The Minnesota Twins are making moves to compete in 2018, but is the front office really trying to set the team up for a strong 2019 run?
The Minnesota Twins were one of few teams who made some actual moves at the Winter Meetings and they continue to be in the middle of some big-time rumors. The overall goal for the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine front office from the start has been building a baseball club that could have sustained success and win a World Series title. As the team tries to build on a strong 2017, could their real window to compete in mind be the 2019 season?
If you are someone who pays attention at all to Twitter and the rumblings that occur around the Twins, this idea is no shock to you. Just this week on the Midwest Swing podcast, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press again mentioned that 2019 may be the true perceived competitive window by the Twins front office.
There are a lot of reasons this makes a lot of sense. After the 2018 season, plenty of money will come off the books for the Twins. It comes off in the form of Joe Mauer‘s $23 million and Brian Dozier‘s $9 million contracts that reach their end. While one or both may be re-signed to stay with the Twins, Mauer’s contract will certainly be much less than his 2018 total. That payroll flexibility will give the Twins ample room to also explore a free agent class that should be very strong headlined by the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
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The Twins have also been exploring mainly young, controllable assets. A desire that was first expressed as early as this past season’s trade deadline. The team has reportedly checked in on several trade pieces that fit that description. Gerrit Cole, Alex Colome, Raisel Iglesias, and Chris Archer to name a few.
The front office has also been willing to invest in contracts that mean more for 2019 than 2018. The Twins signed Michael Pineda to his 2-year, $10 million deal that is backloaded with $8 million for 2019 when he should be able to return fully from Tommy John surgery. The Twins were rumored to have been interested in Drew Smyly who signed a similar contract as Pineda with the Chicago Cubs. There are also rumors swirling around their interest in signing former St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal to a similar contract.
The Fernando Rodney signing on an island seems to go completely against this young, controllable asset direction but paired with some of Thad Levine’s comments it falls in line with the 2019 plan. In a Winter Meeting interview, Levine said that the Twins believe their closer of the future may already be on the roster. Those words were spoken before any official news of the Rodney signing. Rodney’s contract gives the Twins the ability to let that potential closer develop and learn while Rodney handles the role in 2018. Then hopefully in 2019 that closer, whoever he is, is ready and the Twins front office can then make a decision on the need for Rodney or any other additional bullpen signings that may be needed going forward.
It is hard as a fan to get onboard to another perceived delay in the building of a contender in Minnesota. As it seems the Twins have been in a rebuild forever. 2017 gave fans a taste of competitive baseball again. This aim at 2019 doesn’t mean that the Twins aren’t working to compete in 2018. It simply means we likely won’t see any “all-in” type moves until 2019 when the front office anticipates that competitive window to be wide open.