The saying “patience is a virtue” comes from the 13th Century poet William Langland.
And if the Minnesota Twins front office of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have any posters hanging up at Target Field, that phrase is probably on it. They have taken a patient approach through the five offseasons they’ve navigated since being hired in 2017.
The Twins have spent their past offseasons playing the field in a calculated way, finding the right moments to sign players and often waiting for the market to come to them. Notable late signings include Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison in March of 2018 and trading for Jake Odorizzi towards the end of February. Marwin Gonzalez was also signed in late February of 2019. They even waited to re-sign Nelson Cruz until right before Spring Training last year.
While not all the signings have been blockbusters, it shows the Twins are willing to engage in staring contests in negotiations and let the market come to them to try and get the best deal possible. For better or worse, it’s been the staple of their offseason philosophy.
But what if this year, time won’t be on the Twins side? With a potential lockdown looming on Dec. 1 and the league and players union at odds, there is a chance that this offseason is going to get weird. If there is a lockdown, MLB will put transactions on pause with no timetable for when the league would resume, and free agency could begin again.
It could be days, weeks, or months before the two sides agree to a new deal. If it ends up being the latter, it will leave teams like the Twins with a limited amount of time to fill out their roster before Spring Training would begin. Even if their roster moves come through the trade market instead of free agency, no players on the 40-man roster can be traded during a lockout. A work stoppage also halts any work the team could make on a potential extension with Byron Buxton in an offseason that looks like Minnesota’s last chance of locking down the star center fielder until he hits free agency next winter.
For a more patient front office, the looming lockout has created an artificial deadline. If the Twins are serious about competing in 2022, they need to put a brick on the accelerator with their offseason plans. They are going to need multiple additions, specifically in the starting rotation. Falvey and Levine can’t afford to “wait and see” this year and risk missing out on players who can help this team next season.
It’s not only teams that are worried about the length of a potential pause. Another wrinkle is the sizable amount of talent hitting free agency this offseason, specifically in the shortstop and starting pitching markets. According to Jeff Passan, some of the top free agents, including Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, are looking to sign on the dotted line before the Dec. 1 deadline.
And it’s not just an insider floating something out there. Some high-profile free agents are already signing. According to Passan, Eduardo Rodriguez has already found his next team. He’s reportedly agreed to a five-year, $77 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Passan also reports that pitcher Noah Syndergaard is signing with the Angels.
The Twins brain trust could play the patient approach again and hope to add players who are desperate to find a team. However, bringing in multiple players like that is a risky play. In 2018, Lynn and Morrison were two players expected to be key cogs in a team looking to make the postseason. Whether it was the small amount of time to mesh before the regular season or because of the two players’ personalities, they never fit with a Twins team that never felt right from the get-go.
In 2019, they brought in Gonzalez late. But it didn’t have as much impact because he was a depth signing, and most of the starting lineup was already in place. This year, Minnesota needs to make multiple acquisitions to fill out its roster. Can they afford to risk bringing in a team together at the last minute after a potential extra-long break?
Building a roster isn’t like putting together a Diamond Dynasty team on MLB The Show. These players are real people, and giving them more time to understand what their team will look like before the lockout is a better approach than the alternative.
That doesn’t mean the Twins have to make all of their signings or trades tomorrow, but they will have to figure out what the core of their team will look like before the holidays. If not, Falvey and Levine risk losing out on what could be a crucial offseason for the future of this team, especially with the loaded free-agent class and a handful of young players and prospects ready to hit the major leagues.
In a way, the Falvine approach is almost the antithesis of how the notorious San Diego Padres GM AJ Preller operates. Preller has made several big moves, including signing Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado or trading for Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, etc. Falvine has made big signings before, like Josh Donaldson, and their most significant offseason trade was dealing flamethrower Brusdar Graterol to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kenta Maeda in 2020. But those two additions were also late in the offseason.
Being patient isn’t a bad philosophy during a typical offseason, especially for a team that doesn’t have deep pockets like the Dodgers or New York Yankees. However, this isn’t going to be a normal offseason by all accounts.
Awards from the previous season are still being announced. Teams are already signing free agents. With more big moves expected in the coming weeks, the Twins mustn’t get left behind in the shuffle if they are serious about competing for the AL Central in 2022.