A summer of record bombas and 101 wins reinvigorated the interest of a sports market once beaten to a pulp by bad baseball. We care again. We’re invested now.
If the Twins stood pat in the offseason during their years of irrelevance and did nothing to upgrade their on-field product, the reaction was a collective yawn. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Things changed this past summer. The same playbook doesn’t apply anymore. Inability or unwillingness to make a splash won’t be greeted by a yawn.
The Twins front office returned from the winter meetings Thursday without fixing a glaring roster flaw. The Twins still lack “impact pitching,” as baseball boss Derek Falvey describes it.
That development has triggered a mixture of panic, anger and resignation within the fan base. Can’t blame them, though the offseason isn’t over, so the verdict can’t be written yet.
Attractive free agents remain available, giving the Twins time and options to make that splash before leaving for Fort Myers. But this is where the organization needs to change the narrative about being cheap. Whether the front office believes that label is fair doesn’t matter. That is their narrative among the masses.
Here is their chance to alter it. Make the kind of signing or bold trade that causes the rest of baseball to take notice. Be aggressive. Prove that the organization is all-in in building upon a division-winning roster.
Teams don’t win 100-plus games by fluke. The window for contending is now. General Manager Thad Levine admitted as much after the season by saying the organization is “feeling a breeze.” The Twins have a chance to throw the window open by improving the rotation.
Keeping Jake Odorizzi was a good start, and re-signing Michael Pineda was smart, even after he sabotaged the team’s postseason hopes by failing a drug test.
Jose Berrios, Odorizzi and Pineda form a solid 2-4 slots in the rotation. The priority this offseason is to add a No. 1-type starter who brings a résumé that makes the Twins a more credible threat in the postseason.
Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu remain the top free agents available. The Twins also could look to trade for an established starter, which would require parting with current players on the roster (Eddie Rosario makes the most sense) and/or coveted prospects. If the window for contending is now, cutting ties with a top prospect is the price of business — even Royce Lewis if that helped land a standout starter.
Every avenue should be open. Bolstering their rotation takes precedence over everything else. One idea floated during winter meetings focused on strengthening the lineup if pitching upgrades don’t materialize. Adding more pop sounds lovely, but that should be in addition to, not instead of. A person doesn’t get Botox to fix a broken ankle.
Risk is always a factor when weighing high-stakes personnel decisions. Whether it’s money, injury concerns, age or the fear that a jettisoned prospect will blossom into a star with another organization. But there’s a difference between being reckless and aggressive. Teams can talk themselves in circles worrying about worst-case scenarios.
Is Bumgarner worth $100 million? Sure, if that’s what it takes. There is no salary cap in baseball, so spending limits are self-imposed.
Nothing guarantees that moves will work out as hoped. Injuries happen. Players occasionally underperform. But teams can’t allow themselves to be paralyzed by the unknown.
In 2009, the Vikings pushed all their chips in by signing Brett Favre. That move didn’t result in a Super Bowl appearance, but nobody faults their aggressiveness in trying to win a championship.
Wild owner Craig Leipold set off July 4th fireworks in 2012 by committing $196 million to free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The Wild hasn’t come close to winning a championship since their arrival, but the gamble was worth taking.
The Jimmy Butler trade turned into a fiasco for the Timberwolves, but the initial reviews were largely favorable.
Moves of that magnitude bring risk, but that’s the price of being a contender, or trying to elevate to that status. The Twins are finally relevant again. They have created organizational momentum on and off the field. Their window is open, breeze blowing. To do nothing substantial this winter would be self-defeating.