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TwinsCentric: Morales signing signals shift in team's mindset

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: June 10, 2014 - 2:21 PM

The last time I can remember the Twins making a "win now" move was prior to the 2011 season, when they re-signed Carl Pavano and Jim Thome in an effort to recapture the magic that led to 94 wins and a playoff berth in the first season at Target Field.

You can argue that these weren't especially wise moves, but they were clearly aimed at a goal of short-term winning. Pavano, 35, was signed for two years and cost the Twins a potential draft pick. Thome, 40, was signed for one year.

Things obviously fell apart during that season, and in the years since, while the Twins have made a lot of moves -- some of them very good moves -- I don't think any could be described as aggressive "win-now" maneuvers.

Not until now.

Over the weekend, the Twins announced that they have signed Kendrys Morales for the remainder of the 2014 campaign, at a hefty prorated $12 million salary. That's a significant spend for a player whose sole purpose is to make this team better right now.

What prompted this uncharacteristic shift in approach? In part, it might be frustration. The Twins have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for their top prospects to progress through the minors and help propel the big-league club forward, only to be met with a seemingly endless string of setbacks.

Miguel Sano's elbow, Byron Buxton's wrist, Eddie Rosario's suspension… they have all pushed the arrivals of potential difference-makers backward, leaving the team in perpetual limbo.

And then there are the outside factors in play. You've got a manager and GM who are -- at least to some extent -- on the hot seat after three straight 90-loss seasons. You've got a ballpark with dwindling attendance numbers. And you've got a club with tons of extra money on hand after falling well short of its spending limit during the offseason.

On top of all that, the Twins are in last place but only five games out of first, and closer than that to wild-card position. So as Terry Ryan aptly put it when discussing the Morales signing, "Why not us?"

To be clear, Morales is not a slam-dunk signing nor a perfect fit. He hasn't played since September of 2013, and in the two seasons since his devastating leg injury with the Angels he has been a good but not spectacular hitter. He also has limited defensive versatility, so working him into the lineup around young guys who need to be playing, like Josmil Pinto and Oswaldo Arcia, will be a challenge.

But the bottom line is that Morales is a massive upgrade over the guy he's replacing on the roster (Jason Kubel), and he's a bat that you can immediately slot into the middle of the lineup. This isn't a move that suddenly turns the Twins into a World Series contender, but it does significantly boost their chances of hanging around .500 and remaining relevant late into the season.

Even more importantly, though, it indicates that the Twins are finally back in a mindset where they're focused on winning baseball games now, not next year or the year after. For fans who have endured some brutal results in recent years, that is a tremendously encouraging development.

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