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Continued: Another long summer, Part 1: 2014 not looking much better for Twins

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 26, 2013 - 6:03 AM

Tampa Bay is the best example of that, having collected a decade’s worth of high draft picks such as Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Delmon Young, but finding it hard to gain any traction in the majors. Not until Evan Longoria arrived in 2008, and Young was dealt to the Twins for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, did Tampa Bay become anything but a cellar dweller.

Similarly, the Royals began moving their best prospects to the majors three years ago, but only now have they reached .500. And even the Twins of the past decade, who won six division titles in nine years, needed a couple of seasons to develop.

And that’s the biggest reason the Twins’ 2014 record might not be much better than the three seasons before it. Even in the best of circumstances, Ryan cautions, roster-building is a challenge “that’s going to have a certain number of setbacks, a certain number of misfires, because you’re dealing with people, with kids,” he said. “You never know how they’ll respond.”

That could have served as the Twins’ slogan in 2013. Arcia once looked like a Rookie of the Year candidate, then got so tangled in a slump that he was sent back to Class AAA Rochester in July. Hicks might have been the Twins’ best player for much of spring training, then was entirely overwhelmed at the plate when the season began; his 2013 was such a setback, the center fielder will likely open next year in Rochester. Yet Ryan Pressly made the same Class AA-to-the-majors jump as Hicks, and thrived in the bullpen.

With that sort of unpredictability, it’s no wonder that Ryan chose not to jettison his veterans, in the manner that Kansas City and Houston have in recent years, and commit completely to a youth movement. That’s a delicate balance to manage, even when you’re armed, as Ryan is now, with one of the most burgeoning farm systems in the game. For one thing, none of his best prospects — third baseman Miguel Sano, outfielder Byron Buxton, second baseman Eddie Rosario — has even reached Rochester yet, and Hicks was a useful reminder of the danger of giving in to temptation and rushing a player.

And while he waits, Ryan had hoped to keep the Twins competitive, even contending if things had gone perfectly, as he transitions to the next generation of players.

Didn’t work. Morneau’s on-base and slugging percentage (OPS) was the second-lowest of his career, a painful knee basically halved Willingham’s production, and Ryan Doumit’s extra-base pop declined noticeably. Morneau was moved in a trade (as was Jamey Carroll), but Willingham, who turns 35 before Opening Day, and Doumit, who will be 33, remain. So does Joe Mauer, who was enjoying a strong season as a 30-year-old until a concussion intervened; he’s under contract at $23 million per year through 2018.

Not that money should be an issue. The Twins spent roughly $80 million on players this year (counting savings through trades), or more than $30 million less than in 2011. And baseball’s new national TV contracts with Fox, Turner and ESPN go into effect next year, doubling each team’s share to more than $50 million, according to reports.

Trouble is, there are fewer impact players than ever to spend it on. MLB teams have made it a habit in recent years of signing their own players to long-term deals that keep them from reaching free agency in their prime. This year’s crop of free agents include one player, Cano, almost certain to receive a deal larger than Mauer’s $184 million; a handful of good-but-not-great pitchers; and plenty of guys in their 30s, well past their best seasons. Ryan figures to do some shopping, but he is unlikely to land a star.

That’s why the Twins figure to keep preaching patience, even when the fan base wants DEFCON 1 urgency. Gardenhire, for one, has seen it work before — given time. The team he inherited from Tom Kelly in 2002 had largely risen to the majors as a group in 1999 and 2000, losing 190 games along the way.

“That group was a very confident group. They had come up together, won in the minor leagues together, and they were hungry, really hungry,” Gardenhire said of the Torii Hunter/Jacque Jones/A.J. Pierzynski/Corey Koskie/Cristian Guzman/Doug Mientkiewicz nucleus. “Right now, we have a mixture of kids and five-year free-agent guys here. And they haven’t really played a long time together, so it’s different.”

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New England 14 FINAL
Kansas City 41
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Rangers 6
Toronto 0 FINAL
Detroit 3
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Nashville 0
Florida 4 FINAL
Dallas 5
Winnipeg 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arizona 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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