It’s hard to ignore the positives of this season. Miguel Sano was the player of the week last week. Byron Buxton is flying all over the field. Robbie F’n Grossman is holding his own at DH. Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario are constantly finding holes in the defense. Ervin Santana is building a Cy Young season, while the bullpen has held strong. Even Hector Santiago has been passable.
The goal for the Twins, though, shouldn’t be to be successful this year, but rather, be successful for the next several years. There are many holes on the roster that fill one with trepidation as they look towards the long term future. There is the rotation that really doesn’t go anywhere after Santana and Santiago. Heck, Kyle Gibson was just sent down. There isn’t nearly enough bench depth (outside of designated hitters) which resulted in Danny Santana being let go today. And even that designated hitter depth is really only guaranteed as long as Kennys Vargas keeps hitting. Joe Mauer, ByungHo Park and Grossman are all relative short timers.
The primary goal should be to shore up the pitching staff. The timeline to achieve that goal is what will be most greatly impacted by the Twins continued success this season. The new front office is in a bit of a pickle, and that pickle gets larger the further into the season this success continues. The Twins are certainly close to sustained contention, assuming they can add some of those pieces I mentioned above. In two years, however, it stands to reason that no member of the current rotation will be there. Even with three early picks in the draft this year, it would be optimistic if any of those selections would be a reliable member of the rotation by then. Jose Berrios, Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero might be there, but even these top prospects aren’t guaranteed to be successful.
As I noted during the offseason, the best way to add young talent that is nearly Major League ready is via trade. The Twins couldn’t find a partner for a Brian Dozier trade during the offseason, so Thad Levine couldn’t supplement the farm system to his liking before the season. There was an expectation that they would be able to do that this summer when the Twins fell out of contention. On the one hand, Ervin Santana has likely emerged as a top end trade candidate for contenders this year. On the other hand, the Twins aren’t falling out of contention yet.
The Twins have been so bad recently that they can’t in good faith sell when they are contending for a playoff spot. Every day they don’t trade away assets, however, is more value those assets lose. Heck, if the Twins are still fighting for a spot in July, the Twins will likely be compelled to try and buy at the deadline. There would be a fan revolt if that’s not what they did. Perhaps the Twins would attain glory — and make no mistake, that’s a shot you have to take — but it might lead to a rough patch for a couple of years. Would Falvey and Levine survive if year 3 is another lean year, even if this first year results in the playoffs?
So what do they hope for? Does the Twins brass hope the team sees a collapse this summer? That goes against all natural competitive instincts, but it might be the best hope for the long term future. It’s fun to be winning, but I don’t doubt that the longer this goes on, team leadership will really start scratching their heads.