They didn’t make any splashy moves over the winter.
They didn’t make any promising moves this spring.
They have sacrificed the remainder of another Twins summer on the altar of potential.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have spent their first season in charge of the Twins doing all they can to frustrate fans who want to see either trades or urgency.
They’ve worried those who wanted to see Brian Dozier and Ervin Santana dealt at the high-water mark of their perceived value.
They’ve angered those who wanted to see this year’s team given its best chance to compete for the playoffs by keeping an All-Star closer and trading for help.
And now that they feel besieged like residents of a “Game of Thrones” castle, this needs to be said:
They have operated rationally.
We won’t know for years whether the prospects they received in exchange for Jaime Garcia and Brandon Kintzler are more like Johan Santana or Alex Meyer.
But Falvey and Levine maintained perspective during a season that threatened to fool them as much as it did the public and players.
Dozier said the Twins should be adding, not subtracting.
That’s faulty math.
Entering Tuesday’s game in San Diego, the Twins were 50-53 despite having received All-Star-caliber efforts from Kintzler, Ervin Santana and Miguel Sano and having remained relatively healthy.
Their run differential, an objective measure of a team’s true capabilities, was minus-72, the 24th-best in baseball.
Their team ERA ranked 26th, down there with franchises that are about to fire everyone and start over.
You can make the case that the 2017 Twins have overachieved, given their performance last year. You can argue that they’re promising, and that with luck they could find a way to sneak into the second wild-card spot this season.
But you can’t make a rational case that this is a good team. Good teams don’t call 44-year-old Bartolo Colon out of retirement and find that he’s one of their best starters.
It’s hard to make a statistical case that this is even an average team right now.
Falvey and Levine are in Minnesota because their predecessors failed to acquire and develop quality pitching. So they’re trying to acquire and develop quality pitching.
The first smart sentence I ever heard from a baseball executive came from Andy MacPhail, who said that if you want to build a good five-man rotation you’d better have 10 pitching prospects you liked.
These days, with the prevalence of pitching injuries, you may need 20.
So why haven’t they traded Santana and Dozier to increase their stockpile of young arms?
Because they need to establish that they will seek equitable value in every deal.
They could have traded Dozier this winter for pitching prospect Jose De Leon. The Dodgers made him sound like Pedro Martinez. He’ll turn 25 next week. His ERA at Class AAA this season: 6.75. His ERA in the big leagues this season: 10.13.
They could trade Santana at any time, but if they don’t get major league ready pitchers in return, they’d be dooming all of next season. Santana is their ace. He’ll make $13.5 million next year. He’s a bargain, and the Twins have an option to keep him in 2019.
I understand the frustration of fans, especially ticket-buyers. They’ve invested time and possibly a lot of money in this year’s team. But selling out to pump up a mediocre squad for the long shot of winning the second wild card and the longer shot of making a worthwhile playoff run would be foolish.
When the Twins were competitive, Falvey and Levine traded for Garcia. When the team faltered, they traded him and Kintzler. They appear to have done well flipping Garcia. Now they should trade Matt Belisle and other spare parts in August, knowing they may need 20 good prospects to fill out a future rotation.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org