So, What’s Next?

UPDATE: OK so maybe I was premature in handing Lee to the Yankees, since NY Post reporter Joel Sherman is now (at 2:44 pm) tweeting that the Ms are going in “another direction.” the Rangers have acquired Lee from the Mariners in a deal that is somewhat puzzling, but sure looks to me they paid a VERY high price. Nevertheless, while my comments about the Yankees below are now virtually irrelevant, my views about the Twins needing to just get busy and move on to other targets remain as strong as ever. – JC

UPDATE #2: Interesting stuff. Seems the Yankees are pissed off. This is interesting, in that the Yankees were frustrated with the Ms just a year ago when they were trying to trade for Jarrod Washburn. The Ms did get two of the Rangers top 20 prospects in addition to two lesser minor leaguers, one of which (2B Josh Lueke) has some past “character issues” (to say the least). -JC

I’ve always been a big fan of TV’s “West Wing” series. Throughout the seven seasons that Martin Sheen portrayed the fictional President Bartlet in that series, I’m pretty sure he uttered the question, “What’s next?” more than any other phrase. It virtually became a catch phrase. In one episode, he expounded on the phrase in a terse admonition to his staff. “When I ask, ‘What’s next?’, it means that I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?”

I’m not sure I can describe my feelings about the impending Cliff Lee to the Yankees trade much better than that.

Yes, I was all in favor of making a deal to bring Lee to the Twins, even if it meant overpaying in prospects a bit. But Cliff Lee is going to be a Yankee. OK, fine. I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?

There are a couple of things you can do when you don’t get what you want. You can whine and cast blame on those who made the decision to deprive you of getting what you want (we’ll call this the Dan Gilbert approach, named for the Cleveland Cavaliers owner who pretty much provided a prime example of it with his reaction to being jilted by his prize free agent player last night). You can also throw a tantrum and set things on fire.

I’m just not sure those approaches are altogether productive and, fortunately, I can’t quite envision Twins GM Bill Smith going with those options either.

I prefer the “What’s next?” approach because, let’s be honest, the Twins need some help and the sooner, the better. So if Lee is not coming to town to help former team mate Carl Pavano deliver us all to the Promised Land (which, in this case, would be the World Series), then let’s focus on other options to get us there.

I know we’ve said a few times that it would be nice to have another option at 3B, but like it or not, I think Michael Cuddyer has become that “other option”. I’m not thrilled, but if it means we get more 420 foot HRs out of Jim Thome’s bat in the lineup, I’ll try to live with it. Frankly, the available 3B options on the market right now don’t exactly excite me anyway. So do your best out there, Cuddy, and try not to hurt yourself.

But for goodness sake, someone please find us some pitching. A top of the rotation starting pitcher like Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt? Terrific! The Cubs are supposedly about ready to start selling off spare parts, so let’s give them a call about Ted Lilly. He’s a rung below these other guys, but on this team, he’d be a marked improvement (but then, the list of pitchers that would constitute marked improvement over what we’ve seen on the mound lately wouldn’t be a short one).

Maybe we shouldn’t be content to settle for just getting one of those guys because, as long as we’re being honest, I think we have to admit we have more than one starting pitcher who isn’t exactly giving his team a great chance to win very often lately. And while we’re in a shopping mood, maybe we should think about a little bullpen help, too.

Is that asking for too much? I don’t think so! A year ago, there was a great deal of debate (and considerable skepticism) concerning whether Smith would make any deals significant enough to really be difference makers. In the end, he brought in Jon Rauch, Ron Mahay, Orlando Cabrera and Carl Pavano. While we could quibble about each player’s ultimate contribution to the Twins winning the Central Division title, there can be no questioning that the Twins were uncharacteristically active in their effort to strengthen their roster for the late season push.

I fully expect Bill Smith to be even more aggressive this month. The Twins can still contend for their Championship rings this season and if you take the time to really look at what their payroll and roster could look like next year and beyond, you recognize that this opportunity could be the best it’s going to get for a couple of years.

