Project Rebuild: The Minnesota Twins


In this series, we here at Dubsism will investigate failing franchises and assume the role of general manager in order to return these franchises to past glory. In today’s installment, J-Dub will tackle the challenges facing the Minnesota Twins.

Granted, the Twins are already making roster moves; for example, they’ve already declined the option on Matt Capps and have made some moves on the 40-man roster.  Regardless of what the Twins have already done and may do in the future, this is what I would do with the team as it existed at the end of the regular season to turn this team around.

The Problem:

Over the last five years, the Twins have gone from a high-talent, low-payroll team to a low-talent, high payroll team.

The Solution:

As obvious as it sounds, this team needs a top-to-bottom overhaul. This team needs to get out from under some heavy contracts, get some new leadership, and a revamp in the “on the field” philosophy.

The Plan:

The General Manager:

Terry Ryan is not the guy for this job long-term; that’s obvious. My plan of action here is to form a search committee to find a general manager who knows how to do the following:

  1. Get people who know how to spot and acquire talent
  2. Get another group of people in the minors who know how to develop talent
  3. Be a manager who can control a budget

That sounds like a pipe-dream, but there are some guys out there right now who have a proven track record in those three areas. I’m a big believer in executive talent, and I’m willing to spend the money to get the right guy.

  • Ned Colletti

I’ll admit, my odds of getting this guy to leave the Dodgers now that he has ownership with unlimited resources are somewhere between slim and none.  Colletti built a winner in San Francisco in the late 90s with an owner who didn’t want to spend money. He also laid the foundation for the Giants club which won the 2010 World Series and made the NLCS this season.

Since 2005, Ned Colletti has been the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s largely responsible for the Dodgers remaining credible on the field during the disastrous Frank McCourt era.

  • Neal Huntington

This is the guy who I think I could get on the reasonably cheap.  Huntington is a general managers who has taken more of a “sabermetrics” approach to valuing players and it has paid off for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Like it or not, the team has improved since he took over in 2008.

  • Doug Melvin

In Texas, Melvin created the Rangers team that reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.  Melvin is also responsible for the Brewers’ team that made the playoffs for the first time in 30 years in 2011.

The Manager:

The Twins have already fired all their coaches, but they didn’t go far enough.  Ron Gardenhire’s time in Minnesota needs to be over.  It’s too late to hire Terry Francona, and I have no idea why the Twins just gave him a two-year contract extension. I really don’t want to buy out a manager’s contract on a team I’m not expecting to contend in the next two years, so Gardenhire stays as a lame-duck, at least until the next time I need a scapegoat.

There’s one thing the Twins have done correctly regardless of the performance on the field. They have had only two managers in the past 25 years, and it is far easier to do the kind of rebuilding this team needs on a stable platform. That’s why I’m undertaking a two-stage, long-term approach.

Stage One involves hiring a manager who will have the job from the end of the Gardenhire era until my future manager-in-training is ready for the job.  The guy I want for that job is Paul Molitor. I’m not going to make the same mistake the Cubs made with Ryne Sandberg.   Right now, I’ve got a Hall-of-Famer who has been a part of the organization for over a decade who would make a great manager for a rebuilding team. The deal would be Molitor is the face of the team in the dugout, then when it is time to transition to Stage Two, he gets a big-time front office job.

Stage Two involves getting my manager-in-training into the organization in either 2013 or 2014.  The ideal candidate is a recently or soon-to-be retired player with at least a decade of major league service time, had been in several organizations so he’s seen various ways of doing things and can pick the best traits from each, and catchers will have a preference because I want a long-term guy who know how to handle young pitchers, because not only is he going to deal with a lot of them in the minors while he is the manager-in-training, but once he gets to the show, he will still be dealing with them because one of the ways I will be controlling payroll is to make the Twins farm system to young pitchers what mountain slopes in Peru are to cocaine (Chairman Marple, here’s your shot at some “Molitor” jokes placed on a tee for you…)

The candidate I have in mind for this manager-in-training role is Rod Barajas (details come later, since he is still under contract to the Pittsburgh Pirates).  He meets all the criteria, plus unlike the rest of the Twins’ leadership structure, he isn’t lily white. This matters because the future of baseball isn’t lily white either. The important part is that Barajas is well-respected in baseball circles, and is considered by many to ba a manager waiting to happen.  The plan is to get him into the organization now, so that when he retires as a player, he can go directly to coaching in the minors with the goal of eventually becoming the skipper of the big-league club.

