Enjoy this day, Twins fans. Enjoy this spring.
Your team, your front office, is stripping the bones of a low-revenue franchise. For a moment, you get to be the New Hope (Minn.) Yankees.
The once-almost-contracted-if-you-want-to-believe-that-story Minnesota Twins traded for a quality starting pitcher that the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t want to afford, then signed a power hitter that the Rays had already cut loose.
Now we know why Tampa Bay shortened its name from Devil Rays. They couldn’t afford the extra ink on their logos.
Suddenly, the Twins are to the Rays as the New York (N.Y.) Yankees once were to the Twins. Well-fed scavengers.
Last week, the Twins traded their fourth-best shortstop prospect, Jermaine Palacios, for Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Palacios is a good prospect, but the Twins’ quality depth at shortstop — including last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Royce Lewis — enabled them to trade minor league quality for big-league quality.
Sunday, they agreed to terms with first baseman/designated hitter Logan Morrison, who hit 38 home runs last year for the Rays.
Without spending the kind of money that top free-agent starters command, the kind of money that can hamstring a franchise for years, the Twins’ braintrust has deepened its rotation and bullpen and built a lineup that won’t require the kind of once-in-a-career surges so many of their players produced last year to look scary. Now, the lineup isn’t dependent on Miguel Sano proving he’s ready to accept the responsibilities of stardom.
Morrison has produced only one big year in the big leagues, but it was impressive. Last year his .868 OPS (on base-plus-slugging percentage) would have ranked first among Twins regulars. Miguel Sano led the Twins at .859, Brian Dozier's was .856.
Clubhouse favorite Robbie Grossman earned playing time last year because of his on-base percentage, but his overall slugging percentage was .380, and his slugging percentage in the second half was .368. He’s worth having on the bench but shouldn’t be an everyday player on a contender.
And now he’s not.
If Brian Dozier continues to insist on leading off, here’s a prospective right-left-right-style lineup for the Twins: Dozier 2b; Joe Mauer 1b; Byron Buxton CF; Eddie Rosario LF; Sano 3b; Max Kepler RF; Jorge Polanco SS; Morrison DH; Jason Castro/Mitch Garver C.
That’s not meant to be a definitive lineup. Maybe Sano bats cleanup, maybe Morrison bats fifth or sixth. But it’s instructive that the Twins could build a lineup in which a guy who hit 38 home runs last year could conceivably bat as low as eighth.
Morrison’s addition could give the Twins the kind of lineup depth that frazzles starting pitchers and damages middle relievers.
He’ll sign a one-year contract with a vesting option for another season. He could be Mauer’s replacement next season. He provides insurance against Mauer getting injured this season, and could replace Sano’s power if Sano is suspended by Major League Baseball for allegedly assaulting a woman.
Many of the Twins’ moves this winter previously fell into the category of “Not bad, but is that all you’ve got?’’ Their previous moves were logical, reasonable and cautious.
The additions of Odorizzi and Morrison speak to a more aggressive mindset than had previously been demonstrated.
Three theoretically hyperexpensive starting pitchers remain on the market — Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. I’ve thought all winter that Cobb was the most logical fit for the Twins. He’s another former Ray who would make the Twins dangerous.
Even if the Twins head North with their current roster, they will have strengthened a good, young team by raiding a franchise they once resembled.
And raiding beats rebuilding.