“But what about the F’ing Yankees?”, you ask, “Haven’t they wrapped up the World Series by trading for Cliff Lee?”

No. In my mind, they’ve not increased their chances of advancing in the playoffs much at all. What they HAVE done is increase their chances of reaching the playoffs. But wasn’t that pretty darn good anyway? Adding Lee to a rotation that already includes Sabbathia, Pettitte, and Hughes will make them tougher competition for the Rays and Red Sox over the second half of the season, but really what they did was save themselves a first round draft pick which they would have lost to Seattle (or whatever other team Lee ended this season with) by signing Lee in the offseason instead of trading for him now. Bully for them.

But once in the playoffs, they were going to have a tough starting pitcher every game, with or without Lee. It’s not like they were going to be trotting Javier Vasquez out there to start any games, anyway.

So frankly, if the Twins weren’t going to get Lee, I can’t think of many places (at least in the AL) where he would have a less problematic effect on the Twins than with the Yankees. The Twins are done playing the Yankees during the regular season and he’s not going to result in nearly the kind of upgrade to their rotation that he would have to the Rays, Rangers or, God forbid, the White Sox or Tigers.

So the proper response to this turn of events is not to wail about how the Yankees always get what they want (though they do) or to cast aspersions toward the Mariners for getting the Yankees to overpay in prospects even more than the Twins would have (though they did).

Instead, let’s fix our gaze toward Bill Smith and simply ask, “So, what’s next?”  -JC

8 Replies to “So, What’s Next?”

  1. Great post. If the trade rematerializes I have many thoughts (surprising eh?)

    I came here with thoughts of Joe Mauer, and his committment to Minnesota in an era that is increasingly more LeBronish. Joe certainly could have signed with the Yankees or Red Sox, perhaps for even more money and (no offense) “better” opportunities for championships. But he reupped with Minnesota.

    I wish I knew Joe Mauer. I want to ask him whether he considered winning a single ring in Minnesota would supercede 2 or 3 (or potentially more) rings with the Yanks or Sox. Is that a factor?

    Things I consider fact:

    Mauer didn’t sign for the money — he could have and most certainly would have gotten more elsewhere.
    He didn’t sign for the championships — there are places that, including his presence, would have given Mauer a higher probability of a championship.

    So what is it? I find it hard to believe Mauer was worried about a backlash from Twins fans — at least not worried enough to pressure him to stay. I also find it hard to believe that he stayed in MN because he liked the players — rosters change.

    Another thing I consider fact — I respect the hell out of Joe Mauer, both for his on-field talents as well as his off-field decisions. LeBron, not so much.

  2. Thanks for your comments, YF.

    I really TRIED not to mention anything about the LeBronathon last night. It may have been the lowest point in the history of ESPN, in my mind. I didn’t have much respect for James previously, but what I had is gone now. But I’m really not an NBA fan, so whatever.

    As for Mauer… this could be enough material to fill a whole new post, but I think his decision to stay in Minnesota was based on a number of factors.

    First, let’s be clear… while he PROBABLY could have gotten a bigger contract as a Free Agent, it was certainly not a given and he didn’t take much of a ‘discount’ (if any). To get more, he would have had to wait a year and, in the process, risk injury and the possibility of a substandard season. If he had NOT signed, can you imagine the questions there would be right now about whether he’s healthy or if last year’s power numbers were just an aberration? A .300 hitting catcher with no power, who’s struggling with his defense a bit, wouldn’t get a contract like he signed with the Twins from anyone. So primarily, his reason for re-signing with the Twins was to secure his (and his family’s for generations to come) financial well being for life. After all, he had no other options if he wanted to lock up his financial security after his MVP season when his value was about as high as it could get. He also was signing with a new marketing agency that was assuring him all the national endorsement work he would want (so no reason he had to move to a “big market” to get that income.

    Second, he felt certain that with additional revenues that will be generated by Target Field, he would have a reasonable chance to win Championships. Essentially, the Twins chances will often be determined by his performance. They won’t win when he has an off year, like he could have with the Yankees, but let’s also be honest… being a Yankee comes with its own set of unique challenges. As difficult as it may be to believe for Yankee fans, not everyone wants to deal with the Yankee BS (fans, media, management, egos, etc.).

