Twins: Is it Time to Blow Up the Team in Minnesota?
Thursday May 31st, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: The Twins are sitting at the very bottom of the American League standings with a winning percentage (.360). For those of you without a calculator, that is .248 points less than the leading Rangers (.608). It’s obviously time to do something to turn the Twins around… but what? The Twins shouldn’t be playing this badly, as they have two former MVPs in Joe Mauer (2009) and Justin Morneau (2006) in their lineup. Granted, Mauer won the MVP three years ago and has had a few injuries since, and it’s been six years since Morneau won his MVP, and he’s suffered from a nasty concussion he received when sliding two years ago in Toronto. If these two stars could play to their potential at the same time for a full season, the Twins might be achieving bigger things. The unfortunate truth, however, is that this most likely will not happen.
On paper, the Twins aren’t awful. Carl Pavano anchors the pitching staff followed by an on-and-off Francisco Liriano (who had a rough start to this year), Nick Blackburn, and Scott Diamond. Jason Marquis threw 34 innings this season posting an embarrassing 8.47 ERA while going 2-4 before being released. Just recently the Twins announced the return of Liriano to the starting rotation after a brief time in the bullpen. We’ve seen some flashes of brilliance in the recent past from both Liriano and Pavano. Pavano went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA with the Marlins in 2004 and more recently went 17-11 with a respectable 3.75 ERA in 2010. Liriano in 2010 had a solid 14-10 record with a 3.62 ERA and last year threw a no-hitter. 2010 was the last good year for the Twins as they finished first in the Central but ended up losing to the Yankees in the Division Series. The team has fallen on extreme hard times since.
If the Twins could somehow replicate their 2010 performance (granted, they had Michael Cuddyer and a productive Orlando Hudson) with their key players (Mauer and Morneau) playing at their potential (Mauer hitting .327 in 2010 and Morneau making the most out of his limited time), they would likely be successful. Morneau only played 81 games in 2010 due to his injury, so his health is critical. The Twins also have some young talent like Ben Revere to provide some speed at the top of the lineup, but Revere alone won’t be able to change the course of the Twins. Josh Willingham also adds some pop to the lineup, but alone he can’t carry the show. Willingham possesses more value in a potential trade than Morneau–who has a history of injury, and Mauer–who has a large contract. It is probably unlikely for the Twins to be able to compete due to the new strength of the AL Central. The Tigers are still the favorites after the acquisition of Prince Fielder, the Indians are playing at their best after a strong start to last year as well. The Royals have a lot of young talent knocking on the door. And don’t look now, but the Chicago White Sox are playing incredible baseball. In order to contend in the future, the Twins wouldn’t need to make drastic changes. Maybe a signing or two in the future to strengthen their pitching, and adding another power bat could put them back on track. A couple of reinforcements combined with health for their key players could prove to be the difference.
Unfortunately for the Twins, they have probably dug themselves a big enough hole that they won’t be able to come out of by August or September. Because of this, the Twins must look toward next season or even after that in order to turn things around. Just like the Royals, the Twins, too could be a suitor for the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, who is a free agent after this season. Hamels would be very successful in the Twins’ Target Field, a notorious pitchers’ park. The signing of Hamels would also improve the attendance record in the new stadium. With Hamels leading the rotation, strengthening the offense wouldn’t be as critical, as a healthy Morneau and Mauer, along with Willingham would be more than enough offense for a winning squad. But there will be many suitors for Hamels during this coming offseason and the Twins likely will not be high on his wish list.
This year’s free agent pool isn’t nearly as good as last year’s, so most likely a big signing will not be in the making. Although the Twins are struggling now, it may just take a few guys to start playing well or one big free agent pitcher to make the Twins a winning team again. The pieces are there for a solid ball club. It is better for the twins to maximize the talent they have with complementary pieces, rather than blow it up and start again. After so many years to wait for a new ballpark, the team cannot afford to disappoint its fans this early in the honeymoon stage. The Twins will be back. It is just a matter of time.
***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshanksy, MLB reports Intern. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter (@BernieOlshansky)***
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Posted on May 31, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged american league central, baseball, cole hamels, francisco liriano, joe mauer, justin morneau, matt caps, minnesota twins, mlb, scott diamond, white sox. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Twins: Is it Time to Blow Up the Team in Minnesota?.