When it comes to a strategy and payroll for 2019, the Twins are basically trying what they did last year, minus Joe Mauer’s $23 million, and hoping for better results.
The idea is both sound and questionable at the same time.
The team’s payroll figures to swell in coming years if all the core players it desperately wants to become stars actually achieve that status.
Such players as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Jose Berrios — to name some of the most prominent and potentially expensive ones — are making about $13 million combined this season. Many of those players will top that mark individually on a yearly basis once they reach free agency.
To maintain future flexibility — which the Twins have a crazy amount of, considering none of their veteran players have guaranteed contracts in 2020 or beyond — and to accommodate for higher future spending on those core players, the Twins aren’t locking themselves into high-priced long-term free agents this offseason.
The upside and downside of that thinking showed up last year, when Derek Falvey and Thad Levine signed several seemingly useful free agents on one-year deals — only to see them collectively fall flat. The good news was that they weren’t on the hook for guys like Lance Lynn or Logan Morrison beyond 2018; the bad news was having those guys on short-term deals might have contributed to their poor performances.
The Twins are hoping that guys like Nelson Cruz and Jonathan Schoop were wiser investments who will pay dividends, while banking on the development of Buxton, Sano and Co. — and reserving the right to add players midyear if the team takes off in the right direction or deal them away if things go bust.
I can’t say I blame Falvey and Levine for the strategy, nor would I blame a Twins fan who wasn’t banging on the door of the ticket office after examining the plan.
• An attempt to avoid all contact with the utterly useless Pro Bowl almost succeeded Sunday, only to be suckered in by an ESPN.com video headline indicating Vikings WR Adam Thielen threw an interception.
I had to click, and sure enough there was Thielen thrown a hideous pass on a gadget play that either of two opposing defenders could have intercepted. Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will probably want to make a mental note in case he had a similar play in mind (unless, of course, Thielen was using the all-star exhibition to sandbag and decoy future opponents).
• A week after questionable officiating sunk the Saints in the NFC title game, there is reportedly concern among some in the NFL that four of the officials who worked the game are from Southern California.
There’s not been a suggestion that it influenced the critical pass interference non-call that will forever remain a sore subject in New Orleans, but there is some concern over the perception of conflict of interest.
The NFL really needs the Super Bowl to happen so everyone can stop talking about that game.
• Per ESPN, Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of the final game of Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 51-game point streak. He had 61 goals and 92 assists during that stretch, a three-points-per-game pace that, to anyone who watches hockey now, is almost unfathomable.