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August 1, 2012

The Platoon Advantage

Remain Calm, All is Well in Minnesota

by Michael Bates

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“What the hell?”

That's what I wondered all yesterday as the Twins sat on their hands, refusing to deal Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Jared Burton, or Glen Perkins. As the Phillies divested themselves of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence: "What the hell?" As the Astros sent away Chris Johnson: "What the hell?" As the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson, and Geovany Soto: "WHAT the hell?" As the Marlins sent Gaby Sanchez packing:  "WHAT THE HELL?"

What the hell was Terry Ryan thinking? When were they finally going to pull the trigger? Why would they think that this team was fine as is? Who was responsible for this debacle? Where could I find them? How much prison time would I get?

It's not that they had to deal all of them. Indeed, there were significant reasons to hang on to most of them. Span is signed to a reasonable deal through 2015. Willingham has been the club's best source of power. Morneau didn't figure to bring much back in return. Glen Perkins is signed through 2016 and continues to be a fantastic weapon out of the bullpen. Burton is...well, ok, there was no good reason not to deal the oft-injured Burton before his shoulder exploded. To not trade some of them would have been understandable. To trade none of them is inexcusable.

Terry Ryan had his chances. There was significant interest in Span coming from Cincinnati especially. They really like Span, but Twins officials pointed out to the Star Tribune’s Joe Christiansen, "so do we." The Dodgers tried to get something done for Perkins, but the price was very high. Aside from dealing Francisco Liriano (who dominated his former team last night) for two young players who will almost certainly never be more than a win above replacement, the Twins essentially decided to stand pat with their club that is 14 games under .500, has the worst run differential in the American League, and has allowed the most hits, most homers, most runs, and struck out the fewest batters in the league.

The Twins aren't just bad, they are broken. They don't understand that they are not just losing games, they are a losing team. The current team, as currently constructed, isn't capable of being competitive even in the AL Central. But the Twins are Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, insisting that all is well:

Well, all is not well. It would be one thing if there was any help on the horizon for next year, but they have no additional talent from which to build for 2013. Of their Top 11 prospects at the start of the year, according to Kevin Goldstein, only three were given a 2013 ETA or sooner. One of them, Brian Dozier, is in the Majors and is hitting .239/.272/.324. Another, Joe Benson, has been out almost the entire minor league season with a wrist injury. And the third, Alex Wimmers is rehabbing a partially torn UCL, hoping to avoid Tommy John Surgery, even though the Twins have tried and failed with similar approaches to Pat Neshek, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Scott Baker. There are no reinforcements coming. And according to Phil Mackey, they’re “not banking on free agency” either. So where, then, is this talent going to magically appear from to fix the rotation, the bullpen, the middle infield, and rightfield, if not from the free agent market? From trades? We just went through a trade deadline where the team stood pat, refusing even to move ticking time bomb Jared Burton.. 

It's easy, of course, to be an armchair quarterback. It's easy, without having all the information that the Twins and Terry Ryan had at their disposal, to make suggestions for what we would have done that have no basis in reality. We're not major-league GMs, and far too often we don't give the smart people who run our favorite teams the benefit of the doubt. But this isn't a case where we should be critical of Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins over something they've done. This is a case where something, virtually anything, would have been a step forward, even if it moved the team backward in the short term. Even panicking would have shown that the Twins understand they have a problem. But the Twins decided to stand still. What the hell?

Michael Bates is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

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