In an article published on MLB.com yesterday afternoon, Quinn Roberts quotes Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony expressing "concern" over offensive numbers. While it's just spring training, Antony clearly hasn't been encouraged by what he's seen.
Of course, what did the front office expect? Surely the results can't be too surprising, considering the lack of results over the winter. There were no upgrades made, and the only public swings they took at notable players were whiffs on A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Bust ratios on pickups like Kurt Suzuki, Jason Bartlett, and Jason Kubel are high, although the optimistic fans among us can at least hold out hope for some kind of rebound from Kubel this year.
At this point, what can the Twins do to improve their offense? There's little they can do with what's already in-house, other than hope for the best from younger guys like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, and Josmil Pinto - and hope for much better seasons from Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe, and the aforementioned Kubel. But there are only so many gambles that can pay off, and most of these don't seem likely to do so. At least, not to the extent we'd need them to, if we wanted to see a marked improvement in run production.
Externally, making a trade at this juncture would prove a tricky proposition. Not only would a good player require the Twins to part with resources they'd rather hold onto, but teams across the league are pretty much set for the season. It'd be almost impossible, at this point, to pry a good player away from his team; who wants to create a new hole in the roster at the end of March?
That leaves free agency, and specifically, it leaves Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales.
FA Stephen Drew remains a long-shot to land w/ the #MNTwins, but they've done homework. Told they watched him workout. Was over a month ago.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) March 26, 2014
We know the deal with both of these guys: more or less screwed over by the collective bargaining agreement. At least, they have been so far. Scott Boras says Drew has a three-year, $39 million dollar offer on the table, has been media's wet dream connection for the Mets all off-season, and the Tigers' recent acquisition of Andrew Romine seems to nix Drew from their plans; the Mariners have spoken with Morales but a return seems unlikely.
We've heard that both players are willing to wait until June to sign, and that's certainly a possibility considering the market, the advantages to them as players considering the restrictions of the CBA, and that their agent is notoriously stubborn. But if Minnesota is as offensively starved as we all know they are, could the Twins chase both of these guys down?
As unlikely of a scenario as it is, I don't see how else the Twins can add impact players to their offense. But is it something the organization would consider? They'd have to be committed; not just committed to the processing of negotiating and then signing both players, but to making potentially unpopular clubhouse decisions should they be successful.
I'm not sure I'd advocate more than a one-year deal for each player. This isn't about building for the future, because we know that neither player would want to stick around for such an ordeal and I also don't think the Twins would want to commit to multiple years of what would be two sizable financial outlays. Of course, none of that even begins to deal with the mess of whether either of these guys are willing to play in Minnesota for even one season.
But let's say that not just one but both players were fairly desperate to sign, which they probably are. Let's say they'd both be willing to play for Minnesota, based on 1) one-year offers, 2) a guarantee of letting them walk without compensation tags when the season is over, 3) more than fair salaries for one year, say in the neighborhood of $15 million.
Again: unrealistic. Both players needing to agree to all of the things necessary to get them into a Twins uniform of all things, AND the front office willing to add $30 million in payroll just days prior to the season starting? I know. Crazy pills.
But just think about what this could do. The front office, which has banged on for the last couple of years how they can't give money away, gets backing from the ownership to give the fans a more competitive squad. That would buy, pardon my French, a shit ton of goodwill. It would also sell tickets. It would probably buy the Twins four or five more wins in the standings - more if things go well for a few of the guys we mentioned above.
Lineup: Dozier (2B), Drew (SS), Mauer (1B), Willingham (LF), Morales (DH), Arcia (RF), Plouffe (3B), Suzuki (C), Hicks (CF)
Bench: Pinto (C), Escobar (IF), Kubel (OF), Florimon (IF)
Practically, it gives the Twins a backup for Mauer, and it allows Florimon to slide to the bench as a super utility player. The team could still keep Kubel on the roster or, in making one of those difficult decisions I alluded to earlier, could start him in Triple-A and keep Presley on the team.
This team would instantly be better, and that would go a long way in assuaging not just the front office's concerns about the offense, but the fans' concerns, too. It would be so much more interesting to watch the Twins on a daily basis. Which, to be fair, I'll do anyway - but it's always more exciting to watch a team that has a better chance of winning.
I'm not sure who I'm trying to convince, here. It's a pipe dream. But if the front office is that concerned about run production (and they should be), then I'm not sure what alternatives there are at this point in spring training. It's a really unfortunate position to have boxed oneself into.