If you are a frequenter of internet commenter sections, or have had the opportunity to interact with some of your extended family despite the pandemic, you may have noted some grousing about how the offseason is going for the Twins. That’s how it always goes, of course, but every year is different, with different characters adding color to the complaints.
The Twins have seen a lot of turnover in their bullpen, in particular, but their rotation in general may be missing a piece, especially if Jake Odorizzi finds a new home. To date, the only player they brought in is former Angels closer Hansel Robles, who had been designated for assignment after a rough 2020.
A couple of off seasons ago, Twins fandom fell in love with Yu Darvish, seeing a connection between the pitcher and Thad Levine, who had helped bring Darvish to Texas. This year, Darvish was on the move again, with the San Diego Padres acquiring him from the Chicago Cubs.
The Twins added Robles for a low cost, incentive laden deal, while there wasn’t even a hint that the Twins had sniffed at Darvish. It all brought out the same replies that we hear every year. The Pohlads are cheap, and the Twins never do anything.
Of course, last offseason, they acquired the Cy Young runner up and spent 9 figures on an all star third baseman, but memories are short, and why would they sell off their radio interests if they weren’t cheap?
I’m as disappointed in the shuttering of Go Radio as the next guy, but the baseball decision making hasn’t been particularly troublesome for me. The Darvish decision, to me, is one that I find easiest to defend. I don’t like investing a lot of resources in a pitcher in their mid 30s. If the package the Twins would have had to give up was similar to the Padres, they probably would have had to give up someone like Jose Berrios, which severely blunts any real immediate return for the Twins. And that’s before you get to the durability concerns, of which there would be many over the remaining years of Darvish’s contract.
The concerns around Robles are tied heavily to the small sample size last season. He only worked 16 2/3 innings of admittedly awful baseball. There wasn’t a significant breakdown in his non-luck stats. BABIP was high, LOB% was absurdly low, and his home run rate was insanely high. in a full 2019, his HR rate was .74 HR/9, but in his blip of 2020, it was nearly 3 times higher.
The point is, even if Robles doesn’t return to his 2019 form, he almost certainly give the Twins a replacement for Sergio Romo or Tyler Clippard, and for less money. Sure, I guess you could say that’s cheap, I guess, but any team in baseball would make that trade, if they were smart enough.
The decisions the Twins have made haven’t been out of character, I suppose, but the character of this front office is just better than they are given credit for.