Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Season of Availability for Byron Buxton

In 2018, the Minnesota Twins star centerfielder Byron Buxton has played just 28 games at the major league level. Among hitters with at least 90 plate appearances, he checks in third from the bottom (above just Trayce Thompson and Magneuris Sierra). With a potential to play a maximum of 162 games in 2018, Byron has gotten in just 61 across all levels of pro baseball. If there's anything to take away from a lost season, it's that the most important trait going forward has to be availability.

Injuries are always going to be a part of athletics, and at times, you're going to deal with relative flukes. From migraines to a foul ball breaking your foot, Buxton has tested that theory in earnest during 2018. What's unfortunate however is that this isn't the first instance in which the uber-talented outfielder has dealt with this type of setback. Byron has missed time in each of the past few seasons, and most of that time on the shelf seems at least somewhat preventable.

By playing the game with reckless abandon, Buxton has thrown himself into outfield walls more often than he'd probably like to admit. The catches and highlights from those moments play on loop for years, but it's worth wondering what the opportunity cost is. Slamming into the wall in order to make a single out while trading a few games of availability seems like quite the ask. It's a difficult line to decipher when you're questioning if 110% effort is truly the best plan for long term success.

From my vantage point, the most integral thing for the Twins to get Byron Buxton on track is a level of consistency. Allowing him to thrive at the major league level likely comes through a repetition of quality at bats and positive results. That blueprint requires him to be on the field, and in a position to compete on a daily basis. There's so much talent to be put on display, and he's significantly beyond the highest minor league level (as we've seen since his latest activation from the disabled list). Distancing him from the nicks and bumps that have taken Buxton off the field has to be the next step in this journey.

Not all of Buxton's injuries are related to his centerfield exploits. He's hurt his wrist on the basepaths and at the dish, obviously migraines are a bodily issue, and things like an errant foul ball are simply bad luck. No matter what the malady though, having the Twins training staff best position Byron for success is imperative to his future development. Maybe the answer is to add muscle mass, or maybe it's having a more distinct understanding of outfield dimensions. At any rate, a new design taken with a focus on consistent health seems of the utmost importance.

There's no reason to panic on the player at this point. Buxton is lightyears ahead of where his predecessor Aaron Hicks was at this point. Hicks is now the best centerfielder in baseball not named Mike Trout. Byron is also on par with the likes of Torii Hunter and Kirby Puckett at the same age. The talent and tools are all there for him to succeed, but he also needs to be physically capable of putting them on display in a more routine fashion.

Telling a player to take their foot off the gas pedal is never an optimal plan of action. I don't know that it's the right one to suggest for a guy that's coming off being the best defender in all of baseball either. If there was something I found myself hoping Torii could impart on Byron during spring action down in Fort Myers, it was how to play all out while still protecting yourself for the long run. The Twins Hall of Famer only missed significant time once in his ten full seasons with the club. It's worth speculating that Buxton could end up being better than Spiderman if he can consistently stay on the field.

Lost seasons from some of Minnesota's most important young players was always going to spell doom for the 2018 campaign. Going forward, the amount of time that Byron Buxton can limit away from the field of play only benefits the overall success of the organization. There's still a star in the making here, and worrying about the on field exploits does nothing for me. Keeping the young man healthy and in the action remains the biggest piece of the puzzle.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Emergence of Arms

The Minnesota Twins went the route of signing multiple veterans on one year deals to supplement their relief corps for 2018. Now that the season has taken a different turn, all of those players have been shipped out to greener pastures. For 2019 and beyond, a goal of the organization has to be finding the next Trevor Hildenberger or Ryan Pressly. As things stand currently, there's a duo of dandies that have begun to stand above the rest.

