December 15, 2019: Inevitability

Some of my Chicago friends are telling they expect the Vikes to fade and the Bears sneak into their playoff spot. I just laugh and tell them that's probably exactly what will happen.

60 thoughts on “December 15, 2019: Inevitability”

        1. Several other reportedly available pitchers on big contracts fit that description. I’d say this development is good for the Twins twice over: establishing a very low floor for trades, and Cleveland starting to cash out on its current roster.

    1. Somehow, that means that Danny Santana is the current favorite to retrieve extra base hits from the fence for Texas. That's a really, really, really bad idea.

  1. I promised Runner daughter that if she sold my old home theater in a box that I'd kick in on ½ of a year subscription to Disney+ for her. I think we'll be binging The Mandalorian during the storm today.

      1. upgraded years ago; this was a cheap model I bought to stream audio from my PC, which I replaced with a soundbar -- it's been sitting in the "garage sale" pile in the basement for quite a while

  2. Get a puppy, she said. It'll be great, especially a golden retriever. It's not like she'll grab half of the empanadas you just made off the pan.

    1. Set to sign with a different NL West team. I wonder if he was even willing to sign with an AL team. Only $85 million. More than MLBTR predicted but not by much.

  3. I have to catch a flight to Omerha tomorrow afternoon - I'm assuming the toughest part will be the wintery drive to the airport. Flights to work always fly (maybe not on time), but the flights home from work are the riskier proposition (thanks Murphy).

  4. The Twins were more successful in the ALDS than they've been this offseason.

    I'm officially switching my hat from "optimist" to "skeptic." Their payroll is tiny. Their profits are huge. They've managed to lose one of the top 10 FA pitchers (according to Trade Rumors), and add nothing new. There is 0 reason they couldn't have signed Wheeler. There is 0 reason they couldn't have gone to 5 years for Bumgarner. Heck, there's no reason they couldn't have made a push for Cole or Strasburg, but I'm sure neither of those was even seriously considered. Neither of Wheeler or Bumgarner would have handcuffed them in the future. Not with the profits, short-term contracts, and prospects that they have.

    They've not been tied to any real trade chatter at this point, and we've not seen anything from the front office to suggest they're capable of a real trade for value.

    I've defended them, given them plenty of chances. For once there were actually free agent pitchers available. That rarely happens. They need pitching and have an open window... and decide to sit on their hands. This is a joke. Until they bring in some real talent from outside, I'm going to be less optimistic, and far more skeptical.

    1. I’m sympathetic to this frustration, Philos. I don’t know if “optimist” is how I’d describe my frame of mind entering the off-season, but I’m sliding more into the “skeptic” camp with each FA signing.

      The 2019 Twins were the best — at least, measured in terms of wins or (I think?) Pythag record — of my lifetime. I don’t expect them to exceed 100 wins again, but I do feel my expectations were set appropriately. Namely (and in order):

      - improve the rotation, particularly at the top
      - retain Castro or find a partner for Garver
      - sign or acquire a player with an above-average OBP & reputation for putting together good PA
      - improve the infield defense
      - get Buxton a proper backup
      - add a reliever or two

      This team has oodles of money to spend. One, we were told this ballpark of theirs would enable them to spend to contend. Two, we have previously been told payroll would be 50% of last season’s revenue. Three, the front office essentially vowed that acquiring “impact pitching” was their top priority, and this free agent class has been more bountiful than those of many recent years. I’m glad Odorizzi accepted a QO, and I’m even fine with bringing back Pineda — who I’m not really letting off the hook for derailing the rotation last season. But that’s not remotely sufficient if they want to be in serious position to win a pennant.

      The Pohlads are billionaires. Either they want to win and make money, or they merely want to make money. I’m pretty sure I know what they really want, and I’m pretty sure the truest baseball fan in that family was Eloise. I think this front office has done a remarkable job pulling the team out of the tailspin of the GM BS & TR Redux years. It’d be a damn shame to waste that effort settling for being the favorite (maybe) to win the AL Central & the right to be some team’s doormat to entering the ALCS. I’m tired of Twin Cities sportswriters carrying the water for the organization — other cold-weather cities, not to mention cities with much less to offer culturally than the Twin Cities do, have landed high-quality free agents.