The Team:

The over-arching philosophy is I’m building this team around pitching and defense.  That means there are going to be some big changes.

  • Part One: Joe Must Go

I know this is the part that will make Twins’ fans think I’m just trolling for some nasty comments, but as a general manager tasked with rebuilding this team, I’m faced with one over-arching fact. I get Joe Mauer is top-shelf talent. I get the fact that he is the home-town hero. But I also get that I’m rebuilding a team with limited payroll, and I can’t afford having 25% of my total payroll stuck in one player.

The hard financial fact is that I’m committed to $23 million a year through 2018 on Mauer, and my total payroll is now at $94 million. That has to change, because as great as Mauer is, he can only fill one spot in the batting order.

The Deal:

In an off-season deal, I’m making the following trade with the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants get:

  1. Joe Mauer, C/1B – (2012: .319, 10 HR, 85 RBI); Contract: $23 million per year through 2018
  2. Denard Span, CF – (2012: .283, 4 HR, 41 RBI); Contract: 2012:$3 million, 2013: $4.75 million, 2014: $6.5 million, 2015: $9 million club option with a $500,000 buyout

The Twins get:

  1. Madison Bumgarner, SP – (2012: 16-11, 3.37 ERA); Contract: 2012: $560,000, 2013: $750,000, 2014:$3.75 million, 2015: $6.75 million, 2016: $9.75 million, 2017: $11.5 million, 2018:  $12 million club option with a $1.5 million buyout (2018 option guaranteed with 200 innings pitched in 2017  or 400 innings pitched combined in 2016 and 2017, options increase to $14 million with top 3 finish in the Cy Young vote anywhere between 2012 and 2017, or to #16 million if he wins the Cy Young award in that time), 2019: $12 million club option.  Contract has limited no-trade protection; Bumgarner may block deals to eight clubs.
  2. Sergio Romo, RP – (2012: 4-2, 14 Saves, 1.79 ERA); Contract: 2012: $1.575 million, 2013: arbitration eligible). To avoid arbitration, offering 3 years, $9 million with option for 2016. 2013: $2.25 million, 2014: $2.75 million, 2015: $4 million, 2016: club option for $5.5 million, option becomes mutual if Romo saves more than 45 games in any season from 2013 to 2015 or if he is traded.  No buyout on options unless it becomes a mutual option, at which point the buyout becomes $5 million.
  3. Pablo Sandoval,3B/1B (2012: .283, 12 HR, 63 RBI); Contract: 2013: $5.7 million, 2014: $8.25 million

Why This Deal Works:

Believe it or not, this trade was conceived before Sandoval’s historic performance in last night’s World Series Game 1. The Giants have a ton of pitching, but they have struggled with consistency in production at first base and could use a defensive upgrade in center field.  Both teams have bad contracts they would love to get rid of, but both would live with a bad contract in an area they sorely need. Not only do the Twins need pitching of all sorts, but Bumgarner could always be moved at a trade deadline despite his limited trade protection, not to mention the buy-out option in 2018.  I’m even willing to restructure Sandoval’s deal until at least 2018, so long as the club gets a buyout clause which allows a buyout of his contract at that season’s major-league minimum salary if his weight exceeds a certain number.

  • Part Two: Let’s Make A Deal

Let’s be honest, there’s really no point in waiting until July to entertain offers for Justin Morneau. In fact, I’m not sure why Terry Ryan didn’t push the deal to the Dodgers that was on the table before Los Angeles blew all their money on the Red Sox quarter-billion dollar salary dump.

Playing GM of the Twins, Morneau means a guy to whom  I’m paying him a ton of money ($15 million this year, to be exact), he’s a valuable commodity, he’s a free agent after this year, and let’s be even more honest…I’m not in the market to gamble on a concussed former MVP who just can’t seem to stay healthy.