Whether or not the Twins have a proven closer going into 2019 isn't of much worry to me. More importantly, does the club have a handful of guys capable of pitching in high leverage situations. Despite his stumbles at times down the stretch, Trevor Hildenberger has rounded out into exactly that type of player. Addison Reed will return for year two, and the hope is that he'd rebound to look more like his former self. The Twins should be feeling that they can turn to the likes of Trevor May and Taylor Rogers in those situations as well.

Rogers was an 11th round pick back in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft. He's now 27 years old and in his third major league season. Despite posting a 3.44 ERA (which is higher than the 3.07 mark from 2017), his secondary numbers are outstanding. The 2.41 FIP is a career low and comes in 15th among all qualified big league relievers. His 10.3 K/9 is a full strikeout higher than his career average, and his 2.2 BB/9 is a new career best as well.

As a lefty Rogers has proved serviceable against hitters from both sides of the plate. Left-handed hitters have zero chance, owning just a .422 OPS, but the .781 OPS to righties isn't awful either. He's giving up both the fewest hits and homers of his career, and it's hard to be anything less than excited about his outlook.

Owning just 93.8 mph average velocity on his fastball, it's not that Rogers is much of a flamethrower. With his long and lanky stature, he has a good bit of deception working in his favor. The arm slot hides the ball well, and he can get in on hitters in a hurry. I'd prefer not to see Minnesota tab Rogers solely for a 9th inning role, but he's far more than a standard LOOGY as well. Deploying him in a role similar to Ryan Pressly, just a fireman to get guys out, should yield plenty positive results.

From the other side of the glove, the recently rehabbed Trevor May has been fantastic. It's just been 9.2 IP over the course of 9 appearances, but May is laying waste to opposing hitters. An 11.2 K/9 is enticing, but the 1.9 BB/9 is a new career best that really jumps off the page. Working solely as a reliever in 2016 prior to Tommy John surgery, May's profile had a lot to like. The strikeouts were there, and the FIP suggested the 5.27 ERA wasn't entirely his fault. That said, he was giving up too many walks (3.6 BB/9) and the 1.5 HR/9 was a problem.

There's reason to like May's profile as a starter, but it's hard to ignore what he can provide out of the bullpen. On the season, he's generating whiffs nearly 20% of the time, and hitters are chasing his pitches just under 40% of the time. He's shaved 10% off of his allowed contact rate (63%) and the nearly 95 mph fastball velocity matches up with where he was prior to surgery.

Acquired as a top prospect years ago, Minnesota likely had visions of May being an impact starter. If he's capable of providing this profile in a more lengthy role that's one thing, but if he's a back end option I'd prefer to see him stick in relief. May has the repertoire and output of a guy who can close out games in the 9th, or be an upper echelon setup man. Again, this is a very small sample size thus far in 2018, but continuing through September would only give steam to the hype train.

Heading into 2019, the Twins will need to solidify a rotation that has more questions than answers once again. The bullpen has been an area needing improvement in recent years though, and seeing some internal arms step up and take command is more than encouraging. It hurt to lose quality pieces this year, but credit those who have stepped up and made the most of new found opportunity.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Call Ups Begin, Who's Next?

The Minnesota Twins have allowed Kohl Stewart to make his major league debut, and Stephen Gonsalves will now join that company. Fernando Romero got that treatment earlier this season, and it sounds like Paul Molitor isn't suggesting a slow down any time soon. With the Twins out of it in the big leagues, and Rochester all but eliminated at Triple-A, opportunities lie ahead.

Joel Sinner and the Rochester Red Wings play their last game on September 3. From that point forward, Minnesota has ample roster spots and 25 games before the end of their 2018 season. Making use of those games in a way that helps to bring a semblance of clarity prior to 2019 spring training seems of the utmost importance. Although the Red Wings have struggled as a club this season, there's plenty of talent deserving of a big league look.

