It's Always a Rebuilding Year

The Johan Santana trade is just the latest in a string of moves that all point to one thing: the Twins are a franchise building towards 2010.  The short-term Mike Lamb and Adam Everett deals, the Santana trade, the Delmon Young trade, and the long-term "lock-em-up" deals for Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer all suggest that winning in 2008 matters less than winning in 2010.

It seems like it's always this way for the Twins, doesn't it?

Granted, Minnesota has won four of the last six AL Central titles.  But from 2002-2004, that was as much the product of a weak division as anything; no other team in the Central won more than 86 games in any of those three seasons.  And 2006 was, on its face, a miracle season: even Nick Punto hit nearly .300 that year.

But for as mildly successful as the past years have been, the years have been marked by a near-total unwillingness to take a big risk in order to gain a big reward. The team has never "taken its shot," so to speak, at being great.  Below, I've compiled a list of "major" comings and goings for the Twins, going back to 2001 (from the list on MLB.com).

2/9/01: Re-signed Eric Milton long-term.
2/20: Re-signed LaTroy Hawkins.
3/15: Re-signed Corey Koskie.
7/28: Traded Mark Redman for Todd Jones.
7/30: Traded Matt Lawton for Rick Reed.
1/16/02: Re-signed Joe Mays long-term.
7/12: Traded Brian Buchanan for Jason Bartlett.
12/16: Released David Ortiz.
1/17/03: Re-signed Torii Hunter long-term.
3/13: Signed Kenny Rogers.
7/8: Released Tom Prince.
7/16: Traded Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart.
11/14: Traded AJ Pierzynski for Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser.
12/7: Re-signed Shannon Stewart long-term.
12/18: Signed Henry Blanco.
1/13/04: Signed Rick Helling.
4/13: Traded for Terry Mulholland.
7/31: Traded Doug Mienkiewicz.
8/31: Traded for Pat Borders.
10/15: Declined option on Cristian Guzman.
11/23: Signed Juan Castro.
11/23: Signed Jason Tyner.
11/24: Signed Mike Redmond.
12/7: Re-signed Brad Radke.
7/11/05: Traded for Bret Boone.
8/1: Released Bret Boone.
10/7: Declined option on Joe Mays.
12/2: Traded for Luis Castillo.
12/9: Traded JC Romero for Alexi Casilla.
12/15: Signed Tony Batista.
12/22: Signed Rondell White.
12/27: Signed Dennys Reyes.
1/31/06: Signed Ruben Sierra.
8/31: Traded for Phil Nevin.
10/31: Picked up option on Carlos Silva.
12/13: Signed Jeff Cirillo.
12/20: Re-signed Rondell White.
1/3/07: Signed Sidney Ponson.
1/22: Signed Ramon Ortiz.
2/11: Re-signed Joe Mauer long-term.
5/13: Dumped Sidney Ponson.
7/30: Traded Luis Castillo for prospects.
8/15: Traded Ramon Ortiz.
11/13: Traded for Craig Monroe.
11/28: Traded Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and a prospect to Tampa for Delmon Young and two other Rays.
12/13: Signed Adam Everett.
12/14: Signed Mike Lamb.
1/25/08: Re-signed Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer long-term.
1/29: Traded Johan Santana for prospects.

That's seven and a half years' worth of transactions, stretching all the way back to the dawn of Minnesota's new competitiveness after the dark days of the late 1990s.  And of all those transactions, here are the ones that took any kind of risk at all, the ones that said "We want to win, it's what's important, and we're going to take a little bit of risk to accomplish that ASAP":

2/9/01: Re-signed Eric Milton long-term.
7/30/01: Traded Matt Lawton for Rick Reed.
1/16/02: Re-signed Joe Mays long-term.
1/17/03: Re-signed Torii Hunter long-term.
7/16/03: Traded Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart.
12/7/04: Re-signed Brad Radke.
12/2/05: Traded for Luis Castillo.

That's seven moves in eight years, four of them involving re-signing players.

In this span, the Twins have never signed a big-name free agent.  They've traded for three big-name players, one of whom they later dumped mid-season in a trade that so incensed the team's two biggest stars that both ended up wanting out the next off-season.

It's always about risking nothing with the Twins.  It's always about winning - tomorrow, not today.  It's always about standing pat and being optimistic about down the road and making a move with an eye on the future.

Wouldn't it be nice if, for once, the Twins would be willing to make it about "now"?  

Maybe Minnesota would have fallen short of the World Series, no matter what.  Maybe no "big" move at any point would have put the team over the top.  But the fact remains, for the last six years, the Twins have been close to being great, and the team brass has refused to even try to make it happen.

And now, Minnesota's beginning a three-year rebuilding project, on the heels of a fifteen-year job that they were never quite willing to try to finish.

It's always a rebuilding year around here.  It's starting to get old.

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