      Nick Nelson, who I’m not lumping in with the crowd above, wrote this weekend:

      I believe the Twins are serious about doing everything within their power to strike a sensible deal with these players. And maybe, with the right guy, they'll go well beyond the point of rationality to do so. (One comment from Derek Falvey at the Winter Meetings I found interesting: "Sometimes you’re a little more risk-seeking, sometimes you’re a little more risk-averse ... But I think we try to evaluate each decision on its own merits.") Maybe in spite of that, it still won't be enough. That is the nature of free agency, which gets oversimplified by the subset of fans who view every free agency pursuit as the equivalent of an open auction, where teams are raising cards and bidding solely based on price.

      - from “Winter Meetings Bring a Dose of Cold Reality for Twins”

      I understand what Nick is saying, and I know things don’t work out simply because money is spent. Free agents have free agency. At the same time, if you’ve assembled the best Twins team in two generations, I want to see some sense of conviction and a spark of passion for filling the holes necessary to achieve something special in October. Sensible deals are fine if you’re a .500 team a couple years away from your core of prospects being MLB contributors. Shopping around for sensible deals for a team that just 100 wins is a bit like buying used or scratch & dent appliances for the gorgeous kitchen you’ve just spent three years remodeling.

      1. Maybe I'm being overly emotional (that is part of being a fan, after all), but I read Nelson's article as basically saying we can forget about winning a championship, because the Twins won't spend the money it takes to get top players and even if they did the top players won't come here anyway. That's a pretty depressing take. It's basically saying, "Hope you enjoyed last season, because that's as good as it's going to get."

        It was a good season, and I still feel better about the current front office and coaching staff than I did at the end of the Terry Ryan Era. If we're going to get a rerun of the first decade of the 2000s, that's still a lot better than the second decade (last year excepted). I'd just hoped the Twins would be willing to take the next step. And it's still possible that they will--the off-season isn't over yet--but I'm not seeing any indications that it's going to happen.

    2. Eh, get back to me if they haven't done anything by April.

      They've only missed out on one guy so far that I really wanted who I thought was "gettable" (no, Strasburg and Cole don't count). It sort of befuddles me how many people were really, REALLY in love with the idea of Bumgarner being in a Twins uniform for the next five years, and how this is the straw that seems to be breaking backs.

      Now, if they miss out on Ryu? That'll sting. If they don't bolster their mid-to-upper rotation by the beginning of the season? That'll irritate me plenty. If they go bargain basement to fill the corner infield hole? I'll be unhappy.

      But we're not there yet. I remain patient.

      1. Yeah, I am less a skeptic of this F.O. and more of a skeptic of this offseason. When our "window" is finally wide open, is when everyone decides to start throwing money and years around like Halloween candy. At least, after this spending spree, there is less chance of a work stoppage.

        I don't blame the F.O. on lack of signings, as winning any of those negotiations required a big overpay. I will also wait to see what happens over the next month or so. I don't believe those who accuse the Twins of purposely putting out the 2nd or 3rd best offer in order to look like they tried. I think they are willing to spend the money, just not spend the money stupidly.

        Also, I don't buy into the general argument that free agents don't want to sign in Minnesota. They sign here in other sports and markets like Detroit have had success. However, looking at individuals during this off season on a case by case basis:

        Cole and Strasburg were not going to sign with the Twins unless we far out bid the market. The midwest was not on their radar at all.

        MadBum has his property and horses in the Phoenix area. It was obvious he wanted to stay out west and in the NL.

        Wheeler wanted to stay in the NY/NJ general area.

        So basically, with the current market conditions and the individual situations, it is a bit hard for me to be angry with the club itself. I am frustrated with the situation. Still crossing my fingers on the trade market for now.

        1. I wouldn't say that it's a general argument that free agents don't want to sign in Minnesota, but there were the cases of Ohtani, Greinke, and others, so it's definitely not a non-factor.

