In Sunday's edition of the Star Tribune, Patrick Reusse suggested that the Twins – like the Vikings – are deluded in their assessment of being able to compete in the short-term.
He's certainly not alone in his stance. Almost every day, whether here in the comments section, or on Twitter, or on other blogs and media outlets, I see people grumbling about the approach being taken by the Twins' front office this winter.
The team lost 99 games last year. Do they honestly believe in their asserted convictions that a return to contention in 2012 is possible, or is this lip service aimed at stimulating ticket sales? If it's the latter, why are they pumping payroll into veteran players like Jamey Carroll and Jason Marquis, who seemingly function as finishing touches on a contending roster rather than useful pieces in a rebuilding process?
What many people seem to forget is that the roster from a year ago is still largely intact. Sure, players like Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are gone, but their replacements – Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit – stand a good chance of replacing the lost production.
The Twins are a year removed from winning the AL Central in dominant fashion, carried by the contributions of many players that are still under team control and still in their physical primes. It's true that a litany of injury concerns surround the club's roster, but that was also true last year – a point I repeatedly tried to get across to jovial fans still reveling in the wake of a 94-win season.
No one could have expected the Twins to lose nearly 100 games last year, not even me in my relatively pessimistic outlook. It took an all-out worst-case scenario, with extraordinarily bad luck striking the entire organization.
But it also took poor planning from a general manager who showed little foresight in recognizing his team's health concerns and the lack of palatable contingency plans. This is an area where I feel that Terry Ryan has improved dramatically over Bill Smith.
No one really knows that to expect from Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Francisco Liriano or Scott Baker this year. Maybe their injury issues will carry over into 2012, again causing them to miss large chunks of the season. Maybe they'll be healthy enough to play, but not effective enough to fuel a 25-game turnaround in the standings.
Or maybe they'll benefit from an offseason of rest and rehab, returning to perform like the cornerstones they've been at various times in the past. And maybe, with help from solid complementary pieces like Willingham, Doumit and Carroll, that will be enough to give the Twins a shot in a division that can often be taken with fewer than 90 wins.
I'll fully acknowledge that the latter scenario is far less likely than the former. But I don't think it's delusional. And I also think that, even if you believe the Twins are destined to be a .500 club at best, there's still nothing wrong with Ryan's decision to pad the roster with reasonably priced veteran depth.
Reusse argues in his column that players like Brian Dozier and Chris Hermann should be given an opportunity to get some run in the big leagues this year. Others have stated that this hopeless season should be used to allow Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and Liam Hendriks to gain valuable MLB experience.
The thing is, none of those guys have spent any time in Triple-A yet (except for Hendriks, who threw 49 innings in Rochester last year). They'll all be in the organization and available whether or not players like Carroll and Marquis are on board, and going with the veterans out of the gate enables those prospects to prove that they're big-league ready rather than being thrown into the fire and leaving Ron Gardenhire with the same kind of depth problems that plagued him last year.
Is it delusional to believe the Twins can hang in the AL Central this year? I say no. And even if it is, there's nothing wrong with the approach being taken by the front office. Whether you're looking to contend or rebuild, depth is a good thing.