It happened again. The Twins, despite a good season, fell flat in the playoffs. They set and surpassed the North American sports record for consecutive playoff losses. The amount of bad luck that goes into that streak are hard to wrap one’s head around.
In the 2000s, the fan base wanted the team to make patches on the offensive side of the ball, where they never seemed to have enough big bats. In the 2010s, fans were concerned about pitching. Going into the 2020 season, what were fans concerned with? And the Twins won the division. Who knows what would have happened over 60 games? The trajectory suggested they might have won it even more comfortably than they did.
And then we all know what happened. The Twins were a completely different team in the playoffs than what we saw in the regular season. They couldn’t hit, had gaffes in the field and on the basepaths, and let games get away late. It was out of character. How do you prevent that in the offseason?
Some people have called for a management overhaul. Some want a roster overhaul. I don’t think either are going to happen. Rocco Baldelli is a good regular season manager, and didn’t make the same mistakes against the Astros as he did against the Yankees. He’s trying new things, and to be better. Now isn’t the time to get rid of him.
The lineup just last year hit more home runs than any team before it. The pitching this year was among the best in all of baseball. The roster is young, inexpensive and extremely well constructed. Maybe some additional depth is needed, given the problems that injuries gave the team this year, but the farm is well stocked as well.
Neither changes in management nor major changes to the roster should be anticipated. But what do the Twins do? The only logical course of action is to replace the players that will probably not return in 2021. That means a continuation of the constant effort to add starting pitching, and patch the bullpen. If Nelson Cruz leaves, maybe the team could find replacement there as well.
I finished the OOTP simulation I started when the season should have begun. Similarly to the real world, the Twins were AL Central champions. Luis Arraez easily won the batting title, and Jose Berrios won the Cy Young. Nelson Cruz won a Silver Slugger and Byron Buxton won a Gold Glove. And the Twins were swept in the playoffs. It’s a very realistic simulation.
Because of the painful similarity between the projection and reality, I ran the simulation through the offseason to see what the fictional Twins would want to do. They went through the exact same paces I suggested above. They traded Willians Astudillo and prospects to the Rockies for Antonio Sanzatela, who would work as a mid-rotation starter for the Twins (and would likely cost more than Astudillo in real life).
They went out and spent handsomely for some relievers to replace Trevor May, Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo, grabbing Brad Brach and Alex Colome. They replaced Nelson Cruz with a comeback player who hit 285 with 25 homers for the Angels. (It was Logan Morrison).
The Twins have been frustrating. I’m frustrated and sad. But as we go into this winter, it’s worth noting that teams are built for the long haul. It’s the only way to even have a chance in October.