Monday, July 17, 2017

Deadline Comes As Twins Time Begins

It's July, so there's nothing that will be asked more often over the next couple of weeks than whether or not competing teams should buy or sell. Maybe surprisingly to some, the Minnesota Twins find themselves in the thick of that discussion. What's important to take note of, is that the Twins time is now.

There's no way to get around 2016 being a complete disaster for the hometown nine. Minnesota lost 103 games en route to a franchise worst season. That club however, was coming off of an 83 win season in 2015, and highlighted the volatility of youth. In 2017, we're seeing that notion continue. As the club turns over to being one punctuated by the likes of Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, and Byron Buxton, growing pains are to be expected. Whether or not the expectations were a winning team in 2017, the reality was that this club had pieces to begin to make waves.

As things stand while nearing the trade deadline, Minnesota has seen most of its top talent rise to the big league level. Miguel Sano is here, Jose Berrios has emerged, and Byron Buxton is playing every day. With other names like Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco on the big league club, the farm system has slogged as its best fruits have been picked. That's not to say there isn't talent still in the minors, but rather, the top tier names are bolstering the 25 man already.

For much of the past seven seasons, the talk has been that the Twins haven't spent money, operating cheaply since opening Target Field. While that may be true, it's also a sensible plan of action. Save for 2010, there wasn't a season in which a big splash or two was going to turn a 90 loss squad into one that makes the playoffs. The organization could've splurged to raise the water level, but the end result would still remain. That is, until now.

As Jerry Crasnick recently described the Atlanta Braves on Twitter, the Twins should be both short-term sellers and long-term buyers at this point. If there's value to be had in return for Ervin Santana or Brian Dozier, listen. If you can grab a piece like Sonny Gray or Marcus Stroman, explore it. While waiting on prospects is fun, the impact is two-fold. Some graduate to your big league roster and make an impact (Sano/Berrios/Buxton), others provide an impact by allowing you to improve your big league roster and have their day elsewhere (see Cubs/Red Sox).

I'm not sure what the asking price for impact pitchers, a bat, or relievers will be during this trade deadline, but Minnesota would be wise not to shy away. Nick Gordon is having a great year at Double-A, but if you can turn him and a few others into a player that has a great year for the Twins in 2017 and beyond, absolutely it's something to be considered.

2017 has opened a window for competition in Minnesota thanks to a handful of reasons. While the Twins may be exceeding expectations, they are also highlighting the weakness of the AL Central as a whole. The Indians aren't running away with anything, and every other club is either not competitive, or has its warts. That same scenario should remain in play for at least the next two years, at which point the White Sox system should begin to bear fruit.

In mentioning that White Sox system, it's of note that Chicago may threaten the Twins longevity the most. Through trades in the last year, the Southsiders have added the #2, 12, 14, 16, 45, and 77th best prospects in all of baseball (per MLB.com pre-2017 rankings) as well as a 1st round draft pick and top International signing. They have gone full rebuild, and the level of prospects in their system should quickly become impact big leaguers.

During the deadline this summer, and in the upcoming offseason, the Twins would be operating entirely wrong if they aren't going for it. Thanks to the youth contributing at a high level, their window has opened, and will remain wide for at least the next couple of seasons. Spending money on a big name pitcher or shoring up the bullpen with a handful of different suitors should be the expectation not the hope. While they may come up short in 2017, or find an early playoff exit, bringing in an asset or two that helps now and down the road is hardly a bad decision.

Given the landscape of the division, and the state of the organization as a whole, the Twins time to wait on the next prospect has ceased, and it's time to supplement what they have. The nucleus is there, and the new front office will be tasked with adding to it taking the club over the top.

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