One-sixth of the way through an MLB season is not a time for panic, but when a team is 10-17 after entering the year with legitimate hopes of contending for at least a wild card spot as the Twins are, it is definitely time for concern.
Plenty of things have gone wrong, including slow starts and subsequent injuries to Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton as well as the 80-game suspension for shortstop Jorge Polanco.
But if you want a blanket reason that vaults to No. 1 on the list of why the Twins have struggled, it’s this: Cumulatively, the significant players they added in the offseason have been bad. And even the ones who have performed decently have failed at the worst times.
The Twins’ five biggest offseason moves were as follows: signing pitchers Lance Lynn, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney, trading for pitcher Jake Odorizzi and signing first baseman/DH Logan Morrison. All five of those players make the top 10 list of team payroll.
Morrison has shown signs of life lately, including a two-run homer Thursday in Chicago, but overall he’s still hitting just .184 with a .605 OPS.
Lynn signed late (for $12 million) and has struggled mightily with his command. He’s given up 27 hits and 23 walks in just 23.2 innings spanning five starts. Not surprisingly, he’s 0-3 and the Twins have lost all five of his starts.
Fernando Rodney already has three blown saves as the closer and another game he lost after entering tied.
Odorizzi has been decent, but when handed a 5-1 lead against the dreadful White Sox on Thursday, he couldn’t hold it. Overall, he’s 2-2 with a 4.10 ERA but has yet to throw more than six innings in any of his seven starts.
Reed has been about as advertised, but when he’s been bad it’s been particularly damaging. That makes some since given how often he pitches in high-leverage situations, but he’s contributed mightily to the Twins’ slide by allowing walkoff home runs to Tampa and Chicago (last night) as well as coughing up a late lead against Toronto in a game the Twins lost in extra innings on the last home stand.
If you prefer advanced stats, per FanGraphs Reed (0.27) is the only one of the five new additions who is on the positive side of the ledger in Win Probability Added. Odorizzi is doing OK there (minus-0.10), but Rodney (minus-1.04), Lynn (minus-0.93) and Morrison (minus-0.54) are among the worst on the team.
If we switch to Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, the five players add up to minus-0.1. That is to say the five biggest offseason acquisitions for the Twins have contributed less to winning this season than replacement level players (essentially defined as a minor-league callup) would be expected to produce.
The “good” news for the Twins is that all five were acquired for a reason and particularly Lynn and Morrison should contribute at a much higher level in the final five-sixths of the season. The Twins have had five walk-off losses this year, including four in the last two weeks. Those sorts of dramatic losses are deflating but (usually) cyclical.
The Twins also have still only played two games against Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City — meaning they have 55 left (more than 40 percent of their remaining schedule) against three teams projected to be among the very worst in the majors this season.
Better production from key additions plus the eventual return of Buxton, Sano and Ervin Santana, could help the Twins reverse course in a hurry.
The bad news? The Twins flat-out look bad right now. They don’t look 2011 bad or even 2016 bad, but a team can only go so long before it is what it is. Right now the Twins are not a good team, and a big reason is the moves Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made in the offseason have not worked out.