After years of fan base complaints about the “cheap” Twins, there is literally nothing this fall you should be upset about. Since the 2019 playoff run ended on a sour note, the Twins have done nothing but “right” things—which seems to be an oddity in baseball these days.
The first move the Twins made was to extend Jake Odorizzi a qualifying offer. Odorizzi was their best pitcher for long stretches of 2019, and was among the better pitchers available on the free agent market this season. While having him take the QO wasn’t a guarantee, if he had declined the one-year, $17.8 million dollar contract that it represents, the Twins would have received a draft pick in compensation. Fortunately for a team that needs to build nearly their entire rotation over the winter, Odorizzi accepted the terms. While he might be slightly overpaid in some opinions, the deal is fair to both sides. More importantly, however, is what it represents. This clearly proves that the team is willing to spend money this winter to build their rotation. Gone are the days of handing someone like Samuel Deduno the keys to a rotation spot, simply because he is already cheap and in house. I have no problem with the likes of Randy Dobnak or Devin Smeltzer earning a 2020 rotation spot, but the Twins need to make them earn it—no scholarships allowed on a team with legitimate World Series aspirations.
The second impact move made by the Twins was keeping guys in house as well, although in this case in the front office. Both Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the “boy wonders” who built much of the current team, were given contract extensions through 2024. Not only does this reward their hard work and success so far, but it also makes it easier to sign the final pieces of the puzzle. Free agents like stability, and knowing that the same folks will likely run the team for the next half-decade gives them one more reason to sign on to play in Minnesota. Is it a deal-breaker? Probably not, but it helps a little. Again, for a team that needs and wants to sign a couple more pitchers, including one of the top options in Zack Wheeler, any little advantage is a good thing. It also sends a message to the players and fans that management believes things are going the right direction.
The final move the Twins made, just yesterday, that also sends the “building a champion” messaging is the return of the powder blue uniforms. To me, the powder blue will always be synonymous with some of the best players in Twins’ history. Even though the team quit wearing these jerseys a year before they first brought a championship to Minnesota, most of the key players on the ‘87 and ‘91 squads donned powder blue during their Twins’ careers. So did all-time greats like Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, and Tony Oliva (among many, many others) all played in the historic and beloved jersey. Since the Twins are celebrating their 60th anniversary, they brought back the classic, but they also answered a fan demand. 90% of you said “its about time” the Twins brought back the powder blue, and I know I’ve been beating that drum for years. Dave St. Peter said “No uniform in the history of Minnesota Twins baseball drives more fan engagement than the old-school baby blues,” and I’m inclined to believe him. I also suspect this is just the beginning of the Twins sexagennial anniversary celebrations. Once again, it shows me that the team is plugged in to the voice of the fan, and that they are responding. After alienating a subset of season ticket holders last season with changes to the promotional calendar and other tweaks, its nice to feel like the Twins are listening.
With cheating scandals, MiLB contraction talks, both sides digging in on labor issues, and the always present pace-of-play tweaks, its sometimes hard to see the positives in a MLB off season. Fortunately for Twins fans, the local squad has given us several things to feel good about already—and its not even Thanksgiving. So far, I have to give the Pohlad family, DSP, the Boy Wonders, and the entire Twins organization some recognition for a great off season. There is still a lot of time to go, however. If the Twins whiff on a few moves in the upcoming months, we may be complaining come February. We still need to see them put their money where their mouths are on pitching. I’d also like to see a couple of their young stars sign extensions to keep them in Minnesota. Last off season they told us they would spend when the window opened. Its open guys, lets make it happen.
Its way too early to judge the Twins in the winter of 2019-2020, but the first few months have been solid. What do you think? Tell us in the comments how you feel about the off season moves so far.