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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Guys, You Weren't Supposed to be This Decent

What a strange season.  I didn't think the Twins would be playing decent baseball as the calendar switched to July.  I didn't think that Byron Buxton would be up, after his essentially lost 2014 season.  I didn't think Trevor May would be (as of late) the team's most dominant starting pitcher.  And I sure didn't think this proverbial ragtag bunch of misfits would -- if the season ended today -- be a wild card playoff team.

I thought 2015 would be the season where players like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Kennys Vargas, May, Danny Santana, and Alex Meyer would get extended opportunities to figure it out by playing games that, after May or June, really didn't matter.  You know -- let them take the Rochester shuttle, figure out the league, and hopefully come back ready to contribute in 2016, when players like Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios were ready to join the team.

But here we are.  As it turns out, games in July will matter.  It will matter this season whether Trevor May can be the reliable starter we want him to be; it will matter whether Kennys Vargas can hit consistently enough to stay in the lineup and contribute to a winning team.  I don't think this team can keep this pace for the rest of the season, but they don't have to, in order for things to get interesting.   The trade deadline is just over 5 weeks away, and if the Twins somehow stay within a few games of that last wild card spot, I really wonder what will happen.

The decent play and the current standings put the front office in a potentially interesting position.  After 4 awful, awful seasons, the organization can hardly sit idly by if the team has another good few weeks and stays in the hunt.  There are places for improvement -- bullpen, shortstop, designated hitter.  But there are also guys the Twins drafted, developed, and have shown patience with, that deserve opportunities to succeed, fail, and learn in those positions.  Isn't that, after all, a major component of a rebuild?

Sure, the best DH on the trade market makes the Twins better for the next 3 months, but that person does not make the Twins a World Series contender, or, perhaps, even likely to win the AL Central.  And while that guy gets the at-bats, Vargas, and even Miguel Sano (who should be up relatively soon) sit and gather dust -- or at the very least, don't improve.

Last season especially, I loved to criticize Terry Ryan.  It was easy.  Low-hanging fruit sometimes.  And Gardy.  But I'm honestly not sure what buttons Terry Ryan should press this July if the team keeps hovering near the wild card, and I'm not sure how much Paul Molitor should press Ryan.  I firmly believe that the organization owes -- yes, owes -- the fans something after the last 4 miserable seasons, and after ownership admitted not pushing enough in "the good years."  But this is certainly not the year to go all-in -- to trade good or great prospects for a rental player, no matter how good that player is.  For better or worse, we all -- fans and organization -- are way too far into this rebuild to scrap important segments of it for an unrealistic pennant chase.

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that, over the next month, the Twins slowly but steadily fall out of the wild card race.  2015 will still be a vast improvement over 2011-2014, and the rookies can get valuable, (relatively) low-stress experience.  But that isn't very satisfying, is it?  I want this team to keep it up.  For the love of God, I want Mike Pelfrey to be the best pitcher in the American League, and I want Alex Meyer to come out of nowhere and become a great set-up man.  I guess I want this raw, strange team to force Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor to get creative.  Find out a way (not just Alex Meyer and Miguel Sano) to improve this team without sacrificing the future.  Potentially a tough task, but it would be nice to have confidence in the front office once again.

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