Monday, May 13, 2019

Holding Up the Bargain’s Other End

Over the offseason a consistent narrative from the Minnesota Twins front office was one of patience. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine consistently suggested that many of the near-future decisions would hinge on the production of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Back in early February I wondered if that reality didn’t make Sano and Buxton out to be scapegoats. Fortunately for all parties involved, one half of the duo has forced the hand of the Front Office.

Through the first 39 games Minnesota has 25 wins, is leading the AL Central, and owns the best record in all of baseball. This team is hitting a ridiculous amount of home runs, the starting pitching has been exceptional, and the bullpen has been far better than expected. Looking at the two-headed monster discussed from the outset, Byron Buxton owns an .816 OPS while being arguably the best defender in the game, and Miguel Sano is yet to step on the field.

Following the publishing of that February piece one large move was made that both addressed some payroll concerns, as well as adding significant talent to the roster. Marwin Gonzalez was inked to a two-year pact for $21 million. As arguably the best super-utility player in baseball, he provided a level of insurance against slumps and injuries all over the field. Called upon to start at third base from the get-go with Sano’s injury, he’ll now slot back into a versatile role once Miguel is activated later this week.

In fact, it’s the return of Sano that brings up this talking point sooner than the July 31st trade deadline. All we know about the Dominican slugger at this point is that he showed up to Spring Training in a shape reflective of a commitment level not yet seen from him. Despite an injury delaying his debut, he put up solid numbers in a very small rehab sample size. He also has a profile that fits in nicely with what this team is attempting to accomplish when he is right.

Looking for a floor, Miguel Sano is the hitter who owned a .679 OPS a season ago. There’s a ton of power, way too many swings and misses, along with some questionable-at-best defense over at the hot corner. His ceiling looks something like the 2015 version where he posted a .916 OPS across 80 games and showed both plate discipline as well as prowess. A reality lying somewhere in the middle, lots of home runs, a good number of walks, and a handful of swings and misses, would be an optimal outcome for Rocco Baldelli to dispose.

For the Twins, Byron Buxton already is that. He hasn’t flashed his peak, but he’s also nowhere near his floor. Performing at the level he is now, serious consideration for some personal accolades could be given, and he’s doing it within the structure of a team capable of making a run. For Falvey and Levine, the two linchpins of the equation are now forcing them to re-evaluate.

There’s no denying that the window is just beginning to open in Twins Territory. The division should remain down for some time, the farm system is among the best in baseball, and the big-league club has talent capable of high production for the next three to five years. Supplementing this team, and the ones that come after it is now a must, and it’s this front office that I’d pick to have in charge.

With the focus being put on Buxton and Sano, Falvey and Levine effectively said when we win, we’ll go to work. Knowing that this team has holes but is capable of more, there’s reason to believe additions prior to the July 31st deadline make a ton of sense. A bigger price tag may come with the earlier acquisition cost, but for a team looking to add in 2019 and beyond, reinforcements should be of the long-term view as well. Whether under team control into 2020 and beyond, or free agent deals with multiple years, commitment and buy in is where moves need to lean.

It’s not time to push Falvey and Levine on execution just yet, we haven’t even hit mid-May. If we’re through min-June before this club is adding additional talent though, they’ll have suggested a wait and see approach only to close their eyes. I don’t foresee that result taking place, and if trade returns like that of Brian Dozier or Jermaine Palacios are any indication, the duo at the top for Minnesota should be trusted with full authority.

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