Reusse: Twins and timid intersect too often

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2013 - 2:23 PM

When a bold, creative and, yes, expensive move is needed, the team finds a way to play it safe.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is a righthanded pitcher and Cuban defector. He’s 26 and eligible to sign with a major league team. He’s 6-3, lean, with a 92-94 miles-per-hour fastball and off-speed pitches that include a forkball.

The expectation is that he will receive a contract of at least four years and for $40 million-plus. There are a handful of teams in pursuit of Gonzalez, including the Oakland A’s, occupants of the most miserable, low-revenue stadium in baseball.

The Twins? They checked out Gonzalez. Too rich for their thin blood.

The other recent Cuban defector is outfielder Dariel Alvarez, 24. The Twins had early interest, but apparently have decided he will be too expensive.

Jen-Ho Tseng is a righthanded pitcher from Taiwan. The Twins were linked to the 18-year-old earlier this summer, but it now appears the Chicago Cubs will get Tseng.

Gonzalez and Alvarez are not covered by the recent rules for signing international players because they are older than 23. Tseng is subject to the signing pools for each team.

The Twins big “get’’ in the international signing sweepstakes to this point has been Lewin Diaz, a strapping 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic, with power potential.

Gonzalez could go into in a team’s rotation almost immediately. Alvarez could be playing in a big-league outfield next season. Tseng could move quickly through an organization with a great need for starting pitching.

All of them are bit too rich for the Twins, or require a bit too much creativity.

This is the ballclub that says, “What if we spend that money on Gonzalez and he’s not a top-of-the-rotation guy?’’ This is not the ballclub that says, “Here’s a starting pitcher with a chance to be a winner; let’s do what it takes to get him.’’

Somewhere on a wall at Target Field, hidden away from public view, there has to be a sign that reads: “Never think big. Always think down a level or two.’’

Dave St. Peter, the Twins’ president, said last weekend in a radio interview that the owners, the Pohlad family, were willing to spend more on payroll in 2013 than the $80 million on which the team is operating.

General Manager Terry Ryan made the decision to stop there, not wanting to use tens of millions chasing starting pitchers such as Edwin Jackson.

This was a good decision. Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez weren’t going to pitch here, with a non-contender, and Jackson and the other free-agent starters from last winter have flopped.

But St. Peter’s quote does leave the question:

Those millions Ryan left on the table last winter … why not spend them now? Go hard for Gonzalez; if you like Alvarez, get him; don’t let Theo Epstein and the Cubs snatch Tseng.

Bill Smith was running the operation when an age controversy caused the price to drop on Miguel Sano. The Twins gave him $3.2 million and wound up with a kid who has a chance to be the next Yoenis Cespedes when it comes to power.

Smith more than offset that display of acumen by signing off on the idea that it was wise to trade J.J. Hardy for nothing and replace him with Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka at shortstop.

As a Twins season-ticket holder, I would almost take that trade-off — blundering in an attempt at creativity — rather than always being stuck in the mode, “That’s a chance we don’t want to take … too pricey.’’

The Wild can go the next five years without getting out of the first round of the playoffs and no one will ever say it’s because owner Craig Leipold didn’t try, because he signed Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf can complete his coup of getting a billion-dollar stadium while spending none of his own money, and we’ll always be OK with it because he spent large to bring in Jared Allen and Brett Favre.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has operated a hapless organization, but not because he’s cheap; he gave Kevin Garnett that record-breaking contract, remember?

As for the Twins, just once it would be soothing to hear, “The competition for Miguel Gonzalez was stout, but the Twins got him. The Twins went outside the roster and went big.’’

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500

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