Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
In the wake of the Twins failing to offer a contract to Brett Myers, I examine their desire to build a solid clubhouse. In doing so, I argue that if they keep on passing over available players because of personality flaws, they're going to extend this rebuilding phase longer than necessary.
Jesse is having some Internet issues or something from his end of the country, so I'm stepping in at the last minute with an idea I had Wednesday. At the very least, it'll keep you entertained until Stu bumps me to second fiddle.
If you listened to the "Gleeman and the Geek" podcast 2 episodes ago, you were treated to guest host Darren "Doogie" Wolfson, who works for the Channel 5 news and 1500 ESPN. While talking with co-host Aaron Gleeman, Doogie mentioned that the Twins made plenty of calls to free agent starting pitchers and their respective agents, but in the cases of quite a few of them, they did not make any serious offers. This narrative was echoed once again today by Wolfson on Twitter after it was announced that SP Brett Myers signed a 1-year, $7 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, but the Twins did not make an official offer to Myers.
Count me as one of the people that felt that Myers would have been an improvement to the Twins starting rotation in 2013, especially when you compare him to someone like Kevin Correia. However, as we all know, Correia is a Twin and Myers is not. Now, if you want to argue that Myers gives up too many homers and his strikeout rate has fallen for two consecutive years, then fine. Those are certainly two truths that I agree with, but then you look at Correia's track record, and it's hard to believe that he was more appealing.
But when we start to include things such as intangibles, the decision-making by the Twins becomes clearer. Back in 2006 when with the Philadelphia Phillies, Myers was arrested for hitting his wife several times after both left a bar in Boston. Additionally, doing a quick Google search shows that the 2006 assault isn't his only blemish on his personality record. Considering what we know about our Twins and how they like to assemble good clubhouse chemistry, it's no wonder that they wouldn't want Myers. Meanwhile, Correia has never had any issues.
And yet, I'm willing to argue that this line of thinking by the Twins is wrong.
No, no, no, I'm not saying that the Twins should have signed a wife-beater. Let me explain myself first. Being a small market team and with the appearance that the team is returning to a life of carrying a tight wallet, the team is forced to find more talent for less money. That's why we saw the Span/Meyer and Revere/Worley & May trades, as it gave the Twins plenty of controllable talent for the next 3-6 years.
From Moneyball, we know that often when finding talent on the cheap, you've got to admit that you're gaining a player that is below-average with a tool or two in his skill set. In Chris Parmelee, we have a player that will possibly be a decent bat, but he's going to be a liability on defense. The same goes for Trevor Plouffe.
While a player's attitude or personality doesn't count for one of the 5 tools used when evaluating players, it does often come up in the code word of "makeup," and could possibly be treated as the 6th tool. How will the player handle adversity? Is this a guy that we need to worry about when he goes out on the town after a ballgame? Can he be a leader? Will he cause problems in the clubhouse?
Those are questions the Twins (and the other 29 teams) often ask themselves when evaluating players. However, the irony is that while this organization has worked to put together a first-class clubhouse, especially in recent years, their record has caused them to fall into the depths of the AL Central.
Remember when the Twins were winning? Those teams had Torii Hunter, who once slugged Nick Punto with a punch when he was actually trying to hit Justin Morneau. There was Matt Garza, who was a head case, and then Garza was traded for Delmon Young, another head case. Kevin Slowey occupied the roster for a few years, and while I'll always be in denial, he was apparently a pain in the ass. 2010 brought us Orlando Hudson, who simply would not shut up. Ever. The 2004 squad had Jose Offerman, who would charge an independent league pitcher while wielding his bat after being hit by a pitch in 2007, and then also attempt to punch an umpire in a Dominican Republic winter league game in 2010 (okay, these are both after his time with the Twins, so I'll admit this is a bit of a stretch here).
Now, the Twins are apparently trying to keep their clubhouse chemistry perfect by ridding the team of all their problem children, and I feel that this is the wrong way to go. When the team is losing, of course that pitcher's surly nature or shortstop's lack of effort in the field is much harder to tolerate, but winning eases the pain. You know what helps you win? Talent, and as far as I'm concerned, the Twins being selective over who they can and can't sign due to their attitudes is going to extend this rebuilding project that they currently refuse to admit they're doing.
(I'm going to give an example of what I'd like to see, and I'm going to preface it first by saying that I am not advocating that the Twins sign a criminal or a player accused of a crime. It just happens that Jose Lueke and the Tampa Bay Rays almost mirror what I want to see the Twins do, while unfortunately crossing the very line I would draw.)
If you're not familiar with Lueke, he is a relief pitcher that was charged with rape and sodomy back in 2008 while with the Texas Rangers organization, and he later pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. He was later traded to the Seattle Mariners, and then was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays last offseason for catcher John Jaso.
It's not clear if the Mariners were aware or not of Lueke's crimes, but the Rays certainly were, and they still felt fine with acquiring him. Why? Well, it was a small market team that looked at Lueke's mid-90s fastball and good strikeout rates, and decided those outweighed his past. They looked at his makeup, and thought that he could pull it together just enough that he would be worth the risk, and when you're a small market team, you've got to be willing to take a few more risks.
In the Rays' case with Lueke, they saw his talent and realized that most other teams would consider him undesirable, so they went out and acquired him. Again, I don't want the Twins to be signing Elijah Dukes or any second comings of Dukes, but it's irritating to think that the Twins walk in to free agency, and they've already identified which players they don't want to sign because they're afraid Starting Pitchers A, C, and D would be curt with the current veterans on the roster.
The Twins are a small market team that already limits who they sign based on price, which effectively cuts the available talent significantly. Continuing to chop down the trees, eliminating the Myerses and Brandon McCarthys of the world because of perceived or actual personality flaws, is going to leave you with the shrubs at the base of the forest. It leaves you with the actual undesirables of the free agent market. It leaves you with Kevin Correia.