The Deal:

Morneau is a used car, and I’m willing to make a deal. He’s relatively low mileage, and he’s got a performance engine, but there have been some major repairs, and we just don’t know how reliable he’s going to be down the road.  I’m not at “best offer” territory yet, but the rest of the world knows that I get closer to that point with every passing day, because on July 31st, 2013, Morneau’s trade value starts depreciating rapidly due to the “desperation factor.”

In an off-season deal, I’m making the following trade with the Tampa Rays.

The Rays get:

  1. Matt Capps, RP – (2012: 1-4, 14 Saves, 3.68 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $4.75 million (with cption for $2.5 million for 2013,, exercising the option and trading him)
  2. Sam Deduno, SP – (2012: 6-5, 4.44 ERA); Contract: 2013: 1 year, $480,000
  3. Justin Morneau, 1B/DH – (2012: .267, 19 HR, 77 RBI); Contract: 6 years, $80 million: 2013: $14 million
  4. Anthony Swarzak, RP – (2012: 3-6, 5.03 ERA); Contract: 2013: 1 year, $480,000

The Twins get:

  1. David Price, SP – (2012: 20-5, 2.56 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $4.35 million, 2013: arbitration eligible.  To avoid arbitration, offering 4 years, $52.5 million with incentives on innings pitched and wins; all salary numbers increase by 20% for all years after a Cy Young and/or MVP win.  No-trade clause expires after 2015, can be re-instated with a $3 million buy-back on 2016 salary. 2013: $9.5 million, 2014: $11.75 million, 2015:  $14.75 million, 2016: $16.75 million
  2. Burke Badenhop, RP – (2012: 3-2, 3.03 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $1.075 million, 2013: arbitration eligible. To avoid arbitration, offering 3 years, $5 million. 2013: $1.25 million, 2014: $1.75 million, 2015: $2 million
  3. Hak Ju Lee, SS (Minors)

Why This Deal Works:

The Rays are afraid of arbitration with Price, who just won 20 games. The Rays also have a ton of young pitching talent whom they have under contract. This deal allows them to upgrade at first base while not re-signing Carlos Pena. Realistically, it only costs them a young reliever and a prospect.  In return, along with a one-time MVP, they get two decent young pitchers and a veteran presence in Capps.

  • Part Three:  The Daily Double – A Veteran Back-up Catcher who is also the Manager-In-Training

In an off-season deal, I’m making the following trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates get:

  1. Jeff Manship – RP (2012: 0-0, 7.89 ERA); Contract: 2013:  1 year, $480,000
  2. P. J. Walters – SP (2012: 2-5. 5.69 ERA); Contract: 2013: 1 year, $480,000

The Twins get:

  1. Rod Barajas – C (2012: .206, 11 HR, 31 RBI); Contract: 2013: club option for $3.5 million with no buyout; option becomes mutual if Barajas is traded.  Matching the option number plus add a provisional contract as a minor league coach with a 5 year guarantee at $500,000 per year with a time line that Barajas either becomes the major league manager or is released after the coaching contract expires.

Why This Deal Works:

The Twins get a veteran back-up catcher who still has a little thump left in his bat, and the Pirates get to ditch a salary in exchange for two prospects.

