A Mid-Offseason Report Card

It’s been a while since I was in school (though perhaps not as long ago as one might expect for someone of my advanced years). That said, I do recall something called “mid-term grades”. The cool thing about them was that they told you how you were doing in your coursework, but they didn’t really “count”. If you were doing well, you could afford to have a few beers and relax over the weekends, but if you were coming up short, the mid-term grades served as a wake-up call of sorts.

Sometimes, I think it would be nice if I could get the same sort of feedback once out in the real world. And if I think that would be of benefit to me, certainly an intelligent man like Bill Smith must feel the same way, right?

As hard as it may be to believe, we’re approaching the half-way point between the end of the Twins’ 2010 season and the date pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, 2011.

So it’s in this spirit of helpfulness that I offer the Twins’ GM his mid-term grade: D+.

And that grade assumes Tsuyoshi Nishioka gets signed by the December 26 deadline. If Smith doesn’t bring that home, the grade drops to an F.

The good news is, just like in college, the mid-term grades don’t really count. There’s still time to bring that grade up and not screw up the GPA. But time is wasting.

Monday at the the Swan and Dolphin hotels at DisneyWorld, MLB’s movers and shakers get together for their annual Winter Meetings, which wind up Thursday with the Rule 5 draft. Over the past five years, there have been an average of just over 10 trades announced during each year’s Winter Meeting gathering. It might be a very good idea for one or two of those deals this week to involve the Twins.

Why? Well, let’s take a look at what we’ve seen so far this offseason.

Unless/until deals are reached to bring some of these guys back in to the Twins fold, the Twins have lost their most reliable starting pitcher, Carl Pavano, their most prolific power hitter, Jim Thome, and four solid (or better) relief pitchers in Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes.. The Twins have done absolutely nothing about replacing the departing talent, much less making any improvements in those positions.

Nishioka is, so far, the only meaningful addition this offseason (and he isn’t even officially on board yet). And you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not as convinced as others seem to be that he represents a certain improvement over Hudson, Hardy or whoever’s roster spot he ends up taking.

Of course, Justin Morneau should be back and healthy by Opening Day and that represents a significant upgrade over Michael Cuddyer at 1B. But the Twins have done nothing to improve their lack of speed in their outfield, they haven’t replaced Pavano’s innings in the top half of the rotation and there looks to be a significant drop off in bullpen talent between the back end arms, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, and the rest of the pen arms.

The Tigers have added Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit, the White Sox have added Adam Dunn to the heart of their line up, the Red Sox have acquired Adrian Gonzalez and are still kicking the tires on Jayson Werth [UPDATE: Werth has signed with the Nationals], the Yankees are going to add Cliff Lee and both the Angels and Rangers are in the hunt for Carl Crawford. Meanwhile, the Twins have done little but try to strengthen the Rochester Red Wings roster.

And excuse me if I don’t believe the chatter about potentially trading JJ Hardy for middle relief pitching would constitute any sort of improvement whatsoever. There are 70 or so middle relievers on the free agent market, including the four pretty good arms that wore Twins uniforms last season. Trading Hardy for talent you could easily bring on board through free agency would be a total waste of a valuable asset.

You don’t improve your chances of success in this league by trying to simply maintain the status quo while everyone else is focused on improving. Yes, the Twins won 94 games in 2010, but those who think they don’t have to improve the roster just to have a shot at being competitive in their division next season are kidding themselves.

Smith and his front office team have shown very little progress during the first half of the “semester” and that’s what they’re mid-term grade reflects. But there’s still time to salvage a passing grade. The second half of the offseason starts this week at Mickey Mouse’s Magic Kingdom.

It’s time to get to work, Mr. Smith.

– JC

5 Replies to “A Mid-Offseason Report Card”

  1. while its frustrating at time to see all these rumours floating around and the front office lips are sealed, I kind of find it refreshing. In the world these days, most all news is leaked so when a press s=conference happens, you already know who the person is going to say. BORING.
    With the Twins, there is always this element of surprise because they never tell you what they are thinking. Out of the blue, bam! we trade Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy. When the Twins got Carl Pavano, I think that was the first time Pavanos name was linked with the Twins. So who knows, maybe the Twins have been trying to wheel and deal, we just never hear about it

  2. Actually James, that is one of the things I like most about this team. They really do have a close relationship with our media but I like the fact that they just don’t talk about stuff that isn’t done. I HATE the rumor mill (while being slightly addicted anyway).

    So yeah, I simply can’t give any grade to the off-season until the final exams are over.

  3. To be clear, I have no problem with the Twins keeping their plans close to their vest, rather than feeding the rumor mill. To me, that’s a pretty smart way to approach things. There’s no sense in giving potential trade partners or players/agents any insight in to their thought process. What’s important is that they make the necessary improvements.

    That’s where my issue is at this point… they have made virtually no improvements. The Dunn/White Sox and Martinez & Benoit/Tigers moves aren’t just rumors. Those are done deals. The Twins have done absolutely nothing to improve the team so far. Until Nishioka shows something at the MLB level, he’s nothing more than another middle infield utility prospect, in my eyes… and it’s not like the Twins have had any shortage of those over the years. And now they’re talking about dumping a proven MLB shortstop, in return for relief pitching that they could simply buy on the free agent market, because they’ve bought this unproven commodity? That would be absolutely idiotic.

    The Twins have REAL needs to fill and the front office as addressed exactly none of them so far, while losing a significant amount of last year’s talent. Thus, the near-failing mid-term grade.

  4. GGGreat, GGGreat article!! I love the fact that other bloggers are willing to call the Twins front office out for lack of action this off-season. The goal of the management is to put a roster on the field that can beat the Yankees and bring us to the promised land. There is no doubt we have not even scratched the service yet and time is running out. We need LH pitching in the starting rotation and in the bullpen, and RH hitters in the lineup. A balance of speed and power would be nice. However, pitching and defense wins championships. I added your blog to my list of favorites on my blog (www.fanaticjacktalkstwins.blogspot.com). Keep up the good work.

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