Twins

How All-In Should the Twins Be?

Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to blame Derek Falvey and Thad Levine for seeking Carlos Correa’s advice ahead of the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Correa won a World Series with the Houston Astros and sees the game from field level. Falvey and Levine have already placed calls to opposing teams, letting them know which players they are interested in. Some teams are weighing various offers; others are holding out hope that they can make the playoffs. But every now and then, Falvey and Levine get a suggestion from their $35 million shortstop.

“They know the numbers and all that, but they’re not facing the pitchers. They’re not out there the way we are,” Correa told the Star Tribune. “I’m watching baseball 24/7, and when I see somebody on a team that’s not going to have a chance, and I think they can help, I always bring it up. It’s kind of like the relationship you’ve got to have with your front office if you want to have success.”

Correa had the same relationship with Houston’s management. He’s a good resource as a statistically-savvy, baseball-obsessed player, but there are drawbacks to such a relationship. For starters, Correa can opt out of the 3-year, $105 million contract he signed in the offseason. He also has to be careful not to reveal who he’s suggesting to the front office because he knows that player will take a teammate’s job. But if the Minnesota Twins are going to emulate what the St. Louis Cardinals did with Paul Goldschmidt – bringing a player in on an expiring contract and convince him to stay – it’s an excellent first step.

The one thing I’d love to know here isn’t who Correa is targeting, though. I’d like to know how likely he thinks the Twins can go on a postseason run. Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff game since 2004. The last series they won was over the Moneyball Oakland A’s in 2002. Correa was eight years old at the time. The Twins have lost 18 straight playoff games, nearly a statistical impossibility, including 13 in a row to the New York Yankees. Correa’s Astros most recently swept them in 2020. New York and Houston are the two best teams in the American League right now.

No player will tell you they don’t think their team can win it all. Last year, Miguel Sanó proclaimed that the Twins were the best team in the world after hitting a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to beat Oakland. Minnesota improved to 13-24 with the win, en route to a 73-win season. Sanó may be on a different team next year. Therefore, Falvey and Levine have to moderate from their suite above the diamond. Correa may love a talented pitcher on a losing team, but Minnesota’s brain trust has to weigh how much of the future they want to give up.

The Twins have enough hitting at the major league level that they can give up a position player if need be. But most losing teams will want prospects, and Minnesota’s farm system has dropped in the rankings because they’ve graduated so many players recently. Keith Law has them at 18th in the league; MLB.com has them at 19th. Still, they have some intriguing names in the high minors. Jordan Balazovic is scuffling at Triple-A, and Matt Canterino is hurt, but both players could reach the majors next season. Matt Wallner and Spencer Steer raked in Double-A.

If the Twins believe they are a starting pitcher, two relievers, and a backup catcher away from competing with the Yankees and the Astros, then almost no prospect is untouchable. But that feels unrealistic. Minnesota dropped a series against the Yankees at home in early June, giving up ten runs in two separate games, and Houston swept them in May. Furthermore, the Twins have lost series to mediocre teams on the road. They also can’t get a stranglehold on one of the weakest divisions in baseball. If they can’t take series from the Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Texas Rangers away from home, how will they fare in Yankee Stadium?

Minnesota should still get pitching at the deadline, of course. The bullpen has been a liability all year, including in critical series against the Yankees, Cleveland Guardians, and the Milwaukee Brewers. They also need another playoff starter in addition to Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan. The Twins will lose fans if they stand pat. The fanbase is already rightfully skeptical of this team. They’ll become apathetic if they keep seeing the team blow leads.

However, if the Twins were taking care of business on the road and blowing away the competition in the Central, they could justify really going for it. Not totally mortgaging the future – even great teams should stockpile talent in the minors. But if they had 60 wins right now, they could act a little less cautiously before the deadline. Why not go out and get Frankie Montas and Noah Syndergaard? That would provide insurance in case one of the playoff starters got hurt. They could also outbid teams for Daniel Bard and David Robertson instead of gambling on second-tier relievers.

Given that a reasonable goal this year seems to be breaking the seal, aka winning a playoff game, it’s not time to go for broke. The core of the team is still young. The Twins shouldn’t deplete their minor-league pitching depth because they need to fill out their rotation and bullpen next season. Teams like St. Louis and Cleveland stay competitive because they have a robust pitching pipeline. Minnesota shouldn’t remove parts of theirs before it’s fully installed.

So what’s the compromise? How do the Twins fill out a competitive team without going all-in on a young team that has a chance to open a meaningful competitive window? Use some of their hitting surplus to get two quality relievers and a proven playoff starter. There are multiple proven veteran starters available. Teams get less value on relievers, but that’s the cost of not having serviceable bullpen arms in the minor leagues. Ultimately, the front office must adhere to the blueprint that Rocco Baldelli laid out after Tuesday’s loss in Milwaukee.

“They want to get a lead at some point in the sixth, seventh inning, and then they turn it over to those guys [in the bullpen],” Baldelli said. “That’s the kind of game they play. They bank on winning games like that. We need to do the same. We need to win games like that, too. I’d like to make it our calling card as well.”

The front office needs to allow the Twins to replicate that formula. Have good enough starters to give the offense a chance to get a lead late and enough bullpen depth around Jhoan Durán to maintain it. That doesn’t mean adding two starters and the best two relievers on the market by Aug. 2. It just means fielding a competitive team. One that will bring more fans out to the ballpark and gives the team a chance in the playoffs – now and for years to come.

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Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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