The new week started with the Twins officially announcing the signing of one of the top free-agent pitchers on the market and the Vikings reportedly contacting the top quarterback available in free agency.
Refreshing to hear, isn’t it?
This is all fans can ask of sports executives of franchises. Be aggressive. Go for it. Demonstrate through actions that you’re truly committed to winning big and not just peddling hollow lip service to appease supporters.
Few things deflate a fan base more than envy borne of sitting on the sideline while other franchises conduct business with clear championship aspirations. As sports fans, we’re all amateur general managers at heart, with Monopoly money at our disposal, so anything short of an all-in mentality creates a perception of organizational indifference, fair or not.
In that regard, it’s hard not to feel encouraged by what’s happening around town.
On Monday, the Vikings opened the NFL’s “legal tampering” period by reportedly expressing interest in future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and presumably Kirk Cousins, the top two quarterbacks on the market.
The Twins brain trust of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have signed seven free agents this offseason and also traded for a starting pitcher on the heels of a 26-win improvement.
Last week, Lynx coach/GM Cheryl Reeve traded the team’s first-round draft pick to acquire former All-Star point guard Danielle Robinson because Reeve’s championship operation isn’t about to become complacent.
Last offseason, Timberwolves coach/basketball boss Tom Thibodeau grew impatient with a youth movement and traded for Jimmy Butler in a roster shakeup that has accelerated the organization’s timetable for becoming a contender.
Major personnel transactions often create splashes but don’t guarantee championships, or even better results. Sports history is littered with failed examples. But organizations with ambition take calculated risks to improve, knowing that standing pat isn’t always the correct option.
It’s hard to knock a team that goes for it.
Wild owner Craig Leipold did just that on July 4, 2012, by committing $196 million to sign two coveted free agents, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, after a four-year playoff absence.
Anything seemed possible that day. The ultimate payoff of a championship hasn’t materialized for myriad reasons, but the Wild raised expectations and made people look at the organization in a different light by changing its own narrative. Teams shouldn’t be paralyzed by fear that high-stress decisions might not work out.
Many people, myself included, argued on behalf of keeping Andrew Wiggins as the Wolves maneuvered to trade for Butler. While Butler has been superb, Wiggins’ uneven play and poor body language have opened the door to second-guessing of Thibodeau’s master plan. Maybe his plan and my initial reaction to it ultimately will be proven wrong. Hindsight remains undefeated.
The Twins’ approach this offseason looks smart. Falvey/Levine read a strange free-agency market correctly and then bolstered their pitching staff with upgrades at bargain prices. Those flurry of moves revealed an organizational urgency that feels different.
The Twins advanced to the one-game wild card last season. The front office spent money to address holes in the roster. The team now looks stronger and ready to build upon last season.
That’s how this is supposed to work.
The Vikings find themselves in a unique position. Their window to contend should extend a few years based the age and status of their nucleus of key players. With a caveat, of course.
General Manager Rick Spielman needs a proven quarterback, and he’s apparently willing to put a sizable dent in Zygi Wilf’s bank account to sign one. NFL Network reported that the Vikings contacted Brees’ camp, which should’ve been Spielman’s first legal tampering phone call.
The Vikings also appear ready to pay Cousins an astronomic sum which has fueled consternation among some Vikings fans. If the Vikings can afford to sign Cousins and still have salary cap flexibility to retain their own core players due extensions, the investment makes sense.
The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling reported that the organization likely can accomplish both financially.
Even if courting Brees proves fruitless, it’s worth a shot. That’s all fans can ask of teams. Don’t be afraid to go for it.