The 2022 season did not end on a happy note for the Twins- especially considering they led the AL Central for most of the first half. However, there’s plenty of things to look at with optimism, both from 2022 and for 2023. Today’s topic: the front office’s aggression in 2022.
Part IV: The Front Office is In It to Win It
The front office and the Pohlad family have caught a lot of flak over the years for their bad moves and refusal to spend on top talent. These have often been valid criticisms, and the Twins did get burned by going to the bargain bin for pitching prior to last year (looking at you, Dylan Bundy/Chris Archer), but the past few years the Twins have shown that they are willing to invest in building a winning ball club.
The Josh Donaldson signing marked the beginning of the Twins being legitimate players in the free agency market. While rumors had often been thrown around prior to Donaldson, and the Twins were often said to have been “right there” (as with Zack Wheeler), Donaldson was the first time in recent history the ball club was able to sign a premium free agent.
Donaldson, unfortunately, did not pan out the way Minnesota had hoped. I feared that the results of that signing would be cause for the Pohlad’s to bring the budget back down and hamstring the franchise for the coming years. Falvey and Levine did stick to shrewdness in the pitching market (more on this later), but the Carlos Correa signing was a strong message that the Twins are going to continue being legitimate players in the market. While it remains to be seen if the Twins will be able to secure Correa long-term, he was perhaps the most prized free agent of last off-season, a shortstop in the prime of his career, elite with both the bat and the glove, and with a World Series pedigree. Bringing Correa to Target Field was an absolute coup.
Back to the pitching: yes, the Twins have not shown that they can acquire true studs in the pitching market. Shrewd trades and bargain-bin pick-ups have been the norm. While they were rumored to be close on Zack Wheeler, the Twins have mostly signed or traded exclusively for depressed assets or undervalued pitchers. Some of these have been good (Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Michael Pineda, Caleb Thielbar), some have been bad (Hansel Robles, J.A. Happ, Chris Archer), and some have been ugly (Alex Colome, Emilio Pagan, Matt Shoemaker). However, the 2022 trade deadline signaled a change to this strategy, with Falvey and Levine getting aggressive to bring in sought-after targets Jorge Lopez, Tyler Mahle, and Michael Fulmer. While these pitchers did not exactly excel down the stretch, it does not change that these pitchers were on a different level than those we had grown used to the Twins bringing in. Additionally, Mahle and Lopez will be back next season, so there’s still time for them to pan out.
No, they haven’t been willing or able (your pick) to bring in a true ace pitcher (yet). But their trade deadline acquisitions perhaps signaled a move away from exclusively shopping in the clearance aisle.
They have shown, twice now, that they can and they will bring in premium position players in free agency.
With the recent aggression shown by the front office, I’m excited for hot stove season, and that’s a silver lining in my book.
For a more focused look at what the Twins could do this off-season, check out Ben’s post from Sunday.