Here are some names to ponder:

Nick Gordon- 2B/SS

At points during 2018, it seemed Gordon would open the 2019 season as Minnesota's starting second basemen. He posted a .906 OPS at Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A. Since reaching Rochester though, Gordon has struggled mightily. He owns just a .208/.249/.284 slash line and has not seen any consistent success. Even though it may be good for his long term development to get him a major league perspective, it's hard to see Minnesota ignoring that he's been so poor offensively at the highest level of the farm. Gordon is not on the 40 man roster and would need to be accommodated that way as well.

LaMonte Wade- OF

Similar to Gordon, Wade posted strong numbers at Double-A (.837) only to slide at Triple-A (.712 OPS). Wade did miss time this season due to injury, but he's back healthy and playing right now. What Wade does have going for him is that he's an on-base machine. His .357 OBP bolsters his Rochester line, and although there's not a ton of power there, he can be a gap hitter at the next level. Wade swings it from the left side of the plate, and looks the part of a fourth outfielder. He'll likely be in competition with Jake Cave next spring, and both should make Robbie Grossman plenty expendable. LaMonte is not on the 40 man roster either, but adding him wouldn't be a stretch.

Jake Reed- RP

After looking like he was on the cusp of making it to The Show last season, a spring training injury derailed his 2017. Now healthy and effective in 2018, it's time the former Oregon Duck gets his shot. Across 40.1 IP for Rochester this season, Reed owns a 2.23 ERA and an 8.7 K/9. He throws hard and should have the ability to miss big league bats. Walks have become more of an issue over the past two seasons, but this could be a late bloomer that settles into the pen nicely. Jake is not currently on the Twins 40 man roster.

Luke Bard- RP

Minnesota initially lost Bard in the Rule 5 draft when the Los Angeles Angels selected him. He got just 11.2 IP for the Angels and turned in a 5.40 ERA. The 10.0 K/9 was good, but he was bit by a 3.9 BB/9. In 40.1 IP for Rochester, Bard owns a 5.13 ERA. Again the combination of walks (3.6 BB/9) and hits (9.8 H/9) have negated a nice 9.6 K/9. The spin rate on his pitches is plenty intriguing, and the stuff has always appeared to be there. At 27 though, this could be a sink or swim moment for his chance with the Twins.

Nick Anderson- RP

At 28 years old, the Minnesota native and former 32nd round pick could see all of the hard work finally come together. Anderson reached Triple-A this season, and has a 3.61 ERA across 52.1 IP. The 13.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 numbers jump off the page, although his 1.4 HR/9 could hurt him at the next level. Anderson isn't likely to be a high leverage guy, but he could find himself turning some heads if the minor league numbers continue to play.

Michael Pineda- SP

Signed on a shrewd two-year deal by Minnesota, Pineda is being paid just $2MM this season to rehab from Tommy John surgery. He's already made two turns at High-A Fort Myers, and should get starts a couple of rungs up before August comes to a close. The outings have been sharp, and the velocity reports have been promising. He'd need to be reinstated from the 60-day DL, but his 40 man roster spot isn't an issue given he'll be on the Twins active roster in 2019 on an $8MM deal.

Lewis Thorpe- SP

The next in line when it comes to bigger name pitching prospects that the Twins have developed is none other than Lewis Thorpe. The Aussie missed two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and then illness, but has gotten back and rounded into form nicely. He made 22* (one with an opener) starts at Double-A this season and posted a 3.58 ERA. His 10.9 K/9 was plenty impressive, and he handed out walks at just a 2.5 K/9 rate. Thus far, Thorpe has made one start at Triple-A, and he turned in a quality outing. Lewis is coming up on a 40 IP increase from 2017 and could be shut down soon, but if Minnesota wants to get him a turn in the majors, he is already on the 40 man.

Chase De Jong- SP

Acquired from the Mariners this season, De Jong did pitch 28.1 innings for Seattle early in the year. Since joining the Twins organization, he's made four appearances (two starts) totaling 22.0 IP for Rochester. The 3.68 ERA is respectable and he's posted a pedestrian 7.4 K/9. I'm not sure there's much in the form of strikeout stuff here, but De Jong should be plenty capable at the back end of a rotation. He's already on the 40 man and it seems he's ready to get a few big league turns. Obviously the Twins liked him enough to target him as a trade piece, and there should be opportunity for him to get a look in September.

