Of course there is plenty of anger directed towards Terry Ryan from Minnesota Twins fans. While I will contend that not all of it is warranted, I will be the first to say he is nowhere near the mind that Theo Epstein is. Looking at two organizations in similar places, it’s time to distance from the “Twins Way” and knock off the way of the Cubs.
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I have always been a big fan of the way Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays have ran their organization. It just so happens that he now is the newest manager of the Cubs. That information aside, Chicago is laying the blueprint that their AL Central brethren need to be following to a T.
Looking at the Cubs, the team from the north side has not had a winning season since 2009. In the five years since, they have lost over 90 games three times, and only missed that mark twice losing 87 and 89 games in 2010 and 2014 respectively. I don’t need to list the Twins most recent records, Twins fans know what they look like. Forget the bleak outlook of the past however, the Cubs have a unique opportunity to go from worst to first in an incredibly drastic turnaround, and it’s time for the Twins to follow suit.
So far this offseason, the Cubs have signed Jason Hammel, the pitcher they dealt (along with Jeff Samardzija) to the Oakland Athletics for uber-prospect Addison Russel. They are also on the heels of signing lights out ace Jon Lester. While those two would make for an incredible haul, nothing says they have to be done either.
At the major league level, the Cubs have superstars like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. They have capable pieces like Wellington Castillo, and Justin Ruggiano. Most importantly however, they have strong young players like Arismendy Alcantra, Javier Baez, and Jorge Soler. Jake Arrieta showed he can be a quality starter for them, and Kyle Hendricks was great to end the year. All this has been mentioned before even getting to what is one of the best farm systems in major league baseball including names like Russel and Kris Bryant.
Chicago isn’t going after a pitcher like Jon Lester because he along is a star, Theo knows that his team has the ability to win, and do so now. Kris Bryant will likely open the season with the Cubs, Addison Russell could find playing time, and the Cubs will look to their already promoted youth. The influx of talent should make Chicago a force in the NL Central not only in 2015, but for years to come. Now it’s on the Twins to replicate the idea.
Minnesota is out looking for another strong starting pitching option behind Phil Hughes. While Hughes is obviously no Lester, he is a quality ace and can be leaned on by the Twins. Minnesota has an abundance of arms behind him that represent quantity, but they are looking for more quality options to drive down a team ERA that ranked in the doldrums of the major leagues.
Pitching is of course the Twins biggest concern, after all they finished 7th in runs scored in 2014, but the offense can get even better.
The Twins have a farm system, likely the only one, that rivals the Cubs. Loaded with pitching and hitting talent at all levels, some are closer than others. There are three players however that could be paired with veteran talent to expedite the Twins road back to success.
Looking at the numbers, Kris Bryant has 620 at bats at the minor league level, Byron Buxton has 777, Miguel Sano has 1375, and Eddie Rosario has 1717. Bryant has two years of age on the former two, but is the same age as Rosario. Both Buxton and Sano will be coming off of injuries, but I contend that the point still stands. Right now, especially with Buxton and Sano, there is very little left to prove outside of the major league level.
Although the Twins watched Trevor Plouffe prove that he still is of use to them, finding room for both Sano and Buxton at Target Field should be a relatively easy task. Both players project as cornerstones of the franchise for years to come, and allowing them to contribute sooner rather than later is something the Twins need to give serious consideration to. While I don’t expect any of the three players to be on the 25 man roster as Spring Training comes to a close, the exclusion hanging over into July would be a terrible mistake.
For an organization to right drastic wrongs, risks need to be taken, and big moves need to be made. While a big name free agent pitcher might be a splash that the Twins should consider (and I still feel someone like James Shields would have made sense), it starts with the nohow to make the tough, but beneficial decisions from within first.
It’s your move Minnesota…
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