The Minnesota Twins are trying to position themselves as solid contenders and they should learn from the failings of the Pittsburgh Pirates as they do.
The Minnesota Twins are in many ways eerily similar to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a franchise. Both franchises come from a small to middle-sized market. Both franchises have also because of that been blamed for being cheap when it comes to spending and creating self-imposed spending limitations hindering their ability to bolster their MLB rosters.
The Twins need to pay attention to what is happening currently with the Pirates to be sure that the Twins are not in the same exact scenario a few years from now. The Pirates have recently traded off two of their franchise cornerstones in starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen, though now aging, was the type of position player many teams dream of building championship rosters around. Cole was also supposed to be the front line starter or ace for a championship Pirates team.
So what happened? If we look back through the last several off seasons the Pirates just never made a statement plunge to distance themselves from the rest of the National League and establish themselves as no doubt playoff contenders.
In addition to Cole and McCutchen these are the other players that have graced the Pirates roster recently. Their bullpen has consisted of guys like Jason Grilli, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes and Juan Nicasio. Many of those players have signed recently (or will sign) some pretty lucrative deals. The pirates have also had position players such as Gregory Polanco, Josh Harrison, Jung Ho Kang, Starling Marte, and Neil Walker fill their lineup.
The Pirates were always a little bit away from truly being a dangerous contender. Some of that had to do with their unwillingness to put together a truly competitive starting rotation as they rode players like Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano, an aging A.J. Burnett, in addition to Cole. Because of the that, the Pirates always seemed a move or a series of moves away from meeting World Series potential.
This isn’t to say the Pirates did absolutely nothing. They just tried to often tread in that middle ground of adding decent talent at a lower cost and just never fully went for it. Moves like signing Nicasio, trading for Francisco Cervelli, and even signing the likes of Russell Martin, Edinson Volquez, and Burnett are something, but they always needed that one more or two more moves.
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Think of the 2018 Twins as they are shaping up. The Twins are filled with plenty of young, exciting position players ready to really make a mark on the league including a franchise center fielder in Byron Buxton. They have found a potential front line starter who they drafted in Jose Berrios. And to the front office’s credit, they have now made moves to bolster their bullpen to make it much more competitive in today’s game.
The starting rotation is much better than some recent versions of the Twins, but now it is time to really solidify it and make sure the rotation is ready for competitive postseason baseball. Whether that means spending money or using player assets to trade for that type of front line pitching the time to do it is now.
Starting pitching is the most glaring need, but that mantra goes for any other move the Twins need in the short-term. There is a competitive window approaching and the Twins don’t want to find themselves stuck as a middle of the pack team like the Pirates did all those years. That is exactly where Travis Sawchick believes the Twins are currently sitting as he wrote at FanGraphs this past week.
The time is now for the Twins front office. Who knows what the right move is. If it is signing Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, or trading for Chris Archer. There are people with better knowledge than me to decide that. Maybe there is still a need for Mike Napoli or another slugging bat. It is simply my plea that something is done so we as fans don’t have to endure watching the Twins trade-off Buxton, Berrios and others to signal the start another rebuild and potential string of 100 loss seasons. All because the club was complacent and didn’t attack this window of opportunity with this group of players, just like the Pirates leadership has failed to do.