  • Part Four: Adios, Muchachos…
  1. Scott Baker, SP – (DNP in 2012); – Contract: 4 years, $15.25 million (with club option for $9.5 million for 2013) – Declining the option
  2. Sean Burroughs, 3B – (2012: 18 Plate Appearances);  Contract: 1 year, $480,000 – Outright release
  3. Brian Duensing, RP – (2012: 4-12, 5.12 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $515,000, 2013: arbitration eligible – Outright release
  4. Liam Hendriks, SP – (2012: 1-8, 5.59 ERA); Contract: 1 year, $515,000 –  Outright release
  5. Carl Pavano, SP – (2012: 2-5, 6.00 ERA); Contract: 2 years, $16.5 million – Not re-signing
  • Part Five: Guys I’m Stuck With, But Who Likely Will Be Getting Their Mail Somewhere Else in 2014
  1. Nick Blackburn, SP – (2012: 4-9, 7.39 ERA); Contract: 4 years, $14 million, 2013: $5.5 million, 2014: club option for $8 million  – Opens 2013 season as fifth starter.
  2. Alexi Casilla, IF – (2012: .241, 1 HR, 30 RBI) ; Contract: 2012: 1 year, $1.38 million, 2013: arbitration eligible.  To avoid arbitration, offering 1 year, $2.55 million
  3. Jamey Carroll, IF – (2012: .268, 1 HR, 40 RBI);  Contract: 2 years, $6.75 million;  2012:  $2.75 million, 2013: $4 million 2014: option for $2.5 million; option becomes player option with no buyout if Carroll gets 401 or more plate appearances in 2013)
  • Part Five: Guys That Are Staying On The Roster
  1. Jared Burton, RP – (3-2, 2.18 ERA); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $750,000. Offering 2 years, $2.25 million, 2013: $1 million. 2014: $1.25 million
  2. Drew Butera, C – (.198, 1 HR, 5 RBI); Contract: 2012: Minor League Contract, 2013: arbitration eligible.  Will not avoid arbitration, outrighting Butera to AAA Rochester after arbitration, keeping him on 40-man roster.
  3. Cole De Vries, SP – (5-5, 4.11 ERA); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000. Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
  4. Scott Diamond, SP – (12-9, 3.54 ERA); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000. Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
  5. Brian Dozier, SS – (.234, 6 HR, 33 RBI); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
  6. Eduardo Escobar, IF – (.227, 0 HR, 6 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000 2013: 1 year, $480,000.  Outrighting Escobar to AAA Rochester, keeping him on 40-man roster.
  7. Casey Fein, RP – (2-1, 2.06 ERA); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
  8. Darin Mastroianni, OF – (.252, 3 HR, 17 RBI); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
  9. Chris Parmalee, 1B/3B – (.229, 5 HR, 20 RBI); Contract: 2012: minor leagues, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
  10. Trevor Plouffe, 3B – (.235, 24 HR, 55 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $480,000. Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
  11. Ben Revere, OF – (.294, 0 HR, 32 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $492.000 – Offering 3 years, $4 million with club options in 2016 and 2017. 2013: $750,000, 2014: $1.5 million, 2015: $2 million, 2016: club option at $2.75 million with no buyout, 2017: club option for $3.25 million with $500,000 buyout
  12. Kyle Waldrop, RP – (0-1, 2.53 ERA); 2012: 1 year, $480,000, 2013: 1 year, $480,000
  • Part Six: Free Agent Shopping List
  1. Mike Napoli, C/1B – (.227, 24 HR, 56 RBI); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $9.4 million (Texas Rangers) – Offering 2 years, $22 million; 2013: $10 million, 2014: $12 million. Incentive clauses that kick in at .275 batting average, 25 home runs, 80 RBI, or 400 at-bats.
  2. Cody Ross, OF – (Stats); Contract: 2012: 1 year, $3 million (Boston Red Sox) – Offering 3 years, $14.25 million; 2013: $4.25 million, 2014: $4.5 million. 2015: $5.5 million

The Bottom Line:

After enacting these moves the Twins would have several positive factors they currently do not have:

  • A proven general manager
  • The payroll has been cut from $95 milllion to $71 million, while adding more bats, pitching, and defense
  • The Mauer Dividend: future financial commitments have been cut by 50%, allowing for the resigning of current talent and/or being active on the free-agent market
  • A plan for a long-term manager and front office team

Let’s face it…anything’s is better than spending nearly a million dollars per loss.

 

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3 responses

  1. I like the Rays – Twins deal. Tampa Bay needs a stronger hitter at first base and they have arms to spare. The only thing I’m not sure about is them letting go of a strong short stop prospect. Sounds good to me though.

  2. As much as I hate to say it, unless you find a sucker, I think you’re stuck with Mauer. I mean, that contract is just too cumbersome. Who other than a big market team would be willing to take that on? Perhaps you can goat the Red Sox into doing so if you agree to eat a portion of that salary.

    Regarding your Price trade suggestion, I don’t know that the Rays would move him. I know they’ve got tons of young pitching talent and don’t have the money required to keep a David Price when it comes to arbitration, however, Price is one of those guys the organization really, really likes. If they were going to keep any one of their big names, other than Longo who’s already signed, Price would be the one.

    1. True, but don’t look now…the Giants are a “big market team.” They aren’t shy on money, and unlike the Yankees, Red Sox, and anybody else you care to add to the list, they’ve won two of the last three World Series.

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