For most of the guys mentioned, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine would need to facilitate 40 man roster moves. Luckily the Twins have plenty of options in that regard. Ervin Santana and Matt Belisle can both be placed on the 60-day DL. Logan Morrison could easily join that dup, and depending on how he's progression, Aaron Slegers could find himself there as well. It's too late in the year for a DFA of Robbie Grossman to make sense, but Johnny Field could soon see that fate if a spot is needed.

While the club plays out the rest of the string, there should be plenty of new and fresh faces seen on the diamond for Minnesota. Getting some early answers for the year ahead would be a very worthwhile undertaking.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Price of Doing Business

Today, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays completed the deal that sent Chris Archer to the Buccos. With a PTBNL up in the air, Shanez Baz ended up being the final piece to the blockbuster. This whole situation remains relevant in the context of the Minnesota Twins due to conversations surrounding the Rays former ace and Minnesota slugger Miguel Sano.

Over the summer there were multiple headlines that linked the two organizations with regards to trade talks. Twins fans were down on Sano coming off injury and poor decisions this offseason. Even with those developments however there seemed to be plenty of voices that hoped Sano could be the centerpiece of a swap. 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson quickly shot that down suggesting Tampa had "no interest," and there should've never been a belief to the contrary.

Fast forward to where we are today, and we've now seen it took a trip to Single-A Fort Myers for Miguel to once again look motivated in the big leagues. Weight issues aside, his buy in and commitment towards being as great as he can be has long been the crux of his issues. Making the large leap, based on a very small sample size, that he's on the right track now, plenty still remains up in the air for Sano.

Regardless of what Sano rounds into though, and even considering that being an All Star level slugger, Tampa was going to command a haul. Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Shane Baz have all appeared on national top prospect lists. Giving that trio some Minnesota context, the Rays would've been targeting something along the lines of Fernando Romero, Alex Kirilloff, and Stephen Gonsalves. Even if you don't know prospects, that's a group of names that likely ring a bell for most casual Minnesota followers.

The reality of the situation is that while Archer hasn't yet reached the pinnacle of what you'd hope he can be, there's a strong possibility that an ace level talent lies within. At 29 years old, he is under contract through 2019 and the combined $20MM in team options through 2021 are more the team friendly. Simply put, there isn't a pitcher on the open market that will equal Archer's level of enticement for the next couple of seasons.

This is really a situation where hindsight isn't necessary. Miguel Sano was never going to be enough to land Archer, but it was silly at the time and is now as well. Had the Twins shifted to include the prospect package above, things would be quite dire given the performance throughout 2018. Although this same squad should have a very real opportunity to compete in 2019, it's players like those mentioned in that prospect package that should begin to establish themselves as regular big leaguers in 2020. Having Archer while depleting the system and not seeing the fruits of those labors would be a tough pill to swallow.

It'll be interesting to see how this all works out for the Pirates. Pittsburgh still has some nice pieces on the farm, and they've graduated some solid players, but they're in a middle ground that I'm not sure Archer solves. Tampa is chasing the top of a very good division and adding that much talent is going to make the road much easier for them in the future.

Monday, August 13, 2018

No Closer, No Problem: Floodgates for Twins

The Minnesota Twins shipped their closer Fernando Rodney to the Oakland Athletics recently. Prior to his departure, he was the only pitcher on the roster to record a save. Over the weekend Trevor Hildenberger joined his graces picking up his first on the year, and second of his career. With no real closer in tow, it’s time for Paul Molitor to open the floodgates and utilize this opportunity.

