Minnesota Twins: Are Minnesota Twins Headed Toward the End of an Era?

Chris SchadContributor IIIDecember 26, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Manager Ron Gardenhire #35 of the Minnesota Twins walks off the field after tailing to his players during the tenth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 20, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 4-3 in 10 innings. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

2012 represented the 10-year anniversary of one of the most beloved teams in the history of the Minnesota Twins.

As the team opened up it's third season at Target Field, members of the 2002 American League Central championship team gathered at the shiny new ballpark and the brand name they helped build as the catalyst of five more division championships over the next decade.

As the team wound down one of the most frustrating seasons in franchise history, it appears that the Twins may finally be ready to close the book on the most successful era since the team relocated from Washington in 1961.

During the past two seasons, the Twins have had a combined record of 129-195 and finished last in the division that they previously dominated.

The pitching staff, which had been a strength for so many years, has broken down to the point where the immortal Samuel Deduno gets a hero's welcome down Hennepin Avenue for successfully making it past the fifth inning.

Offensively, the Twins have had the talent necessary to score runs. However, most of that talent hasn't been able to stay on the field with key cogs Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer spending more time on the disabled list than at first base and catcher.

With the Twins having a small (if any) ray of hope, the time is now to move on and build for the future. The Twins have already made such moves.

Denard Span, one of the cogs that helped ease the blow of losing Torii Hunter to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim prior to the 2008 season, was traded to the Washington Nationals for prized pitching prospect Alex Meyer.

Ben Revere, who was the first-round pick for the Twins in the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft and who was supposed to be the home-grown replacement for Span, was shipped to the Philadelphia Phillies for Vance Worley and another highly regarded pitching prospect in Trevor May.

These two moves could be the beginning of the end as Morneau heads to the final year of his deal.

Since his concussion on July 7, 2010, Morneau has hit just .254 with 23 home runs and 107 runs batted in over 203 games. With his numbers well off the MVP-type pace with which Twins fans have been accustomed over his ten-year career, there is not a viable market for Morneau.

With the Twins having Chris Parmelee waiting in the wings, the Twins may wait to see if Morneau heats up for a team that finds themselves out of contention in 2013.

If that's the case, the Twins may be able to swing another deal to add to a suddenly top-heavy farm system with nine prospects that could flirt with top-100 status in 2013.

Trading a pillar from the Twins' decade of success will not be a popular move with fans who will claim that the Twins are cutting payroll and trading their best players. But with 195 losses in two seasons, it's fair to question just how good the players the Twins are trading really are?

Unless you're a glamour team, all success in professional sports must come to an end at some point. With a series of successful moves, the Twins could compete in the AL Central as soon as 2014 and possibly begin another decade of success.