Despite never spending money in free agency, the Minnesota Twins appear ready to buck that trend and become contenders.
Being really good but habitually one step away is a Minnesota sports tradition. Whether it’s the 1998 Vikings, the 2004 Timberwolves or the current era of Wild hockey, the state is cursed. Perhaps nothing epitomized this more than the 2000s era of Twins baseball. For as good as those teams were, the front office absolutely refused to spend on a big free agent that might have acted as a missing piece.
It seems this might be changing. According to Jon Heyman, the Twins — a team with a roster that mimics the glory days from a decade ago — are interested in the top two pitchers on the market. The very idea that Minnesota is even interested in Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta is so far out of character for the Twins that it’s almost hard to believe. Never in my lifetime of watching this team has it ever made even the most remote attempt to do anything other than crushing my soul.
Historically the Twins have always played lean, promoted from within, and homegrown as much talent as possible. That formula helped turn the team from a last-place joke in the late 90s into a playoff mainstay in the 2000s. As fun as Minnesota was during that era, it was all half-baked. Whether it was doubling down or avoiding a big payout like the plague, the Twins mastered the ways of always being one piece away from being a true contender.
Johan Santana was a Cy Young winning ace who needed a contract. He was traded. Superb backup catcher Wilson Ramos was traded for Matt Capps (lol). Matt Garza was dealt right before he became an ace in Tampa Bay. An outfield of Ben Revere and Denard Span seemed to be working great until the Twins realized they had Aaron Hicks and Jason Pirdie to bring up and lead the way. All four players were traded.
The moral of the story is, the Twins have been unfathomably bad at making deals. They were in an unending search for a missing pirana (a term dubbed by Ozzie Guillen because the Twins played anonymous small ball so well), and in the process gave away players that ended up being that missing piece for other teams. Kyle Loshe, Nick Punto, J.J. Hardy, Kendrys Morales, Francisco Liriano, and so many others became pieces on World Series caliber teams. This was the result of Minnesota endlessly trying to cut corners in an effort to never swell the payroll.
Fans have a right to be cynical when these types of big moves are rumored. It’s almost comical how badly the Twins have missed, even on deals that looked good. Delmon Young was good but not great before flaming out (and, of course, getting traded for nothing). Carlos Gomez was coming into his own before he was traded for J.J. Hardy, who looked to be coming into his own before also being traded. Signing Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka was an uncharacteristic gamble that characteristically didn’t work. Even retaining Joe Mauer was a move that never panned out, in regard to how much the Twins paid him versus the success the team has had since he signed his deal.
Fans are damaged. Good things have never come from front office moves. That’s why it comes as no surprise that new management is looking to do things a new way.
Signing Arrieta or Darvish might end up being on that long list of failures, but it’s at least something different. Minnesota has tried to cut corners and be contenders, and once again find themselves in a position they’ve been in before. This time, signing a big arm and just going for it might be what the team needs to compete for a World Series.
Here’s to hoping it finally works.