Monday, June 27, 2016

Twins Need To Get Young Sooner, Not Later

The Minnesota Twins have now played 75 games in 2016, and they've won just 24 of them. Paul Molitor's club has the worst record in the major leagues, and Minnesota was the first team to reach the 50 loss plateau. After a season in which the Twins nearly made the playoffs, they're all but cooked by the end of June. It's time the organization makes a shift in its thought process.

Now in his second time around as general manager, Terry Ryan has made mediocrity a defining term in looking at his tenure. He's failed to ever fully commit to a rebuild, and an organization chock full of young prospects have yet to bear fruits at the highest level. While there's no doubt Ryan should be gone at season's end (and not given the good nature of doing so on his own accord), the problems shouldn't be further compounded this season; commit to the future.

A couple of weeks ago I touched on a handful of players the Twins need to trade. While there's a July 31st trade deadline approaching, Minnesota would be doing themselves a favor to make moves before then. Eduardo Nunez, Robbie Grossman, and Trevor Plouffe aren't going to raise whatever value they may currently have over the next month, and they're only holding the Twins back in the interim.

Right now, the best thing for a bad Twins club would be to open the floodgates and bring aboard the youth. Although waiting a month is far from a damaging situation, it's also wasted developmental time coming into the critical juncture that is 2017.

Eddie Rosario should be recall number one. Nobody was harder on him than I was, and the expectation that he would struggle in his sophomore big league season was very real. He swung far too freely and had an ugly plate approach. On top of all of that, he had an attitude that needed to be knocked down a notch. His leash was long, but eventually he found his way back to Triple-A. Since the demotion, he's proven he wants no business in staying there.

In his time with the Red Wings, Rosario has slashed .319/.342/.539 with 19 extra base hits (six of which have left the yard). He's struck out 23 times and has drawn six walks. His approach is never going to be one of patience, but he's made some minor tweaks, and the Twins have room.

How exactly do the Twins have room you ask? Well, the outfield is far from settled at this point. Waiver claim Robbie Grossman has really hit the skids of late. He's batting just .150 across his last 11 games, and despite an OBP north of .400, his average has dropped below .270. There's definitely reason to keep running him out there, but Minnesota's first goal should be to move him, and if not, he's more than adequate being a role player.

On the other hand, Byron Buxton, who's struggled still to hit big league pitching, may be worth of a few less starts per week. Rather than running Danny Santana out to center, Rosario could draw some of those starts, allowing Buxton to stay at the level he needs to figure out, without being given a full leash.

After Rosario, the next two biggest pieces wasting away on the farm come in the form of an infielder and a reliever. Jorge Polanco and J.T. Chargois absolutely belong up with the Twins. Polanco is coming up on a 2017 season in which he'll be out of options, and the Twins handling of Oswaldo Arcia doesn't spark any sense of trust for Polanco being dealt with in an ideal manner.

Polanco likely can't play short, and the Twins didn't exactly find out when presented with the opportunity that was Eduardo Escobar's DL stint. Brian Dozier is hitting like a mad man right now, so second remains out of the question. For Polanco, his playing time must come in the form of a trade involving either Plouffe and/or Nunez.

Neither Trevor Plouffe nor Eduardo Nunez will do anything but depreciate for the Twins. At this point in time, given the roster construction, moving one or both for the sake of opening up a roster spot remains of the highest value. Whatever return Minnesota is given will likely be low (even with Nunez's unexpected season), and shouldn't be a key piece in the decision making process.

For Chargois, he's been held down in favor of a guy like Buddy Boshers, or a DFA candidate in Kevin Jepsen. J.T. has dominated the AAA level, and despite an ugly MLB debut, should be inching his way towards the back end of the Twins bullpen. With Nick Burdi having spent virtually the whole year on the DL, and Glen Perkins facing an extremely up hill battle to resume his career (let alone close again), Chargois should be emerging as a 2017 closer.

Right now, Boshers has done about as well as the Twins could have asked. He's come out of indy ball and absolutely earned his opportunity. Expecting him to be a key piece in the Twins pen a year from now is foolhardy at best however. If you'd rather not send a bad message though, the smart move would be to DFA Jepsen, who has done nothing to earn his roster spot in 2016. A phantom injury could provide the Twins a look without moving on from the reliever acquired from the Rays a season ago, but Terry Ryan leaned too heavily on unrealistic expectations for Jepsen, and things finally broke.

Rounding out the necessary youth movement would be that of Jose Berrios. Since his demotion back to Triple-A, he's been anything but the dominating pitcher he was prior to his big league debut. His last outing was stellar however, and he's going to be a key component for the Twins going forward. It sounds like Minnesota may have takers on Ervin Santana, and they should continue to shop Ricky Nolasco (and really any starter that draws interest). When that spot opens up, it should be Berrios who hears his name called.

As things stand, the Twins are bad. They weren't expected to be in this position however, and have to find a way to make the most out of it. Giving run to guys that won't be key pieces of a team that needs to turn it around a year from now is not the way to do that. Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan need to create roster spots for cornerstones of the future, and that transition needs to happen sooner rather than later.

In free agency, Ryan has aimed for mediocrity. In his roster decisions, Ryan has aimed for mediocrity. In his rebuild, Ryan has aimed right down the middle, for mediocrity. It's time to realize that plan of action hasn't worked, and do something different.

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