The Twins are an organization that other teams model themselves after. In the last couple of years, we have seen several other teams starting to operate with a measure of fiscal responsibility. These teams understand the value of players with less than three yeas of major league service time. They understand the value of players within their arbitration years. They understand the relative value of free agents in terms of years and dollars. Basically players become free agents after six years of service time. Most of those players are 30-32 and are admittedly on their way down talent-wise, in most cases.
The Twins understand these things, and have a system that counts on the amateur draft and player development. I contend that the strength of this team is in players that either the team drafts and develops. They also acquire young players for older players who are beyond their prime or simply out-pricing themselves.
So, let's take a look at the Twins current roster and determine where this plan is at:
Starting Pitchers (5): Scott Baker (drafted by Twins), Francisco Liriano (acquired in trade when he was in Low A ball), Kevin Slowey (drafted by Twins), Nick Blackburn (drafted by Twins), Glen Perkins (drafted by Twins).
Relief Pitchers (7): Joe Nathan (acquired in trade when he was an unknown reliever), Matt Guerrier (claimed as a AAA player), Jesse Crain (drafted by Twins), Jose Mijares (signed by Twins when young), Luis Ayala (signed as veteran free agent), R.A. Dickey (signed as veteran free agent), Craig Breslow (claimed off waivers).
Catchers (2): Joe Mauer (drafted by Twins), Mike Redmond (veteran free agent)
Infielders (6): Justin Morneau (drafted by Twins), Matt Tolbert (drafted by Twins), Joe Crede (signed as veteran free agent), Nick Punto (acquired in trade when young big leaguer), Brendan Harris (acquired in trade), Brian Buscher (Minor League Rule 5 draft pick). You can also say that Alexi Casilla was acquired in a trade when he was in Low A ball.
Outfielders/DH (5): Michael Cuddyer (drafted by Twins), Denard Span (drafted by Twins), Jason Kubel (drafted by Twins), Delmon Young (acquired in trade), Carlos Gomez (acquired in trade).
So what do we learn:
Well, that young, talented pitching staff has been basically completely developed by the Twins. The key offensive cogs were all drafted and developed by the Twins. The guys in the bullpen that can be counted on were developed by the Twins. Joe Crede has been a positive signing to this point, and Bill Smith deserves credit for going toe-to-toe with Scott Boras. Joe Nathan is the one player that had previous big league experience that has panned out beyond expectations. The veteran free agents have been disappointing. Brendan Harris has been solid. And the two young guys that they acquired in trade? Well, maybe they should have been developed by the Twins organization and spent some more time in the minor leagues.
The moral of the story is that short-term and long-term success is completely dependent upon building from within. The Twins have certainly done that. Where have the mistakes been made? A couple of veteran relievers brought in have not performed. What would I do? I would let them go and bring up a couple of players drafted, signed, and developed by the Twins. Anthony Slama was drafted by the Twins in 2006. He is close. Anthony Swarzak was a 2nd round pick by the Twins in 2004 out of high school. He is on the cusp. Rob Delaney is a guy that the Twins signed as a free agent after he went undrafted in 2006 out of St. John's University. He is probably the most ready to help the Twins now.
The June draft is just weeks ahead of us. The Twins will select up to 51 players in a couple of days. At least a couple of them will develop into big league players. Last year's #1 pick, Aaron Hicks, is still working in Extended Spring Training. Many Twins fans are upset about this. But look back at which Twins players are most key to their success. They are players drafted and signed by the Twins. The organization must be doing something right. They must be making right decisions! Maybe Jim Rantz, and Mike Radcliff, and those in charge of drafting and player development should get some credit.
It is always so much fun to think about our favorite team making trades for players, or bringing in free agents. We are then disappointed when they don't. In the end, the right answer is sometimes right under your nose. I think the way that the Twins do things in terms of scouting and player development needs to be trusted.