As the Minnesota Twins coast toward oblivion, the question arises:
“Who will pay for the front office blunders that led to this abysmal season?”
This has easily been the poorest showing by the Minnesota Twins in more than a decade. And if the front office doesn’t get a clue quickly, we will be stuck with a series of poor seasons.
The implosion that happened this season has been in the offing for several years. The Twins have not drafted well. They have made poor decisions on free agent signings. And with their lack of contract negotiations with several current players, the Twins could be waving goodbye to several of their best players.
The move that has topped all others as the most incompetent front office signing in all of baseball was the Twins’ pursuit and signing of Japanese infielder Tsuyosky Nishioka. Nishioka may be the worst starting infielder in the major leagues, yet the Twins keep trotting him out because they sank $14.1 million into an infielder who can’t field, can’t throw and can’t hit. When the big money teams like New York and Boston weren’t showing any interest in Nishioka, didn’t the Twins get the clue? The Twins thought they were pulling a coup. Instead, they ended up looking like the biggest rubes in baseball.
Nishioka is just half of the confounding infield choices the Twins made. For several years the Twins have been trying to turn Alexi Casilla into a starting infielder and every time he’s been a flop. So what made them believe that this year would be any different? Casilla has one or two stretches every season where he looks like an all-star. But most of the season he looks like someone who is at best a utility infielder and is more likely, a career minor leaguer.
The Twins have not invested a high draft choice on a middle infielder for years until they drafted a shortstop this season. But the drafting oversight has left the Twins scraping for marginal prospects and other reaches as their infielders. This year that oversight blew up in their faces.
Of the Twins’ last seven first round draft choices, only one is in the major leagues. That would be rookie outfielder Ben Revere. The Twins draft record has been spotty, to say the least. Fans have to wonder if there are issues with coaching staffs in the minors, or with the Twins’ scouting process. Not only do the Twins not have any stars in waiting in the minor leagues, they have very few players who are even close to being major league ready. That’s why we see Luke Hughes and Matt Tolbert called up over and over, instead of seeing prospects who are part of the long-term solution.
The contract the Twins gave to Joe Mauer is going to weigh down the team for years. You have to wonder about how much thought was given to the Twins’ current roster when the Twins designed Target Field. The Twins have a number of hitters with power like Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Jim Thome, etc. So why did the Twins build a field with deep power alleys so nobody can hit homers? They’ve turned their power hitters into singles hitters.
Now the Twins have to decide on the contracts of the power hitters. There is almost no chance the Twins will offer Young arbitration after this season, so why didn’t they try to trade him after last season when he was a valuable commodity. Young saw how the Twins were handling him and all the positivity he built last season has now changed back into bitterness.
The management’s failure to act on contracts for Cuddyer and Kubel is another blunder, as was the resigning of Thome this year. The Twins didn’t have room for Thome’s at-bats this year, even with all of the injuries. And if Kubel and Cuddyer leave, brace yourself. Next year’s Twins offense will be far worse than what we are seeing this year.
So what will be done? Changes in the front office should be made, but ownership will likely use injuries as the excuse for this year’s failures, instead of looking at the real cause. Ownership will probably pick out one of Ron Gardenhire’s coaches as a token sacrifice, when the problems with the team are coming from much higher up the food chain.
Note: About two hours after posting this blog, the Twins indeed did trade Delmon Young. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers for a minor leaguer who is a longshot to reach the major leagues. There is also a “player to be named later” involved. If this trade had been made six months ago, Young would have brought a bundle of talent in a trade. We can hope the erstwhile player to be named is a top prospect, but don’t count on it. This looks more like a salary dump than anything else. Hopefully the Twins use that spared salary to up their offers to Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer.