Being a fan of a losing team is hard. Sure, your team wins more than 60 games a year, but they're also losing more than 90. When a rebuild is taking place for an organization that was as empty as Minnesota's at both the Major and Minor league levels, well, buckle in and strap on those helmets because nobody is going to enjoy the ride.
To an extent the Twins could have spent their way out of the mess their poor decisions got them into. Maybe then the team wins 80 games each of the last two years, keeping a few more butts in the seats while showing the fans that they're making the effort - in the terms of dollars and players - to put a competitive product on the field. But the results are still that the team wouldn't make the playoffs, Ron Gardenhire might not have had his job taken away from him, and there would also be no Kohl Stewart, no Nick Gordon, and no [insert sixth overall pick in 2016 MLB draft here]. And the fans who have been clamoring for the team to "get better and just spend, damnit" wouldn't like any of those things.
That's the conundrum of wanting it both ways. After the crisis that was 2011, the Twins weren't going to spend their way to a 90-win season in 2012 or 2013 or even 2014. What's worse is that, even if they had tried and had scored 80 wins each of the last two seasons, the team would continue to be less well equipped to compete in the long-term.
But hey, Bryz has touched on this topic in the past, and I'm not in the business or brow-beating fans of a 90+ loss team that want to be able to have their cake and eat it, too. Because I get it. It's been a tough few years to be a Twins fan. It gets very easy to turn the channel or find something else to do when you go out on a beautiful Minnesota summer evening.
Oddly enough though, regardless of what some fans seem to believe, the Twins are getting closer to the point where they're ready to compete. By taking a few lumps, the front office has turned Minnesota's prospect list from one of the easiest to overlook in the game to one of the best and most envied - in terms of top-end talent and depth. Over the winter the organization has made it clear that their commitment to the youth movement is unwavering, evidenced by the lack of movement in free agency.
Sooner rather than later, this team is going to be led by Brian Dozier, Oswaldo Arcia, Trevor May, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Josmil Pinto, Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas, Danny Santana, Jose Berrios, and hell - maybe even Aaron Hicks. Top-end, young, inexpensive talent was the best way for the organization to set itself up to compete in the long haul, and that's exactly what Terry Ryan and company have done. What's even more encouraging is that long list of players is just the first wave.
That's where Grant Brisbee sort of got it right when he said the team needs to spend money once Sano and Buxton arrive. (Yes, he was partially wrong by saying the Twins "are spending money like they're winning now", because they're spending money like they know they're going to win soon, but it's hard to blame him considering how awful the team has been.) Minnesota's current payroll obligations for 2016 total just $70 million; $68.2 million for 2017; $51.4 million for 2018. With all of the players about to break onto the roster making roughly $500,000 a year, do you know what that means?
It means the Twins will have a good deal of cash to spend once Sano and Buxton arrive. And that is when the team will go all-in - when the team will need to focus on the present as much as they're focusing on the future. They've done a decent job these last two winters of putting a couple of starters in place who can help the young team win down the line, but when next winter rolls around the organization should be ready to put the pedal to the floor. Maybe, just maybe, that means bringing in a top-line starting pitcher.
At this time next year, Alex Meyer and Trevor May should be ready to step into full-time Major League roles in the rotation. Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone will still be under team control. Phil Hughes is under contract through 2019; Ervin Santana through 2018; Ricky Nolasco for two more years, through 2017. Jose Berrios might be knocking on the door. Where does that leave room for more pitching?
I'll get into that this afternoon. Next year's crop of free agent pitching is deep in the talented end of the pool, and that's exactly where Minnesota will need to dive in.