The Twins are in a unique situation. With a farm system that is as deep in top-end talent as it is depth, in the next six to 18 months there are going to be more prospects vying for playing time with the Major League club than there are roster spots. Yes, that means the club has depth with which to deal for help, but it also means that if this youth movement is going ahead in full (as it should), then the opportunities to upgrade the Major League roster are limited. You can't sign big veterans to four or five-year deals when a big prospect is within shouting distance of his debut.
When we see the White Sox making their moves, you have to admit they're being advantageous. The Tigers have star power but are old and far from complete; the Royals are a good team but aren't built for a multi-year window of contention and are still being run by Dayton Moore; the Indians are older than you might think even if they'll be competitive again in 2015. It's a division without a clear leader, and Chicago saw opportunity.
- Acquired Jeff Samardzija, Michael Ynoa from Oakland for Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley, and Rangel Ravelo
- Signed David Robertson to four-year, $46 million contract
- Signed Adam LaRoche to two-year, $25 million contract
- Signed Zach Duke to three-year, $15 million contract
Chicago is going to be a lot better in 2015 than they were in 2014. They won't be perfect, and they're still not a runaway favorite, but they finished 2014 looking like a fourth or fifth-place finish for the AL Central next year and now are good enough on paper to compete for the division. So why aren't the Twins taking the same approach?
Largely because Chicago and Minnesota are in two totally different places, and are operating under two entirely different philosophies. The Twins have a brilliant farm system are are working towards a team that can compete over multiple years; the White Sox have next to no farm system (even worse now) and saw a chance to compete in 2015.
This doesn't mean that the Minnesota front office shouldn't be making the team better for this coming year, but it does mean that the type of players and the risks that are taken will have an inherently different nature. Because yes, Chicago will be better in 2015 as a result of those moves. But after that: Samardzija is a free agent, LaRoche will be 36, Duke is still just a set-up reliever making $5 million per season, and Robertson will be trade bait as a luxury of a closer on an incomplete roster. The Twins can't make those moves, because it would destroy the plan.
It's frustrating. And it's easy to get angry when it feels like the rest of the division is passing your team by. But the worst thing that Terry Ryan and his front office can do is to succumb to the pressure and make a trade or a signing that negatively affects the long-term plan - whether that's by blocking a prospect, over-spending on dollars and/or years on a free agent that would affect the team's financial flexibility down the road, or over-paying in prospects on a trade like Chicago has done.
Our Twins are four years into being one of the worst teams in baseball. The blueprint for the future is underway. Blowing up four painful years of great work in building a fantastic group of prospects in an effort to add 15 to 20 wins in 2015 is a ridiculous idea, and would only put the organization back into a hole sooner rather than later. Yes, absolutely - Ryan can still make next year's team better. But asking him to echo what Chicago has done is foolish and short-sighted.