December 12, 2008

Final Winter Meetings Thoughts

The Winter Meetings are now officially done. Although some things were accomplished, it's easy to look and say that the Twins really did nothing this entire week in Las Vegas. Many fans are sick and tired of the Twins not getting into any of the action during the Winter Meetings, which seems to be a common occurrence year in and year out.

I don't fault the Twins for this. The Winter Meetings is a great time to get a feel for what teams around the league intend to do during the off-season. Last year, many started believing that a trade for Johan Santana may not be completed after the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. Many felt that the Twins lost the best chance of having direct contact with opposing teams, which one would think would make it easier to get a trade done. That may be true, but since none of us truly know what goes on in the negotiation rooms, we cannot know for sure.

Many are disappointed that the Twins were not willing to pull off a trade for a third baseman or shortstop despite having depth in both the outfield and as well as minor league pitching. Instead the Twins re-signed Nick Punto to be the starting shortstop which has been the only move that the Twins have made this off-season (besides selecting pitcher Jason Jones in the Rule 5 Draft). And again, we don't know what is going on behind closed doors, so we cannot say that the Twins weren't actively looking for a trading partner. How do we know that the Twins and Orioles didn't talk and that the Orioles demanded some unreal return like Kevin Slowey for Melvin Mora? If the trade does not make sense for both teams, there's nothing you can do about it. Twins GM Bill Smith said it best:

"...with any trade or free-agent signing, it takes two to agree."

I have no doubt in my mind that the Twins were very busy at the Winter Meetings. Just because something was not reported, does not mean that it did not happen. The percentage of the information that the media reports is dismal to the actual percent of what is actually going on. That's not the fault of the media, it's just that not everything is reported to the media. But still many believe if the media doesn't report it, that means it didn't happen.

When a tree falls and nobody is around to hear it, does it make sound?

The Twins made it know around the league that they are looking for a right-handed third baseman. There are a few that have been discussed, but their respected teams (probably) want a lot in return, while the Twins (probably) don't want to give up. Is that the Twins' fault? Not necessarily. Minnesota does value some players higher than most of us would think that player is worth. According to Phil Miller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Boof Bonser's name came up a lot at the Winter Meetings but it was known to opposing teams that he won't come cheap. Most Twins fans would probably trade Bonser for a ticket to a game and a free pretzel (maybe just the pretzal), but the Twins like the potential Bonser has in the bullpen and don't want to give up on him.

The Twins see potential, but he has definitely underperformed. That should remind you of David Ortiz. Ortiz left and became "Big Papi" and a World Series Hero for the Boston Red Sox after the Twins gave up on him. Since then, the Twins have felt great regret and been hearing non-stop complaints from the fan base. Nobody at the time thought Ortiz would blow up like he did. Just like the Astros didn't think Santana would become the pitcher he is today when they decided to leave him unprotected in the 1999/2000 Rule 5 Draft. At least that one worked out for the Twins.

The Twins may be extreme when it comes to holding onto players as they don't want to give up on any despite what us fans may think of them. What we see/hear is probably not even remotely near what the team sees/hears. We all may think that Bonser is not worth hanging onto, but to the Twins he's shown them potential and promise to become a capable pitcher in the majors. And for that reason, the Twins don't look likely to give up on him like they did with Ortiz. Is that a bad thing? Depends on who's answering.

Many fans are upset that the Twins don't spend nearly as much money like such teams as the Mariners, Blue Jays, Tigers and Astros. But look where that's gotten them. None of those teams were even remotely close to making the playoffs last year, yet all have payrolls over $100 million, besides the Astros who came in just under $90 million in 2008. It's easy to say that the Twins should just sign so-and-so for this much, but this is a business. The Twins continue to win while having a marginal payroll. Sure they haven't won a World Series and I'm not saying that the Pohlad's don't want to see us win a World Series, it's just that they aren't going to break the bank to do so. Especially because they continuosly make money year in and year out while funding a winning team that usually is in the bottom half of MLB payrolls. To some owners, winning means everything. To the Pohlad's, that's not necessarily the case. The Pohlad's got their fortune by being frugal and smart with their money.

I personally don't agree with everything the Twins do, but most of them you can find an excuse as to why the team did it. Such as the Punto re-signing. Many fans are disgusted in both the fact that he is going to be starting at shorstop and that we are going to be paying him $8.5 million over two years. The Twins signed one of the best remaining shortstops on the market after they discovered that a trade for one wasn't a realistic option. Surely the Twins had every intention of signing him since he filed for free agency, but they went into the Winter Meetings with the possibility that they could find a deal with another team.

Had Punto signed with another team and if the Twins weren't able to pull off a deal, would fans still be so upset? Besides Rafael Furcal, is there really a significantly better option? We can nitpic on different players, but Punto was near the top in terms of best remaining free agents. It was unrealistic to think that J.J. Hardy, Yunel Escobar, or even Furcal would be Twins. We can speculate all we want, but the bottom line is that those players all have huge pricetags and the Twins rarely if ever will go out of their way and overpay for a player. It's just not something the Twins have done and I don't see them doing it anytime soon.

Some fans would have liked to see Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla battle for the middle infield instead of re-signing Punto. But I can guarantee you that most (if not all) of those fans are the same ones that complain about the Twins not doing anything.

The Twins seem comfortable with a Harris/Brian Buscher platoon at third next year. And on some levels it makes perfect sense. Last year they combined for a .273 average, 11 home runs, and 96 RBI. Together, they could be a great tandom at the hot corner for the Twins. And we wouldn't even have to trade anyone of value or give up any money to get them either. With Punto coming back, this assures us that unless something major comes up, we should at the very least be able to see that platoon at third base.

The Twins will continue to see what they can do at third base, but if they don't trade/sign for anyone else, is that the worse thing in the world? I think not. I'd be a little disappointed that the team didn't acquire a big name guy, but I've come to accept over the years that we as fans seem to get our hopes up too much. That in no way means we cannot speculate or hope for something to happen, it just means that if it doesn't please don't continuosly complain about it. Like I said, we have no idea what happens behind closed doors. The majority of the rumors don't come true, and being disappointed in your team for not going through on something you want to believe is true, when really it isn't, is really pointless. That's like me being upset the Twins didn't get Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp for Santana last year when it was first rumored to be a possibility (only to find out that it wasn't true).

There is one thing though that I do know is true. As we sit right now, the Twins are still a contending team and may very well be the team to beat in the American League Central.
Sorry about the rant. I just felt it was necessary after hearing all of the negativity towards the Punto deal, and that the Twins were quiet at the Meetings. Roast me if you'd like, I'm just sick of hearing all the negativity.