    Finally, I think he genuinely likes living and working with/near his family. Again, this may not be something Yankee fans understand. It’s kind of a midwest thing, perhaps. But he’s obviously part of a tight-knit family unit and he enjoys being able to lead a (relatively) normal family life and be able to slip off to his “cabin” with family and friends he grew up with.

    By signing with Minnesota, he was basically able to “have it all”. He gets quality of life he enjoys, a legitimate chance to contend for titles most (if not every) seasons, and more money than generations of future Mauers will ever need.

  3. I just don’t think you can discount the “quality of life” thing either. I think his personality may have played into it too. Believe it or not, not EVERYONE wants to play on the “big stage” and deal with all the BS that goes along with it. I think very few players actually thrive in that sort of atmosphere, and the few that do (Jeter) make it look easier than it really is.

    Thought the whole LeBron thing was sad, vaguely creepy and everything I don’t like about the NBA. The side note that the T’wolves got Michael Beasley makes it even worse. PU! I am intrigued by the idea that the NBA draft should be made into a reality show. I might watch THAT 😉

  4. Rest assured that I didn’t mean to say “he should have been a Yankee.” I for one, was hoping he would stay with the Twins, and seeing LeBron’s curious decision and the resulting media backlash, I thought that Mauer’s decision should be revisited. If LeBron did everything to show us what we hate about sports, Mauer did exactly the opposite, and I do not see anyone out there with a “LeBron should have looked westward to see how to handle such a decision” article.

    I do believe that Mauer could have gotten more in free agency — he is an anomoly with skills that cannot be remotely replaced adequately with a single player in the MLB (including farm systems) today. For example, much has been made about Jesus Montero, the prospect the Yanks* were looking to include in the proposed deal for Cliff Lee. Montero supposedly is the next Manny offensively, but his catching skills are suspect. There is no catcher that can hit like Mauer, and no hitter who can catch (call a game, and physically perform behind the plate) like Mauer. While he did not take a “hometown discount” to stay with the Twins, an extra $10-15M (or even another year) is usually significant enough for a player to move. And rest assured that Mauer could have gotten more.

    I *do* believe the quality of life argument, and completely understand why players might be reluctant to go to a team like the Red Sox or Yanks. Then again, with the players that are locked up (and the mentality of the origanizations) no one player needs to carry the team for a season. As you mentioned, the Twins’ hopes all but rest on Mauer’s shoulders. With a team like the Yanks,* if Mauer doesn’t come through in the 3-hole, you have Teixeira, Rodriguez, Cano, et al. to pick him up. Mauer has never been one to shy away from media, for good or bad, so I am not sure how much QOL factored into it.

    So for me, the answer was family and loyalty. Mark Messier brought a Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers and is still one of the most beloved players in NY sports history. I think Mauer’s decision to stay in MN was part and parcel of who he is — an ultimate team player. If he never wins a championship, he will have tried everything he can to bring a trophy to MN. If he succeeds, he is the ultimate hero. Sure, he could increase his “multiple championship potential” by signing with fellow all-star squads in Boston, New York, St. Louis, or elsewhere, but that’s not who he is. It’s a distinct comparison to LeBron’s decision. It would be nice if one of the Strib guys (or the Knuckleballs blog folks) had put an article up about Mauer being all what’s right about sports to contrast the LeBron debacle.

    *Please note that I return to the Yankees only because I have a greater knowledge of the Yanks than any other MLB organization.

  5. This is a great issue for discussion, YF, and if I weren’t heading out of town for a week (and unlikely to be online much), I might take you up on the challenge to write a post on the Mauer/LeBron comparison. I suspect the issue will be just as worthy of analysis when I get home, however, so there’s still some hope.

    I would also add that we would more than welcome a ‘guest post’ if you would care put some thought (and about 800-ish words) in to the topic.