        2. I object to the suggestion that something would be a "big overpay."

          I've broken down the numbers here before, and I can do so again. But the fact of the matter is that the Twins profits are staggering and their payroll, both now and in the future, is really small. The market price for free agent pitchers is what it is. It is certainly within the Twins' price range. None of those contracts would hamper the Twins in the future the way they are currently set up.

          Those facts all suggest that the Twins needed to pay for free agents, not overpay for them.

          1. You are seriously saying "none of those contracts would hamper the Twins in the future the way they are currently set up"? Ok, let's look at Cole and Strasburg. For the Twins to get either of those pitchers, we would have most likely had to out bid by a minimum of $2 million/ per year, or added another year on to the contract. That would definitely hamper our future. Would you have gone the full 5 years on MadBum and added on the extra $10 million over the life of the contract to pull him out of the NL? Would you have gone $125 million on Wheeler?

            1. Yes, I seriously believe that. Revenue in 2018 was $269 million. It will be higher for 2019 and 2020. If even half of revenue is spent, that's $130 million per year.

              Their guaranteed contracts for 2020 to 2024 are $33.2 million, $10.8, $12.25, $16, and $2.
              Projected full payroll without options is $82.6, $71.5, $91.1, $96, $118.8, and $123.7. The value in those later years is based on projected arbitration numbers, obviously, since their guaranteed contracts are so low. That means that, in reality, those numbers aren't nearly that high because they can lock in players, trade them, sub them out for younger guys without any consequence, etc.

              In short, the Twins have the utmost flexibility over the next 5 years and are nowhere near to half of their revenue.

              So, assuming you're right, at 324/9 years, +2 per year, Cole would be guaranteed $38 per year. If we added that to 2020 it would keep the Twins at $10 million under half of revenue. Lower in 2021. Likely lower for every year beyond too, when you factor in the flexibility of controlled players.

              And, considering they play in a publicly financed stadium, I think the idea of them spending only half of revenue on payroll is absurd.

              They have plenty of flexibility in their payroll and a single major free agent signing, even of Cole's size, would not hamper them in the future. It would only hamper them if they continue to put artificial restraints on how much payroll they're going to spend. And the only reason to put those restraints on is so the owners continue to make obscene amounts of money.

            2. The Twins have the following salaries committed (all data from Cot’s):

              Year $ (millions)
              2020 100.933
              2021 20.833
              2022 11.750
              2023 16.000
              2024 1.000

              Yes, some guys are in line for arb raises & extensions to buy out free agency. (I’d like them to extend Berríos, if possible). They are almost certain to let one of their current young core leave in free agency — I’d be fine letting Sanó leave, given Larnach & Kirilloff’s impending arrivals. Buxton seems like the kind of guy you let go year-to-year, or try to sign to an extension that properly weights his potential contributions against his injury history.

              Still, seems like they could handle $37m/year if they wanted to put an offer out there that was serious enough to command attention.

              1. Ok, so this is the point where we disagree. I think we are in agreement that their payroll should be more in the $130 Million to $150 million range (on average) over the next 4-5 years. I would rather not tie up a full 1/3 to 1/4th of payroll on one player over the next 7 to 9 years. I would rather they have the flexibility to sign others and to be able to react to the market and team needs on a year by year basis. If they sign either of those two contracts and the player is either oft injured or turns into a pumpkin after a few years you have handcuffed yourself for a long period of time. Hopefully, we can agree to disagree on those 2 contracts.

                If you truly believe MadBum has 5 quality years in the tank yet, (I don't), then I get your beef. We can afford $17 - $19 million/ year without it potentially screwing our future. However, it sounds like we made a quality 4 year offer on him and he had no desire to play in the midwest. Same with Wheeler.

                If they cannot get in on Ryu (remember there are lots of other teams in the marketplace), and if they cannot find a good trade partner to grab a potential #1 or #2 starter, then I think the direction they will go is to sign a mid-rotation starter or two with the idea of making a move at the trade deadline for a #1 or #2.

