After winning back-to-back American League Central titles, the Minnesota Twins entered this season with great expectations.
Then they crashed and burned – staggering to 44-62 record that prompted their fire sale ahead of Friday’s trade deadline.
Even if the Twins won the rest of their games this season, they could not match the 101-61 record they posted in 2019.
So while Cardinals fans lament their team’s fate – scuffling around .500, caught between contending and bailing – imagine the agony Twins fans are enduring as their team starts over again.
They even traded away their best home-grown commodity, pitcher Jose Berrios, as part of the long-haul rebuild.
“Our view of this is sustainability,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “We know what this year has been. I’ve talked about that at length. It has not been what we wanted, but we still feel, even as José walked out the door here . . . we have a lot of talent in that clubhouse coming back in '22 and '23 and beyond.
“So how do you build a sustainable group? You’ve got to retool it sometimes.”
This retooling left manager Rocco Baldelli to pick up the pieces.
“Everyone felt as though moves were going to be made, trades would be made and they were,” Baldelli said. “And that is difficult in a lot of ways. There was some pain that’s going to be felt. Us getting where we need to be, for that to happen, we’re going to have to feel some of these emotions, we’re going to have to feel some of this pain. But I do believe that looking forward, the future is very bright.
“We have the pieces already here that we’re trying to supplement right now with some of the moves that we’re making in order to get to the point where we are a playoff baseball team again.”
That could take a while, given the state of that pitching staff. So Baldelli is treating the rest of this season as pre-spring training for 2020.
“We’re going to be busy on the field,” he said. “We’re going to working and figuring things out and teaching and talking about the game, sometimes from a rudimentary level.”
Third baseman Josh Donaldson survived the trade deadline, so now he must try to make the best of the tough Twins situation.
“We’re not laying down because you’re going to get some excitement from guys coming in right now and trying to prove themselves,” Donaldson said. “That’s fun to be a part of and helping guys grow. Hopefully, this leads to more success to come in the future.”
Well, we'll see.
Here’s what folks have been writing about the trade deadline maneuvering:
Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com: “In less than two weeks, the Cubs went from buyers to sellers and now fans had to try and come to grips with the possibility of a few players being traded. It seemed like maybe [Anthony] Rizzo and [Javier] Bàez might end up sticking around. But in less than 24 hours, the foundation of our favorite team, the group we'd grown to love for all these years, was being shipped out. These three weren't the only ones from that team that'll be beloved forever. There's been a steady drip in the ensuing years. Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber hitting free agency and signing with the Nationals was one of the bigger movements. Dexter Fowler signing with the Cardinals coming right off his leadoff Game 7 homer hurt. Ben Zobrist was the World Series MVP but his age and off-field proceedings had caught up with him by the end of 2019. Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Kyle Hendricks remain, but it's safe to say the core is gone. The era is over. Perhaps Contreras signs an extension and carries the torch with Hendricks to the next era, but this one is absolutely over.”
Michael Baumann, The Ringer: “One could say the Dodgers got the two best players to move at the deadline, and in the process kept [Max] Scherzer away from the Padres and Giants, or one could spin an extended metaphor. Imagine the NL West is a small, affluent New England hamlet, and the Dodgers are the old-money family that’s generally run things for the past few generations. And imagine that the division title is a holiday party. The Dodgers have held the best holiday party more or less by default for the past decade, but now there’s a nouveau riche neighbor down the block with cool sports cars and a fancy pool with a Jacuzzi, and all his parties have loud music and Jell-O shots and so on—the Padres. On the other end of the street are the Giants, a somewhat mysterious family that might be conjuring apparitions in the basement, but everyone in town finds them compelling. The Dodgers, upset at the increasing possibility of looking stodgy and obsolete, have cried, ‘Enough!’ They’ve booked a bouncy castle, hired a former Top Chef contestant to do the catering, and booked the best cover band on the East Coast. The noisy neighbors were a fun diversion, but it’s time to remind everyone who really runs this town.”
Bradford Doolittle, ESPN.com: “If the Dodgers weren't dealing with the Trevor Bauer fiasco, of which they solved the baseball ramifications by acquiring Scherzer, the White Sox would probably have emerged as the biggest winners at the deadline. The status would have been clinched by the deadline day trade in which Chicago landed an end-of-game hammer in now-former Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel. The White Sox entered the deadline with two clear needs: Second base and additional leveraged relief help. They checked off those items nicely by acquiring Indians second baseman Cesar Hernandez and another ex-Cub reliever in Ryan Tepera. When you have needs that specific, it speaks to the quality and depth of your existing roster. Solid as those pickups were, they weren't particularly sexy. Landing Kimbrel is sexy. Now with the bullpen stacked with Kimbrel, Liam Hendriks, Tepera, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet and Aaron Bummer, Tony LaRussa's squad is perfectly situated for a long October run. Giving up Nick Madrigal could not have been easy, and just as Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease now torment the North Side team that once employed them, now Madrigal (and Codi Heuer) can do the same to South Siders during a long run at Wrigley Field. Still, for the White Sox, this is about maximizing a golden opportunity, here and now. They've done that.”
Gabe Lacques, USA Today: “Even before they added Kris Bryant, it’s impossible to ignore how well-constructed this [Giants] team is. They’ve beaten back the advances of the more celebrated Dodgers and Padres and played with numbing consistency. Notice how the Giants were one of the few contenders not to add a significant relief arm at the deadline? That’s because their bullpen leads the majors in WHIP (1.11) and ranks second in batting average allowed (.217). They catch the ball. They command the strike zone on both sides of the equation. And they have 19 games remaining with the Diamondbacks and Rockies, more than any other contender. Oh, and now they’ll trot out Bryant anywhere he’s needed – truly a dream for club president Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler.”
Alyson Footer, MLB.com: “The Yankees, mired in mediocrity for much of the season, now look like a team that has a chance to get its act together before October. They addressed a dire need for a more balanced lineup by acquiring two lefties with pop in Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, and while one weekend sweep of the Marlins is not nearly enough to tell us how they’ll fare down the stretch, the Deadline moves alone indicate the front office has not counted out this group. Entering play Monday, the Yankees are only 2 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays and Mariners are right behind them, 3 1/2 games back. As it stands, the Red Sox and A’s are the leaders in the AL Wild Card race.”
“He knows what it takes to get where we want to go. Just a lot of energy. It’s great to have him on our side. It has been fun getting to know him the last couple of days. Fun to watch him obviously. Yeah, he’s coming up with big hit after big hit.”
New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, on new teammate Rizzo.