Going into 2019 the expectation should be that the Twins can once again be competitive. The same core that was expected to be relied upon this season remains intact. If the offense rebounds to sufficient levels, while being supplemented with some outside talent, this collection is going to make waves in the AL Central. What does absolutely need to be addressed however is the relief core and status of the bullpen.

Coming into 2018, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine helped Minnesota’s skipper by supplementing the pen. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, and Rodney were all brought in to help turn around a collection that had underperformed the year prior. By acquiring two thirds of that group on one-year deals, the Twins were able to benefit from them either as pieces part of a playoff run, or assets to acquire more talent. This winter the front office will find themselves in a similar situation, again looking to stockpile that type of talent. Who they’ll be paired with remains up in the air, and that’s where the current opportunity presents itself.

It doesn’t much matter who racks up saves for Minnesota the rest of the way, but it’s integral for a host of arms to be showcased in high leverage situations. Trevor May has looked great since his promotion from Triple-A Rochester following his Tommy John rehab. Tyler Duffey has always seemed like a decent option at the back of a pen, and Taylor Rogers has been arguably the Twins best reliever this season. Trevor Hildenberger has slipped of late but is incredible when on, and Matt Magill has come out of nowhere this season to command much more work than he’s gotten.

Stopping with the names currently on the 25-man roster does little for me however. At 53-64 Rochester isn’t going to make the Triple-A postseason. Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Jake Reed, and Nick Anderson are all options worth exploring. Busenitz hasn’t ever gotten a chance to acclimate at the big-league level this season, while Curtiss has only experienced the majors in a very muted sense. Reed dealt with injuries that have delayed his debut, but his numbers have begged for an opportunity long enough. Anderson remains a flier that is worth experimenting with during this time of little consequence as well.

There’s no reason to suggest that Molitor be tasked with managing a bullpen full of fresh faces and demanded each of them record time in the 9th inning. Having this collection up on the big-league roster and called upon in late game situations does make a lot of sense however. Prioritizing the current big-league roster, and guys that will assuredly be relied upon next year is a must, but the more opportunities for new arms to be tested the better.

Minnesota found something solid in guys like Hildenberger and Rogers because they were given a chance to prove themselves. Rather than waiting to see if those opportunities present themselves in a fresh slate next season, now looks like as beneficial of a time as ever. There’s plenty of poor competition on the Twins schedule the rest of the way, and at this point the results don’t much matter. Seeing relief arms filter into the Target Field clubhouse at a very high rate the rest of the way would be something Minnesota fans should absolutely be on board with.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Twins Future Foundation

As much of a disaster as 2018 has been for the Minnesota Twins, it's hard to look back and call it anything but expected. The reality is that injuries, suspensions, and ineffectiveness destroyed any possibility of a return trip to the postseason. Going forward however, the future is bright (I wrote about that here). The same foundation that was going to be relied upon this season remains key for the years ahead. That begs the question of who is there, and who are we waiting on?

While Paul Molitor and the combination of both Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have earned some blame for their roster decisions this season, none of those three would be positioned to overcome the biggest elephant in the room. Experiencing lost seasons for both Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton was going to be a hill too steep to climb for this squad. It also represents that reality that each of those players remain integral to the future exploits of the organization as well. Although both of the top two names have sputtered, others have produced. Let's take a temperature check on where the core for the Twins youth is in relation to being able to provide a solid foundation for the future.

Eddie Rosario: Arrived

Somewhat of a knucklehead, maturity was arguably the greatest thing working against the Twins left fielder early on in his career. Posting just a .735 OPS and a 97 OPS+ (100 being average) through his first two MLB seasons, there was plenty of room for growth. Fast forward to today, and Minnesota has a legitimate All Star on their hands, as well as a top 20 player in MLB in terms of fWAR.

Since May 2017, Rosario owns a .296/.336/.518 slash line. He's still a free swinger going after pitches out of the zone nearly 40% of the time, but the 12.3% swinging strike rate is significantly lower than the roughly 15% average he was at in his first two years. After posting down numbers defensively in 2017, he's back to being a very good asset out there and the mental lapses appear to be few and far between.

