Let's go over a few things, eh? How about the entire decade of Twins baseball before 2011:
2001: 85 wins, 2nd place
2002: 94 wins, trip to ALCS
2003: 90 wins, 1st place
2004: 92 wins, 1st place
2005: 83 wins, 3rd place
2006: 96 wins, 1st place
2007: 79 wins, 3rd place
2008: 88 wins, 2nd place
2009: 87 wins, 1st place
2010: 94 wins, 1st place
Average wins: 89 Average place in the division: 1.6 (so basically first place every year)
So why does this matter? Why talk about the Twins at all?
2011: 63 wins, 5th place
One might be asking oneself, "What in the heck is going on?" Well, the perfect storm of things brewed together to just absolutely destroy what was once a very well-run organization (and the firing of Bill Smith points out just how badly things were going in the eyes of the organization). Let's start with the two key individuals who were the largest part of the team for the last half of that decade, the M&M boys: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. The first step is to look at the three years prior to 2011 to see how much they mattered:
Mauer (2008 to 2010 numbers):
.340/.420/.502 (148 OPS+)/ 7.4 WAR (1.8 dWAR)- 22.1 WAR over 3 years
Morneau (2008 to 2010 numbers):
.300/ .383/ .530 (143 OPS+)/ 4.3 WAR (0.3 dWAR)- 12.9 WAR over 3 years
One is thinking to oneself at this point, "Holy crap, those dudes were pretty gosh darn good." Well yes, they were. Unfortunately, this did not carry into 2011. To put things into perspective, the two M&M boys in 2011 combined (as in, if you put all of their value together as one person) for 0.6 WAR. Yes, they combined to not even combine FOR ONE WIN ABOVE REPLACEMENT. In the average year before 2011, they combined for 11.7 WAR. That's 11 wins off of the record right there, and it's using numbers from a pool that includes a half season from Morneau in 2010, so it's probably closer to 12. Suddenly, the Twins are a 75 win team at the least. So that accounted for a massive difference, but what's going on now? What else changed a lot? Well, I'll tell you:
Bill Smith dun got replaced for a reason. Personally, I think he made a few key decisions that have set the franchise back a few years. Here are a couple of those moves:
1) Matt Garza, Eduardo Morlan and Jason Bartlett to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie
Does this move really need explanation? The Rays are a genius organization when it comes to analyzing young talent, and they really did a number on the Twins with this trade. Young may have been a former first round pick, but he clearly never had the mental capacity to make it in the bigs. Garza speaks for himself. He was recently flipped for an elite package of prospects after succeeding in the AL East.
2) Johan Santana for Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Phil Humber, and Kevin Mulvey
The trade itself looks absolutely dreadful, but not even close to as bad as it does when you compare it to what Boston offered for Santana. Imagine this hypothetical deal:
Johan Santana for Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, Coco Crisp, and Jed Lowrie
That one not painful enough? How about:
Johan Santana for Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Masterson, and Jed Lowrie
3) Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa for Matt Capps
This one hurts a lot, personally, because I have a strong philosophical view that relief pitchers aren't worth jack and trading a stud catching prospect for one should get you fired immediately. However, the beliefs behind the trade are even more bothersome. The Twins seemed to have believed that Ramos was blocked and that star catcher Joe Mauer would always remain at catcher and never get hurt. Well, it sure came to bite the Twins faster than most expected.
4) J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson, Twins sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka after
They traded a shortstop in his prime and a utility infielder for two minor league relievers, then signed a Japanese prospect who wound up not translating to the professional game at all.
These moves have undoubtedly hurt the Twins. An estimate on the number of games lost from these moves? Man, the Twins could easily have been a 95 win team if:
1) Garza stays on
2) Santana is flipped for either Boston package
3) Ramos is still on the roster
4) Hardy is playing every day at shortstop
With Morneau and Mauer healthy, plus the right moves being made from 2007 to 2010, the Twins are sitting pretty without a care in the world right now. They probably win 85ish games and look forward to having Mauer and Morneau back the next year (or even one of them to make a run at the division). So where do they stand now? Well, they're getting back to their old ways with interim GM Terry Ryan, the farm isn't as strong as it could be, and it is not out of the realm of possibility for Morneau to never be a regular contributor on the roster again due to his problems with his concussion. The Twins also have several contracts up in the air:
Jim Thome- Signed with Philadelphia
Joe Nathan- $12 million option declined
Michael Cuddyer- Seeking a payday in free agency after coming off a career year
Jason Kubel- Probably seeking 7 million
My advice on the last three? Let them walk. I do not believe any of those players are in the mix for a competitive Twins team beyond 2012. Guys like Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere are going to have to find ways to be major contributors in the big leagues for the Twins to make any kind of swift turnaround. A lot of Twins fans like to complain about the bullpen, but that's one place Smith was wise. Performance of bullpen guys that Smith let walk?
Crain: 65 IP/ 3.77 tERA/ 0.9 WAR- 2011 salary: 4 million
Guerrier: 66 IP/ 3.28 rERA/ 0.4 WAR- 2011 salary: 2.5 million
Rauch: 52 IP/ 4.94 rERA/ -0.6 WAR- 2011 salary: 3.5 million
So Bill Smith and the Twins would have had to pay, at a minimum, 10 million dollars annually (Crain and Guerrier get pay raises after this year) for a total of 0.7 wins in 2011. Well, that makes him look kinda like a genius, so don't get mad at him there, Twins fans.
Right now, from an overall standpoint, this is the official state of the Twins: build from the ground up. The organization now has the revenue stream to build a team on top of a good foundation. Terry Ryan has provided that foundation before, and he's more than capable of laying it again. This time, the Twins just need to hand it over to the right guy.