It has been an interesting week to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins. If you are involved in social networking sites such as Twitter (follow me at @sethtweets) or Facebook, the week has been equal parts exciting and frustrating. In this age of instant information availability, we have heard this week that the Twins have reached a preliminary agreement with Joe Mauer on a ten year contract, and that Orlando Hudson has chosen the Twins as his team of choice in 2010 over both Washington and Cleveland.
Both of those bits of information are very exciting for Twins fans, and yet, as this is being typed, neither deal has been finalized. In fact, a Mauer contract could take a week, two weeks, a month or more to happen, if it indeed does happen. Hudson has supposedly agreed to play for the Twins in 2010, but a deal could happen quickly, or take a few days. That is the frustrating part of hearing these reports so early in the process.
I think most Twins fans would (maybe should) agree that both of these transactions are imminent, or at the very least, will likely happen before spring training starts. So, let’s take a look at the global picture that has been the offseason of the Minnesota Twins. What has happened?
- Shortly after the World Series, the Twins acquired shortstop JJ Hardy for outfielder Carlos Gomez.
- The Twins released Bobby Keppel and upgraded to Clay Condrey.
- The Twins put an intimidating pinch-hitting bat on their bench with the addition of DH/PH Jim Thome.
- The Twins will fill their need for a Number Two hitter with the addition of Orlando Hudson.
- The Twins will most likely agree to a long-term contract extension with Joe Mauer.
- The Twins have increased their payroll from less than $70 million in 2009 to potentially more than $95 million in 2010.
The Twins front office and ownership promised that if they got a new stadium and new revenue streams presented themselves, the payroll would increase. In April, the Twins will move into Target Field with a team that is the clear-cut favorite in the American League Central with a significant increase in payroll. The team was fifth in the American League in runs scored in 2009, and improved in three positions with the bat. The pitching staff retained its top four starters (Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, Pavano), and they have depth for the fifth spot (or in case of injury) in Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Jeff Manship and Anthony Swarzak. The bullpen depth is tremendous and there are high hopes for the return of Pat Neshek.
This is not a perfect team, but not one team in baseball is, not even that vaunted Yankees roster. Pitching depth is vital because rarely will a team go through a season with just five or six starters. The bullpen depth will be needed throughout a 162 game season. Orlando Hudson helps the Twins both at 2B and batting second, but he is not the same player he was even two years ago, offensively or defensively. Nick Punto moves from 2B to 3B, where he is very good defensively and does a great job of taking pitches and getting on base.
Payroll does not guarantee anything during a 162 game season, and it means even less when it comes to October and November baseball. But the Twins have kept their promise to increase payroll as revenues increase. The Twins can no longer be called “cheap” by anyone. Fans cannot accuse the front office of “only trying to win division titles” even though that gets teams to the playoffs which is what it really takes to win a World Series championship since the playoffs are a crap shoot. Twins fans cannot accuse the organization of not “going for it.” Most important though, the Twins front office has not made any moves just to appease the fan base. They have made moves that are smart baseball moves. They have not spent just to spend. That leads to success in both the short-term and the long-term. (not to even mention the international signings of Miguel Sano and Max Kepler, their willingness to go over slot for Kyle Gibson, and an improving farm system)
The Twins front office deserves to be recognized for what could be the best offseason in baseball this year. At this point, it is up to the players. And Twins fans should be excited, thrilled.
Then again, I am certain that fans will find something to complain about throughout the season. That’s… what we do, right?