Two years ago Rosario looked like a guy Minnesota would be questionable in offering a contract extension. At this point, they should make it a priority.

Byron Buxton: Still Waiting

There's no way to sugar coat it, 2018 has been an abomination for the Twins centerfielder. After winning a Gold Glove as well as the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017, Byron has played in just 28 MLB games this season. He garnered MVP votes a year ago, and hasn't looked even close to the player that emerged down the stretch. Among batters with at least 90 plate appearances, Buxton's .383 OPS is second to last. Injuries and ineffectiveness is thew narrative here.

The flip side of this coin is that Buxton already has over 300 G at the big league level under his belt, and he;s yet to turn 25 years old. He's the best defender in the game when healthy, and that helps to soften the blow of an offensive impact that's yet to catch up. There's far too much talent here to stay down for long, but consistency and availability is a must. Getting him back at the end of the year, and playing games somewhere this offseason could be huge. Buxton has to be a cornerstone for the Twins going forward, and I'm still fine betting on that being the case.

Miguel Sano: Still Waiting

When analyzing Miguel Sano's output over the course of his career, there will never be a down time that doesn't coincide with narratives pointing towards weight. As he has ballooned at the waistline, he's been scrutinized for his play. While being out of shape never helps an athlete, I think the bigger narrative is the one Minnesota employed in sending the slugger to Fort Myers. This is a story of accountability, work ethic, and desire. Sano puts on weight when he chooses not to buy into those areas. He has flashed the ability to be Minnesota's best power hitter since Harmon Killebrew. Right now Miguel knows that, but it's up to him whether or not he wants to work hard enough to achieve that.

In his time back with the Twins since his hiatus on the farm, signs have been encouraging. Not only did he buy into a conditioning program enough to come back a more trim version of himself, but the plate appearances have been better as well. The hot corner doesn't look like a spot he's incapable of holding down, and the power potential there remains immense. Sano left a .203/.270/.405 line in the middle of June, and has compiled a .250/.368/.344 mark in his return. He was swinging through 16.1% of pitches, and has drastically dropped that amount to 11.4%.

We're still experiencing a small sample size here, but the returns remain good. This offseason, Sano is going to need to display continued buy in. This isn't a flash in the pan type of change, and it has the ability to be career altering. If he's able to close the book on who he was, and be this type of an athlete, then the sky remains the limit.

Max Kepler: Turning a Corner

Looked at as somewhat of a breakout candidate for 2018, this season has been filled with ups and downs for Kepler. He came out of the gates extremely hot in April, and then cooled significantly by June. Since July 1 though, the German native owns an .890 OPS and has launched six longballs amidst his 12 extra-base hits. On the year he's still hitting lefties better than righties, and his launch angle continues to be an area of promise.

Despite being outspoken regarding a desire to put the ball on the ground, it seems Kepler has bought into the reality that success is through the air. He very well could reach the 20 homer plateau for the first time in his career, and he's made significant strides in the plate discipline department. A deeper dive into batted ball numbers suggests that Kepler is getting fairly unlucky, and that should only help to fuel a late season burst.

Jose Berrios: Arrived, but Not Fully

Owning a 3.0 fWAR on the season, Berrios is currently ranked as the 15th best starter in baseball. The 3.51 ERA and 3.58 FIP are in line, and there's not a number he's put up that isn't a career best. What's truly impressive about that however, is we still aren't seeing the best of him. At just 24 years old, Berrios was invited to his first All Star game. His success has include four clunkers with 5 ER or more, and he's got another three starts in which he's allowed 4 ER. Expecting perfection each time out isn't realistic, but 36% of his starts lending themselves to significant improvement is a very fun thing to project forward.

