How Have the Twins Addressed Their Perennial Criticisms?

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Growing up in the digital age can teach you a lot about the nature of people. Especially angry people. Few fan bases have as complicated emotions as a loud tangent of Minnesota Twins followers in the online sphere.

Granted, there are plenty of times when their noisy criticism is perfectly warranted. Looking back to the golden years of 2012-16, it’s easy to see why so much frustration spread faster than the apocalyptic fungi in The Last of Us. Rebuilds are never fun, especially after a fruitful stretch that lasted roughly eight years and built up championship expectations – without ever paying off.

That’s a lot of pent-up emotions for thousands of people that didn’t have the tools to hold them. So, where did they go to release this pressure? To the big blue bird in the sky. A place where nobody is ever right, and we all lose. Of course, I’m talking about Twins Twitter.

In the dark ages, when the team went into a lengthy playoff drought, the endless barking on social media came from a place of heartbreak. But since the front office regime changed after the 2016 season, the constant angst and complaining have mostly come from habit, misunderstanding, and mistrust.

So as the off-season winds down and the Twins start loading their trucks for spring training, it’s interesting to look at how they’ve responded to fan criticism over the last few years.

Criticism 1: The Twins are cheap, and they never land any top free agents

Like the other complaints on this list, it’s not hard to see where fans’ frustration stems from. For years, the Twins were at or near the bottom of the league in overall payroll. Former general manager Terry Ryan almost made it a point of pride to save money each off-season. He pointed his justification to his scouting background when making these frugal decisions, but fans pointed at Carl Pohlad’s wallet.

That was in the past, though. There has been substantial growth since Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over before the 2017 season. That year, the opening day payroll was $108.1 million, which ranked 21st out of 30 teams according to

Then the front office got to work and increased that number to $128.7 million in 2018. That still only ranked 18th in baseball at the time. But progress was being made, and they showed a willingness to stretch their pockets in the last year of Joe Mauer’s mega contract.

When the former first baseman came off the books before the 2019 campaign, they replaced his $23 million annual salary with Nelson Cruz’s $14 million commitment. The team payroll followed suit and dipped down to $119.7 million, almost the same difference between the two sluggers’ salary commitments.

Technically speaking, the Twins’ payroll was just $45.6 million in the pandemic-shortened season in 2020. However, that’s only because the team only played in 60 regular season games that year. Stretch that rate out to a full 162-game season, and the payroll would have been roughly $123.2 million. In 2021, that figure remained pretty much the same ($120.4 million), as did many teams’ after dealing with the lack of ticket sales the year before.

The surprise addition of Carlos Correa, the top-ranked free agent, in 2022 jumped the Twins’ payroll up to 16th in the big leagues at a whopping $149 million.

Even the loudmouths on Twins Twitter can do the math on that. Since this front office has taken over, the payroll has increased by about 37% over six years. That includes a year without ticket sales and another with ticket limitations for the first few months.

Now, another issue is their lack of success in turning that payroll into a championship contender. But you can’t say they aren’t trending in the right direction when it comes to increasing financial commitments to the talent on the field.

Criticism 2: The Twins desperately need pitching but never acquire anyone worthwhile

There’s no doubt about it, the Twins lacked quality starting pitching for what seemed like an eternity, and their rebuilding years between 2012 and 2016 were a perfect representation of that futility. From Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, to Scott Diamond and Andrew Albers, to P.J. Walters and Esmerling Vásquez (oh yeah…I went there), the team trotted out underwhelming hurlers time after time.

But the current regime has traded a small army of prospects (and Nelson Cruz) to build a contending rotation. The jury is still out on whether they have enough firepower to carry a team to the postseason and beyond. But this collection has, without a doubt, an exponentially higher ceiling than the aforementioned collection.

Sonny Gray is a two-time All-Star, had a 3.08 ERA, and was on pace to amass 3.0 fWAR before a hamstring injury ended his season in mid-September. Tyler Mahle was one of the most coveted trade targets at the deadline last year. Kenta Maeda was the runner-up for the Cy Young award in 2020 before having Tommy John surgery in 2021. Joe Ryan has a 3.63 ERA across his first 32 starts in his young career, averaging more than a strikeout per inning (9.4 K/9). The newly acquired Pablo López was beloved in Miami thanks to an elite changeup and 70th percentile chase rate.

The front office has acquired a talented group. Sure there are some lingering health questions for a few of them, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an MLB rotation without an injury history.

More work is certainly required. But if any of these five pitchers take a step forward, they’ll be All-Star caliber players, whereas the pitchers of yesteryear were a step away from falling off a cliff.

Are the Twins flawless? Should they be free from criticism? Of course not.

The team’s development to where they find themselves today has not been linear, and they haven’t won a damn thing. But recycling yesterday’s complaints when dealing with today’s team doesn’t make sense anymore.

Maybe the Twins Should Have Prepped Kenta Maeda as a Reliever
By Lou Hennessy - Mar 18, 2023
What If the Front Office Is Right About Minnesota’s Bullpen?
By Theo Tollefson - Mar 17, 2023

The Shift Ban May Not Be A Boon For Max Kepler

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball fans are anticipating the start of the 2023 season for several reasons. After COVID and a lockout impacted spring training, everyone is now back to their […]

Continue Reading