Thursday, December 10, 2015

Twins Staring Through An Open Window

Welcome to the offseason, and the frustrations of watching Terry Ryan sit idly by as his competition surrounds him. In 2015, the Minnesota Twins compiled an 83-79 record finishing second in the AL Central. They were one of baseball's biggest surprises, but not to all. No, to the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, each of the three teams were in similar positions to capitalize upon rebuilding success. The issue is, one still doesn't seem to know it.

Last year, both the Astros and Cubs made it to the playoffs. In Joe Maddon's first year as Cubs skipper, he very nearly took a team led by Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, and Jake Arrieta to the playoffs. With his youth all over the field, it was the young guys carrying the offensive load as Arrieta mowed down hitters from the mound.

For the Astros, the narrative was similar. An early callup and spectacular play from rookie Carlos Correa netted him the AL Rookie of the Year. Although contributions weren't made from the same guys all year, Dallas Keuchel was there on the mound to be the workhorse. Throw in George Springer, Jose Altuve, and a trade for Carlos Gomez, and it's easy to see why the Astros were there at the end.

Neither of them left the season satisfied however.

Houston made sure to make relief pitching a priority and resigned left-hander Tony Sipp. Owning a 1.99 ERA and 10.3 K/9 for them a season ago, Houston realized he will be integral in their 2016 success. The Cubs made a huge splash in signing Ben Zobrist, reuniting him with Maddon. They also dealt Starlin Castro for relief help, and cleared up space for Javier Baez. Knowing pitching is a must, they brought on John Lackey to a rotation already headlined by Arrieta and Jon Lester.

Assuming that the Minnesota Twins see the similarities between themselves and the two aforementioned ball clubs, it would only stand to reason they'd be pushing the needle as well. While Terry Ryan has talked of the good days he's had discussion wise this offseason and at the winter meetings, here's what the Twins have accomplished: NOTHING.

That's right, despite nearly making it to the playoffs behind one of the worst bullpens in baseball, Minnesota has signed no relief help. Although Trevor Plouffe is no doubt a bigger asset to the Twins than any other team he'd be dealt to, Minnesota appears to be content pushing Miguel Sano to the outfield, and making it work (it could, see here). To summarize the situation in terms of roster decisions, Minnesota last fire throwing relief prospect Zack Jones in the Rule 5 draft while protecting multiple players yet to pitch above Low-A and unlikely to make it through a year at the big league level (or even be selected).

As the Winter Meetings draw to a close, Terry Ryan has made sure to comment how many guys he's been close on. We've heard the Twins have finished runner up in some trade discussions as well as free agent signings, but it all adds up to missing the point.

A season ago, the Twins showed they could compete before the talented pool of youth had overflowed to the big league level. Much like the decision making process with Jose Berrios a season ago, Ryan and the Twins seemed determined to wait almost until their hand is forced.

With the ability to promote from within, and supplement with some top tier talent outside, the Twins should field a 2016 roster capable of pushing the Royals in the AL Central. Bringing back retreads like Neal Cotts, or targeting near 40 year olds like Matt Thornton to fix the biggest problem area isn't going to accomplish that however.

The Winter Meetings are hardly the be-all-end-all for the Twins or baseball when it comes to offseason transactions. However, if the Twins, and Terry Ryan's handling of the past week is any indication, there could be some frustratingly long processes to play out in Minnesota's near future. When winning is in front of you, it's on you to take hold of it. Standing idly by and letting it come to you is generally not the proposition that culminates in a ring, or anything close.

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