Friday, November 06, 2009

Minnesota Twins Off-Season Manifesto, Part 1: Intro

Folks who read this blog may remember The Black Freighter for his Twins predictions and analysis at the beginning of the just concluded season. He knows, on any given week, who is playing well in the Triple AAA and Double AA farm teams. It is possible he's a lunatic. And he's back with a blueprint/manifesto for what the Twins need to do this offeseason. This is part one.

spoiler alert: The Black Freighter predicted that the Twins would trade for J.J. Hardy during the course of the regular season last year. He was sure it had to happen, because of the inherent logic of the deal. Later in his 2009 Off-Season Manifesto, he predicts the starting line-up for the Minnesota Twins when they take Target Field for the first time, and he's got J.J. Hardy in there at shortstop. He wrote it in a full 24 hours before the Twins pulled the trade. So there you go. The Black Freighter Knows Things. Enough! The Black Freighter Speaks:

First of all, congrats to the New York Yankees for winning their 27th World Series. What a bunch of smug, egotistical douchebags. Take your Park Place/Boardwalk Monopoly and your totally not vain painting of Alex Rodriguez posing as a minotaur and shove it. Okay… I feel better now.

Speaking of Monopoly, the Minnesota Twins are no longer Mediterranean/ Baltic Avenue dwellers… woohoo! Moving into the completely kick ass Target Field in 2010 allows our favorite nine to build houses and hotels on par with Kentucky Avenue or Marvin Gardens. We’ll never be a New York or Boston in terms of spending, but the additional revenue from a new stadium should allow the Twins to break the $100 million barrier at some point in the next few years.

The Twins sported a $65.3 million opening day roster in 2009, but also invested heavily with international signings and the draft, pushing that payroll total above $70 million. It has been stated that the Twins will receive $15 – 20 million annually to invest in the on-field product with a new stadium, couple that with standard inflation increases and the Twins’ opening day roster may be as high as $90 million for 2010.

So with that money in hand, what do the Twins need to do to improve a team that won the Central Division? This might surprise some people, but the Twins were actually quite putrid on defense. Despite committing the second fewest amount of errors in the majors, the Twins had the third worst UZR (ultimate zone rating). Ultimate zone rating is the amount of runs a player saves or costs his team in the field versus a league average player and the Twins had a UZR of -37.3. Yikes. With a more athletic defense that can get to additional balls up the middle or bloopers in the outfield, our pitching should improve as well.

This brings me to the second item the Twins need to address… starting pitching. What was supposedly a strength for 2009, ended up being an incredible weakness. Injuries and ineffectiveness plagued nearly all starters. I can’t imagine that they pitch this poorly next season, but it is quite clear that the Twins are lacking a true ace.

Finally, the Twins have a nice problem they need to address… depth. The experiment of having 5 starting outfielders really did not work too well last year. The Twins need to make a decision regarding Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez, because both players need to start daily if they are to reach their full potential. The Twins have 8 pitchers who are viable starters in MLB: Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship and Anthony Swarzak. The Twins also have a wealth of bullpen arms with intriguing possibilities in the minors as well. It is time for the Twins to trade away some of this pitching depth and replenish areas that need improvement.

With those principles in mind, in part 2 I'll discuss the actual steps the Twins need to take.

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