Minnesota Twins' Immediate Plans Come into Focus After Trade Deadline Passes

Mikael Wiitala@@MikaelWiitalaContributor IIIAugust 3, 2012

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 02: Denard Span #2 and Josh Willingham #16 of the Minnesota Twins celebrate following their win against the Boston Red Sox during the game on August 2, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

After the days, weeks and months of mindless speculation, the Minnesota Twins did what they seem to always do around the Major League Baseball trade deadline: stand pat.

Sure, they flipped Francisco Liriano and his expiring contract to the White Sox for two minor-leaguers, but Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and Denard Span are all Twins for at least the rest of the season.

What does this mean?

There are two ways of breaking down the Twins' strategy:

A) Trade offers were not good enough to part with players who were still under their control.

B) Twins personnel believe this group of players has what it takes to make a run next year.

While both possibilities hold truth, general manager Terry Ryan clearly believes option B and it is not as far-fetched as it may seem.

Consider this. A true rebuilding process would take between three to five years, and that is if your highest-rated prospects actually become major league ballplayers.

The Twins' obvious weakness organizationally is starting pitching. No matter what type of pitchers brought back in trades, the payoff is long-term in nature.

So, even if the Twins traded Morneau, Willingham and Span for high-upside starting pitching prospects, the immediate future of the franchise would be terrible at best.

That doesn't even take into account the biggest factor in every decision the Twins have made over the past two years: Joe Mauer.

Joe Mauer and his mega-contract aren't exactly holding the Twins' franchise at gunpoint, but the James Gang was never involved in such tense situations.

With Mauer on the roster, a true rebuilding process cannot and will not take place, and there is no way on Earth another MLB team would be willing to take Joe without the Twins footing most of the bill.

So, the Twins and Joe are stuck with each other, a whirlwind romance that now is a relationship of necessity and convenience.

To be fair, there are far worse players to be stuck with than Joe Mauer and that is the basis of the Twins' inaction this past Tuesday at the trade deadline.

Whether the Pohlad family has publicly stated this or not, they are not a fan of losing money, and last-place baseball teams lose money.

The Twins' organization thought they would have a better on-field product at this point and therefore a longer grace period for the Pohlad's to rake in as much cash as they can from Target Field.

But as attendance figures continue to fall and revenue takes a hit, it was clear the Twins could not end this season as a last-place team with Triple-A talent on the field.

The reason Span, Willingham and Morneau are all still Twins is perfectly clear: they are viable Major League Baseball players and without them on the roster, next season is already without hope.

No hope, no fans.

No fans, no money.

So, the Twins will go into next offseason with mostly the same cast of characters as this season, and hope to fill in their dreadful starting pitching staff with cast-offs and retreads.

A move or two will be made, it clearly makes sense to trade Denard Span when his replacement is cheaper and standing next to him in the outfield already, but for the most part the status quo will remain.

This is not a bad thing, as it will take a year or two for the Twins to stock the minor leagues with enough talent to actually rebuild.

It will take a few more years on top of that for those players to mature into major league players.

Just take a look at the Kansas City Royals, the team the Twins will be battling with to stay out of the cellar in the American League Central Division.

The Royals have been rebuilding for longer than I can remember, and each time it seems as if they are on the verge of breaking through they always fall flat.

It is because these prospects the Royals have invested so much time, energy and hope into never turn into players the caliber of Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau.

Yes, Mauer and Morneau are not the players they once were, but for the Twins it makes more sense and cents to roll the dice with these known commodities than pin their hopes on unknowns with upside.

Worst-case scenario, the Twins are in the same situation with the same players next year at this time and the mindless trade talk can continue.

However, as the White Sox have shown everyone this year, all it takes is a few guys staying healthy and a few players surprising along the way to become a playoff contender again.

It can happen, I've almost convinced myself of it.


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