                This is still a team that won over 100 games last year with 1/2 of a year of Buxton. They are losing their two worst starting pitchers and we should be able to at least replace them. They lost their back up catcher and replaced him with a similar player. They lost their first baseman, who was so so, and hopefully are able to upgrade with a 1B or 3B signing. They should be able to win their division and my hope is that they either sign Ryu, or make a trade this off season or during next summer to have a more viable staff in the post season. I don't think Falvey and Levine signed their extensions with the understanding that the franchise would go cheap and sit on their hands, especially when they were well sought after by other teams the past few months. I think they have the ability and freedom to expand payroll to the levels listed above.

                1. "I would rather not tie up a full 1/3 to 1/4th of payroll on one player over the next 7 to 9 years. I would rather they have the flexibility to sign others and to be able to react to the market and team needs on a year by year basis."

                  To me, this is like saying "I'd rather they be able to go out and sign 3 middling pitchers in a few years than an ace now."

                  Flexibility only has value if it is used to address team needs. Right now, the team needs an ace. They have a lot of flexibility, and have for several seasons, and have built it into their future rosters already. Even if they would have signed Cole, they'd have plenty of flexibility in the future. There is a diminishing marginal utility to more flexibility.

                  1. How many of these pitchers would you consider an ace? Stras and Cole? I don't consider the others aces. Just decent pitchers.

                    1. I don't find getting bogged down in the terminology to be particularly useful. Maybe what I should have said was "the team needs one of the best starting pitchers available". Wheeler and Bumgarner would both have fit that. Are they aces? I don't know. But they both would have made our team significantly better, and we have the flexibility to sign them.

                      Now, if signing them were to actually prevent us from getting better, that would be a different story. But there is simply no indication that is the case. The Twins haven't been up to their 1/2 of revenue budget in a while, they have tons of future flexibility, they should be spending more than 1/2 of the revenue anyway, given the publicly financed stadium, etc.

                      I can understand a hypothetical argument for flexibility. But the facts that exist show they have as much flexibility as they could need, so that hypothetical just doesn't apply in the here and now.

                    2. Hypothetically it would restrict their freedom. Mauer tied up a bunch of money. Are we going to argue that it was better to not extend him because he was 24-28% of the payroll?

                    3. I don't find getting bogged down in the terminology to be particularly useful.

                      Ok. It was your terminology, but whatever.

                    4. Well yes, I wrote it. But I didn't mean it as a term of art. My point had less to do with designation of "ace" and more to do with "best available". Thus, I didn't want to get caught up in a discussion about that description.

      2. It'd be different to me if there were any indication, any reports, etc. that the Twins were close on any of these guys. That they were seriously engaged even. If I we could look only at the transactions and say "we must have just missed out." But that isn't what the reporting tells us. The reporting is basically telling us the Twins weren't anywhere close on any of these guys.

        And let's be clear - this was a 100 win team, in a division that is trading out Cleveland for Chicago. The will almost certainly make the playoffs next year. But this year showed clearly that they lack a playoff caliber rotation. Other teams don't fear the Twins' pitching, nor should they. They need starting pitching, both volume and quality. Starting pitching has been available through free agency. The Twins have lost pitching to free agency, not gained it. Most of the quality free agent pitchers on the market have been signed. There's no one left who will really address their needs.

        You don't need to wait for April for that to be a bad thing.

        1. They only need one more starter. I'd prefer it be Ryu (who I think will be better than Bumgarner, and also on a shorter contract), but I'd accept Keuchel or a good trade.

          1. Berrios, Odo, Pineda. They need 2 (I have seen zero indication that there is a long-term internal option, and with injuries, they really need another anyway). Plus Odo and Pineda (and really Berrios, the way he was 2nd half of the season) are #3 playoff rotation starters. They're looking for a #1 guy, at least.

            It won't take a good trade. It'll take an amazing trade of the type that don't usually happen.

              1. Can it happen? Sure. It's baseball. That's the nature of the game.

                But I'd feel a lot better with Houston's 2019 playoff rotation than the Twins', and you do too. I prefer the Twins to make an effort at signing a guy who can be a #1 starter than to not make an effort. To date, it does not look like they've made an effort.

