog, the idea of tanking was discussed since there is a cluster of team's battling to be in the top 10 draft picks for 2014. For example, the Mets are trotting out a final month rotation that includes Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang. These aren't your father's "Amazing Mets."

Minnesota hasn't signed a bunch of aging veterans in the last couple weeks to fill into their rotation but some might argue that was the team's overall strategy during last offseason. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey have pitched the most innings on Minnesota's staff and each man has an ERA north of 4.00. One could have expected this time of production from these two men and it doesn't help that other members of the rotation have failed to live up to expectations.

At the end of 2012, the Twins finished with 96 losses but it wasn't because of terrible play in September. The club went 13-15 during the final month and their .464 winning percentage was their second highest for any month. June was the only month the club finished over .500 with a 14-13 record. Minnesota entered the month in the fourth draft position and that's where they would finish.

The month of September in 2011 was a little bit different story. Minnesota started the month in fourth place in the AL Central and they were in line to get the fourth pick in the 2012 draft. An awful final month saw the team go 6-20 to post a .231 winning percentage. It was their worst record for any month and the team would end up improving their draft position from fourth to second.

As the final month of the 2013 season is underway, the Twins were in the sixth position for next year's draft. There were only four games separating them from the Angels, the team that started the month positioned to get the 13th draft pick. Entering play on Wednesday, Minnesota had accumulated a 4-4 record for the month and they are now tied with Milwaukee for the fifth pick.

There are plenty of benefits to having a top 10 pick in the draft. Obviously, a team gets more money to spend in their draft pool for next June. Also, a team with a top 10 pick has a protected first round pick. This means the front office can approach top tier free agents without fear of losing the club's top draft pick. Some teams have run into this issue with the recent switch in the collective bargaining agreement and it doesn't seem fair for club's trying to rebuild.

The Twins haven't been known to spend a ton on the free agent market so this wrinkle in the free agent system might not be a huge issue. Willingham has been the club's biggest free agent acquisition in recent years and he wasn't in the top tier. Other names like Doumit, Pelfrey, and Correia haven't been huge names but they have found their way in Minnesota.

There are going to be plenty of openings in the starting rotation for Minnesota and it might be nice for the team to have the opportunity to go after a top free agent. This would likely only happen if the team's first round pick were protected. It has never been Terry Ryan's strategy to spend big money on pitchers but the club might have to change this trend to be productive next year.

September can be a time to try out plenty of pieces for the future. Minnesota will continue to audition some of their younger players in order to see what they have lined up for next year. The losses might continue to pile up but the team isn't exactly in tank mode.

At least not yet...

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