Having kept home runs largely in check, Berrios has stifled one of his largest downfalls. Slight in stature, he's been able to get enough movement on his pitches to combat the throwing plane in which the ball travels from his hand. We've seen a lot of good starts from Berrios this season, and we've also been privy to opportunities for growth. Although he'll likely set career bests across the board this year, we're just scratching the surface. He's got the ability to round into a bonafide ace, and it's a development that Minnesota has craved for years.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Twins Final Phase

The Minnesota Twins have seen some significant turnover in the past few years. From a new front office, to a handful of new faces in the dugout and on the field, the organization has assumed a significantly different shape. Over the course of all the changes, there's been lots of good momentum with regards to the direction of the franchise. In fact, it could be suggested that the front office has been near flawless in their personnel decisions. Near flawless comes with a caveat however, and that's the final phase.

Heading into the offseason prior to the 2018 Major League Baseball season, Minnesota had plenty of opportunity. Coming off of a postseason berth, the arrow for the ballclub appeared to be pointing straight up. Given how much young talent filled the 25 man roster, spending to supplement that group finally made sense for the front office. With the opportunity in front of them, Derek Falvey and thad Levine performed admirably.

Although Minnesota didn't and Yu Darvish, they were heavily involved on arguably the premiere player available. Pivoting to other assets, Falvey and Levine bolstered the bullpen and rotation, while also tacking on some help for an already imposing lineup. When the dust settle on the open market, there was no other conclusion to draw aside from the reality that the Twins hit a home run. In the offseason, Minnesota dominated.

Fast forward to where we are today, and the Twins can look back on a season that lay in ruins. From top contributors falling flat, injuries coming at inopportune times, and key free agents giving the club little, the front office was pushed into sell mode. Making five separate deals, Falvey and Levine flipped four players who are set to be free agents at season's end. Two of those players were signed on one-year deals, making them either assets to a competitive team here, or beneficial trade chips to an organization in position to go for it. Knowing full well that those five players would head out of town leaving Minnesota nothing to show for them, the front office generated 12 new assets in exchange.

Much like the offseason, the trade deadline was another effort that highlighted the ability of Minnesota's front office. This duo maximized opportunity, and continued to be a forward thinking collective that best positions the on-field product for future success.

That leaves just one key area to examine, and it's part of where it all went wrong. What took place during the season itself?

From an outsider's perspective it's hard to fully attribute what level of control each party has in roster decisions. While Derek Falvey and Thad Levine likely have ultimate rule, they've coined collaboration as their calling card since joining the club. With Paul Molitor in tow, there's little argument to be made that his voice doesn't carry some weight as well. It's in the way moves have been handled as a whole that leaves me scratching my head.

It's hard to quantify what impact each decision has had on a wins and losses level, but there's no doubt in my mind that the bottom line has been impacted. Ryan LaMarre was given significantly more run than he should have been, Alan Busenitz hasn't been handled properly, Mitch Garver has experienced terrible playing time issues, and Matt Belisle remains among the worst signings across all of baseball this season.  Although the more egregious examples, there's been plenty of other questionable hiccups along the way.

You'd be hard pressed to argue that Paul Molitor's job wasn't entirely spared by winning Manager of the Year a season ago. He was never the choice of this front office, and has often looked inept when it comes to in game strategy. There's no evidence to suggest front office decisions have been made forcing Molitor to play with half of a deck, but the skipper seems insistent upon doing that to himself at times. As a collective, the front office and manager have done less with more on the field during 2018 and that's an issue needing to be addressed.

Going into the offseason, it's a possibility that Molitor could find himself relieved of his duties. Whether or not that takes place, and it probably doesn't need to, the focus for 2019 needs to be upon executing the final phase of comeptition. While stacking the roster in your favor through free agency and development is ideal, promotion, selection, and delegation of playing time dictates how effective those efforts are. Getting the most out of the assets available to you is an area Minnesota must take a step forward in for the year ahead.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the final phase, but it's also one that collaboration has a very real ability to address.