                1. I think that if they get Ryu and Donaldson, this will be a wildly successful offseason. Do I think it'll happen? Maybe! Am I going to do a lot of stressing about it in the meantime? Sir, I am not.

                  For now, I'm being patient and seeing what happens.

                    1. The profiles of Donaldson that I’ve read make him seem like he’d wear thin on my patience if I had to work with him. At the same time, he seems to breathe some fire I haven’t seen from the Twins in quite a while. I don’t think leadership is just the loudest, most headline-hungry guy in the room, but I’m also of the mind that this team could use somebody whose competitive attitude comes with a healthy chip on his shoulder and only a couple more chances for a ring. That seems to describe a baseball rat like Donaldson.

                    2. I like Donaldson. Not sure if we should give him 4 or more years, but I like him. The problem I have with our current line up, is I don't have a lot of faith in most of them taking quality at bats against elite pitching.
                      Polanco - maybe
                      Sano - scares me
                      Rosarios - yikes
                      Garver - maybe
                      Arraez - small sample size, but maybe
                      Cruz - yes
                      Kepler - maybe
                      Gonzo - maybe

                      Some of these guys are young and still figuring it out, but I would think Donaldson would be a solid addition to our line up and infield defense. I do agree he may not fit the clubhouse, but who knows?

                    3. Gonzalez had a pretty famous playoff homer when he was with the Astros. Sano hit that moonshot off of Ottavino who was elite last year. Tom Lawless hit that homer in 1987.

                      I think you get guys who are good and hope they are still good in a small-sample size hell of the playoffs.

                2. To date, it does not look like they've made an effort.

                  That's my biggest problem with this off-season. Now, I'm not an insider or anything--all I have to go by is what I read. But after proclaiming that their top priority was acquiring "impact pitching", they don't seem to have even been in the hunt for anybody. Again, something could still happen by trade, and sometimes trades happen all of a sudden. But as far as I can tell, they really haven't come close to acquiring any impact pitching so far.

                  1. I believe they made an effort on Wheeler and Bumgarner. The price was too steep for what they (and a dozen other suitors) were willing to pay. I believe they kicked the tires on Cole and Strasburg and the demands of offers extending them both to their age 38 seasons scared them away (and a dozen other suitors). You are right that it sounds like they did not come close to acquiring any impact pitching (yet). Doesn't mean they haven't tried.

                    1. If you're trying, but you're not coming anywhere close to what it would take to succeed, does that really count as "trying"? I don't know. But again, it's still possible something will happen.

                    2. Yeah, a mid market team that just won 101 games is not trying. They extended Falvey and Levine to sit back and do nothing. They got bid out by 4 teams who the 4 pitchers actually wanted to play for and all 4 pretty much had no desire to play in the midwest. Once again, Stras and Cole were not coming to Minnesota. If you feel that we had a chance to get either, I have some swamp land in Florida for you. Wheeler was over priced. MadBum is the next Barry Zito. If we do nothing by the beginning of Spring Training, I will grab my pitchfork too. For now, I will be patient.

                    3. "Trying", in this context, means trying to take the next step. As I said above, the Twins are clearly in a better place now than they were at the end of the Terry Ryan Era. If this is as good as it gets, well, that's still a lot better than where we've been in recent years.

                      Nick Nelson's article, which I take you would agree with, basically says it's not realistic to think the Twins will take the next step, because they're not going to pay for the top players and the top players wouldn't come to Minnesota anyway. And maybe that's right. Maybe we should be happy to be where we are and not expect any more. But the front office had given us reason to think that they would be willing to take the next step, and I don't think it's unreasonable to be disappointed that so far there are no signs that they will.

                      As you say, and as I've said, there's still a chance that they'll do something. Just because we're not hearing about anything being imminent doesn't mean that it won't happen--sometimes these things come out of nowhere. I guess we'll see.

  5. Sheesh, this is an awful lot of baseball discussion going on here, guys. Not sure I'm ready for this in mid-December...

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