    In any event, it’s interesting that we’ve finally got a post with a longer comments section than the post itself. Rare, especially for one of my posts since I tend to get a bit… wordy.

    Your mention of Jesus Montero brought a couple of thoughts to mind. I read during the discussions about his possible inclusion in a Cliff Lee deal that the Mariners (and perhaps the Yankees themselves) feel he won’t end up spending much, if any, time as a Major League catcher. Whether that’s true or not, it does bring to mind the question of whether Joe Mauer should remain behind the plate much longer. Given his current state of health (or lack thereof) and the effect it is clearly having on his offensive productivity, I would imagine that topic will be broadly debated over the coming days and weeks. If Wilson Ramos doesn’t get traded away and starts to find his stroke in AAA over the second half of the season, this may be the hottest off-season topic in Twins blogdom.

    As for “quality of life”, the problem with that term is that everyone considers something different in their definition of “quality”. For Mauer, it’s being near home and having some semblence of a normal family life and the ability to escape to his place in the Minnesota woods. Jeter and ARod would no doubt say living in NYC provides them a greater “quality of life” than living in Minnesota would. Different strokes, etc. I’d imagine $23 million a year goes a bit farther in Minnesota than New York, too.

    Let’s also keep in mind this about Mauer. His contract runs through about age 35, I believe. That means, (a) he could still be very productive and get another decent payday from someone because I hate to imagine what the ‘going rate’ will be for MLB talent in 8 years, and (b) the no-trade clause only means he gets to approve any trade. The Twins are virtually printing money right now while they’re filling up their new ballpark and, as long as they continue competing for titles, they should continue doing well financially and will keep Mauer happy. But if they hit a payroll ceiling and become less competitive for a year or two, look out for the spiral that would lead to less income, even lower payroll, more frustration for Mauer, and eventually talk of him being agreeable to a trade to a team that is not “rebuilding” so he can win a WS title.

    I’m not trying to throw cold water on anything, but just pointing out that the “loyalty” thing is not absolute. It only goes so far and if Mauer becomes concerned that the Twins just can’t put together a team capable of winning it all, his eyes could still start wandering. I am confident, however, that he would handle that situation with far more class than a certain self-proclaimed NBA “king” did this week.

  6. Interestingly enough, Colin Cowherd covered that this morning on ESPN radio. He had Joe Mauer call in and discuss his new contract and why he stayed in MN (and didn’t he secretly wonder how much fun it would be to play with the Yankees) and such… And then immediately compared his signing to the LeBron James situation. Basically, he summed it up that he supported the decisions of each player because it suited the individuals that they are. That’s probably the truth of the situation as close as it comes.

    JC, you would have appreciated that he also believes the Twins needed Cliff Lee – if only just to beat the Yankees in NY since that seems to be a problem for them.

    Since I’m purely a casual NBA fan who was horribly turned off by the spectacle that LeBron created, I think I am comfortable leaving the analytics to those who have a lot more information readily at hand. However, I would be comfortable resting on the opinion that if contracts of this magnitude really do rest on the personality of the individual, I’m glad our area seeks out the kind of personality we got with Joe Mauer. I also think that it means we should remember how big a factor that can be when seeking out other big name contracts.

  7. Since I have to, you know, WORK during the day (and post here, of course), I didn’t hear Cowherd and Mauer. May have to go online and try to listen to it later. Mike Greenberg and Buster Olney were spending time this morning, however, comparing LeBron’s situation to Albert Pujols in St. Louis. Mauer’s is a bit more similar in that Pujols is not a “native son” of St. Louis, but clearly he does have an appreciation of and affinity for the organization and the city.

    Regardless of what you think of LeBron and his decision, don’t you just have to scratch your head when you consider the way he went about making the announcement and ask, “What were you and your people thinking?”

  8. If I thought y’all were likely to have heard it already, I wouldn’t have bothered telling you it was on! *laugh*

    But, yeah, my distaste for the LeBron situation have nothing to do with his leaving Cleveland – of course, I’m not from Cleveland – but purely in the egotistical, selfaggrandizement that the ‘announcement’ became. Blech.