Some truly bizarre events happened in this sports market over the past three weeks. They were more rare than a foreign film winning the Oscar for Best Picture.
The Twins outbid other teams to land a coveted free agent.
The Timberwolves pulled off a blockbuster trade in a deadline deal that NBA observers thought was dead.
The Twins traded one of their top prospects plus a draft pick to salvage a deal for a veteran starting pitcher in a win-now move.
The Timberwolves traded a former No. 1 overall pick who never fulfilled his potential while performing a roster housecleaning.
Shrewd. Aggressive. Unemotional.
That degree of wheeling and dealing demonstrates a new era of sports management from the two downtown neighbors. Wolves President Gersson Rosas and the Twins brain trust of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are operating from different perspectives — one rebuilding, one contending — but their roster maneuvering reveals a like-minded approach. They’re not afraid to be bold.
That’s all we really want from sports executives, right? A willingness to go for it. The courage to address a glaring problem by sacrificing something that feels familiar or safe. To provide a jolt when the situation demands it.
The organizations have played a game of pingpong in sending jolts lately. The Twins improved a team that won 101 games last season by signing 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract and then adding starter Kenta Maeda, which cost them top prospect Brusdar Graterol.
The Wolves landed their desired point guard D’Angelo Russell by hitting the daily double — unloading Andrew Wiggins in the process. Rosas executed an organizational reset by trading practically his entire roster to acquire better pieces to fit scheme and Karl-Anthony Towns’ strengths. The before-after photo almost seems fake with so much turnover.
The Wild joined the action Monday night when first-year GM Bill Guerin traded veteran Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh for a nice return that includes a first-round draft pick and defenseman prospect. The move suggests more trades are likely as Guerin attempts to retool a roster in need of more than tweaks.
None of those moves are guaranteed to work. They might look regrettable four years from now. But this isn’t four years from now. This is present, and the organizations weren’t content with sitting idle.
The “Falvine” duo and Rosas separated business from emotion, which isn’t always easy. Front offices often become attached to players because they either drafted them, developed them, or simply have a soft spot after getting to know them on a personal level.
Rosas talked glowingly about being able to connect with Wiggins on a deeper level as they got to know each other and share their experiences as fathers of young kids. There’s no doubt that relationship was meaningful to both men, but Rosas also watched Wiggins play for half a season and came to the same conclusion as most others: He needed to trade him. That he got it done, along with all the other moves, feels like a clear win for the Wolves.
The Twins’ actions are no less stunning. After failing to land a top free-agent pitcher this winter, which was frustrating on the heels of last season, they upgraded their lineup by committing big bucks to sign Donaldson, who had other options. Nothing cheap about that move.
Improving their rotation by adding Maeda was more costly because they had to give up Graterol, who hits triple digits on the radar gun. Some fans hate the move because Graterol represents the great unknown: What will he become?
That’s precisely the point. Nobody knows for sure. Not the Twins. Not the Dodgers. And at present, the Twins need reliable starting pitching more than a hard-throwing prospect in the bullpen who may or may not turn into a star.
Front offices can’t allow themselves to become paralyzed by the unknown. Sure, they must be mindful of the present and future, but too often they become fixated on five years down the road when immediate needs deserve more attention. Especially in situations when a team appears ready to contend.
If the Twins are in that position again this summer, Falvine should aggressively attempt to add a true ace, even if it requires parting with another top prospect or other assets. They already have shown a willingness to do so.
The past month has felt like a page-turner in that regard. Definitely not business as usual around here.