It’s the beginning of the offseason, so that brings us to fans and sportswriters speculating that the Twins will be in on the premier free agents of the offseason. Oh goody.
2020 is no different from any other year, if only in one regard. Top free agents aren’t going to willingly jump to Minnesota, and if they do, it is because they aren’t as sought after as it would have appeared in the first place. Everyone will look at Josh Donaldson last offseason as an example of why I might be wrong, but I think he proves the rule. He got significantly less than what was expected, and by the way, he wasn’t very reliable this season.
One of the other factors that makes the Donaldson situation different than other years is that he wasn’t the ace that the Twins fan base is always clamoring for. Now, without a bat to take one of the holes in the lineup to beg the Twins to sign, it’s back to fans and writers insistng that the Twins are viable options for the best pitchers on the market.
They are not. This year, there is really only one stud pitcher available: Trevor Bauer. There is no shortage of punditry suggesting that the Twins should sign him, and furthermore suggesting that they have a shot. Never minding the fact that free agent pitchers, especially stud pitchers, are almost always extremely poor investments, it’s impractical to think the Twins would be high on Bauer’s list.
First, this offseason features really only Bauer as a top starting pitching option. There are always teams looking for that top pitcher on the market, which suggests that there will be a bidding war for Bauer, despite some of his personality concerns. When was the last time the Twins won a true bidding war? And don’t say Donaldson, because he is being paid less than what people expected.
The other way a player might opt for Minnesota is if they want to be a member of the organization over another team that might have a similar offer. I think Bauer will be swayed primarily by dollar signs, but he may also be interested in philosophical similarities, which the Twins may actually share. But then the Twins also have the stink of persistent failure on the organization, and a long history of not being an attractive place for free agents that aren’t from the Midwest, not if they have other options.
The current front office has been able to find it’s way through all of these headwinds by understanding that they weren’t going to win bidding wars, which were Pyrrhic victories to begin with. If you get a new 4th or 5th best pitcher on the team, you have still improved the rotation. If you are competitive, then trading for a player is a completely worthwhile option. They added Michael Pineda through free agency, and he will be the third best pitcher in the rotation this year. They traded for Kenta Maeda, who will be the best.
Every year, fans and writers talk themselves into the Twins organization grabbing one of the top names on the market, and then are disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Expect a repeat this year, with consequences that don’t approach fans’ worst fears.