Way back in February, on the first day of spring training, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli gathered his team and delivered a message that evoked memories of Brett Favre's "pieces are in place" sound bite.
"There's nothing our group does not have," Baldelli told reporters later that day. "We're missing nothing, so it's up to us now."
Where to even start?
That group is no longer a group fixated on the present. The Twins are back to peddling hope.
So long familiar faces. Hello, hot shot prospects.
Just wait until 2023. Or maybe 2024. With any luck.
Oh, the organization won't say that publicly. They're much smarter than that. They learned their lesson after riding the Buxton-Sano-Berrios hype train all the way through the minors.
But yes, the current predicament has a certain Buxton-Sano-Berrios 2.0 feel to it — if not in unfettered hype, then certainly in the hope of a grand payoff that gets epoxied to highly touted farm system.
The Derek Falvey-led front office failed to execute a full-scale roster detonation at Friday's trade deadline, though it's unclear if they tried hard but ultimately couldn't strike suitable deals to unload veterans.
Falvey framed the organization trading away its best hitter (Nelson Cruz) and best pitcher (Jose Berrios) as a necessary path to "retool" and "refresh" in response to this disastrous season.
This was a case of Messaging 101. Soft sell the idea that a major shakeup is needed and that the goal of being competitive hasn't changed, even though the way forward is now reliant on the rapid development of prospects unproven at the major league level.
"We recognize that we're trading away talent right now in a season where things have not gone our way," Falvey said.
Berrios represented the biggest subtraction, traded to Toronto for a pair of top-100 prospects. Once it became clear that Berrios was determined to hit the free-agent market after his contract expired next season, trading him was Falvey's best option. Clinging to false hope that he might change his mind this offseason would have been foolish.
Instant reaction around baseball was that the Twins fleeced the Blue Jays by securing a deal that included position player Austin Martin, a consensus top-20 prospect in MLB.
Good for Falvey to work the marketplace in his favor, but the sugar rush shouldn't distract from the reality that necessitated a quasi-fire sale. In other words, this doesn't feel like a time to be celebrating or boasting about nabbing coveted prospects from a team that is trying to contend.
Forgive me for having hype-and-hope fatigue.
Two things in sports serve as red meat for fans of losing operations: College recruits and professional prospects.
Tantalizing unknowns, a distraction from reality, the unwrapped present under a Christmas tree. Nobody ever envisions the worst-case scenario, right? Who looks at a present sitting there waiting to be opened and thinks, Geez, I bet this is going to be a $3 plastic kazoo?
Yes, the Twins have a crop of promising young talent both on the major league team and in their farm system, but nothing guarantees a high success rate in each of those cases. Back to that word again, hope. How quickly the Twins can contend in their division again hinges on the development of those prospects, particularly the pitchers.
This offseason might bring even more clarity to Falvey's vision. The organization has been unable to sign Buxton to a contract extension, and there were reports that the Twins shopped him in trade talks this week. Parting ways with Buxton could not be spun as a subtle tweak. The surest way to anger the fan base even more is to reach a stalemate over money.
And what happens to Josh Donaldson? Is he part of the plan?
Regardless of how Twins officials shape the narrative, this feels like a transition to something different. Actually, something familiar. Back to waiting on prospects and hoping that it pays off eventually.