Friday, November 30, 2007

What Happens Next?

OK Twins fans, you can and should be very happy about new GM Bill Smith's first major trade as the head man for your favorite baseball team. Prying former uber-prospect Delmon Young from the Tampa Bay Rays was impressive, even at the expense of a talent like Matt Garza.

Still, while you revel in your shiny new three-hole hitter you have to be wondering where all this is going.

It's common knowledge by now that unless Twins owner Carl Pohlad suddenly undergoes a Scrooge-esque experience, the best pitcher in baseball is going to be wearing another team's uniform in 2008.

Of course I'm talking about one Johan Santana and the trade rumors that continue to run rampant involving the lefty. If there was ever a guy you were going to pay top dollar to make sure he stays, it's Santana. Yet in typical Twins form they've managed to convince people that it's for the best that they get what they can for him now because they can't afford him.

My bad, they can afford him, they just choose not too.

So okay, Santana's out the door and in his place should be a nice little collection of young talent to pair with the aforementioned Young. A little chemistry building in a locker room revered for it's close knit atmosphere, perhaps Francisco Liriano gets healthy and returns to his dominating form and all is right with the world.

Of course there's always the other scenario, the one the Twins and their fans seem more than a little reluctant to consider.

In that scenario the hot-headed Young, taking the place of team leader and Twins icon Torii Hunter, shakes up the happy-go-lucky locker room and infuses it with a little good old fashioned diva attitude.

Liriano's recovery takes longer than expected and his stuff isn't nearly as un-hittable as the mental and physical hurdles prove too much for the young guy. On top of that the young players received in the Santana trade turn out to be a year or two away from really being good and manager Ron Gardenhire is left to juggle his roster all year.

Not only that, but the team's struggles support the front office's idea that it's a good idea to move closer Joe Nathan before he becomes a free agent and so they do just that and get less than market value for a guy who has to be considered one of the three or four best closers in the game.

You see where I'm going with this right? Where does it stop? When is it not good enough for a franchise with the second richest owner in all of sports is more willing to trade their best players than sign them?

Yes the Twins minor league system has been strong over the years and against all odds they've managed to run a successful organization built primarily on home-grown talent. But that kind of success can't last forever and at some point you need to start throwing some money around.

What are the top guys coming up in the Twins system supposed to think? At this point they can be reasonably sure that if they do make it to the show and perform well that they should keep their bags packed come contract time, and that's sad.

A look ahead at the top players on the Twins roster reveals that former AL MVP Justin Morneau could be next to go, followed by right fielder Michael Cuddyer and even the newly acquired Young if he doesn't get the kind of money I'm sure he believes he's worth from the Twins.

With a beautiful new ballpark on the horizon and sagging interest in both the Vikings and Timberwolves, now is the time for the Twins to step it up and claim their place as Minnesota's top draw.

Instead they seem content to spend less money than the Kansas City Royals and hope that things work out. I don't know about you, but like the Twins themselves, I'm not buying it.

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