It’s days like today, shuttered indoors as blizzard grips the Twin Cities that I can totally understand why someone might not want to spend time in Minnesota, especially if that person is originally from the Caribbean, California or Florida.
Minnesota has a reputation as a cold, snowy place, reinforced by the Super Bowl last year, this year’s Polar Vortex coverage and a few Aprils where players needed ski masks to make the outfield tolerable.
Add to that the fact that the Twin Cities are in the Midwest, which, on the coast is code for “boring” and the Minneapolis St. Paul area is pretty unenticing to a young man who can only work on reputation. Given a choice between Minnesota and almost any other team in the country with all other things being equal, Minnesota is probably going to lose to Caribbean, southern or coastal players if they have a choice in free agency.
There are exceptions, of course. Addison Reed wanted to come to the Midwest, because he actually does like it in the middle of the country. Jonathan Schoop saw an opportunity to get on the field. I think the Twins were looking this offseason to find players that really wanted to play in Minnesota, rather than those that wanted the best pay check they could find at the end of the offseason, like Lance Lynn, most notably.
There has been quite a bit of discontent with how the Twins spend their money, but I think this is one of the reasons the team was tight with the pursestrings: they didn’t want to pay a premium just because someone wasn’t excited to come to Minnesota. The other reason is also quite obvious: the Twins are reserving cash for extensions if and when they come to terms with players already in the organization.
You can look at Milwaukee, a team in about the same situation as the Twins, save for one thing. They were a playoff team last year, and have been pretty good in the last few years. They built internally, bolstered their team through trades and only now are they able to attract top free agents. This is probably what the Thad Levine meant when he tried to explain the Twins spending this offseason.
It’s tough to convince guys to play for the Twins, but it’s easier to sign guys to come to Minnesota when the team is already winning.