At what point do the architects of dynamite baseball team earn some benefit of the doubt?
Craig Kimbrel reportedly agreed to sign with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night. The immediate reaction that I saw online was that it was pretty much a wrap for the Cubbies to win the World Series, no sense in the first-place Twins even playing out the season.
That was the reaction from a selection of Twins fans. Now, I know that the vocal minority online in moments like that are going to do much more than their fair share of the yelling, and therefore they’ll be heard more. But I heard different versions of this same debate with enough reasonable people that it ought to be addressed. There’s a lot to unpack with this one.
The 2019 Twins season is off to a remarkable start. The Twins are looking like a sure-fire postseason club.
Minnesota could afford to improve before the summer is out, if the team wants to maximize its chances of winning it all. Kimbrel — and Dallas Keuchel for that matter — entered Thursday without a job.
I believe that Kimbrel would make the Twins better, when he eventually would have joined the club and then also in October. Things just get deeper when he’s in the fold.
All of those things are true.
There’s a narrative that has persisted for too long and just should get muted at this point. That’s that the Twins have no hope without this one very specific reliever. After’s Wednesday’s loss, the Twins dropped to 40-20. “Dropped” to 20 games better than .500 with a commanding league in a weakened A.L. Central. And each of those 40 wins were earned without Kimbrel.
The Twins are a great team. This doesn’t look to me like some fun pop-up story that will fade. At the time that the reports about Kimbrel surfaced online, the Twins were on pace to win 109 games. That of course dropped after losing to Cleveland. Now the Twins are just on pace to win 108 games.
Let’s be clear here. I’m not saying that the Twins wouldn’t be helped by adding Kimbrel. I’m not saying that their bullpen is flawless and that they’ll march through October without any additions.
My point is that the timing of this market was weird, and I’m willing to bet that there’s another market in July that will turn up some pretty darn good arms. Heck, the Astros added Ryan Pressly at the trade deadline last summer, so it can be done.
Pick a non-contending team — and there are plenty — and find a great arm with a year or two left with team control. Or maybe even a salary that his current employer would rather skate on. This isn’t the column for the exhaustive list, just the idea.
With a 9 1/2-game lead in the division, the Twins can afford to be patient. For a club in this position, these moves are made with October in mind, not merely in an attempt to stave off the Indians in August.
So the Orioles don’t think they’re World Series-bound next year? Call them and ask about Mychal Givens.
While you’re on the phone with the Blue Jays about starter Marcus Stroman, see what they think of World Series winner Ken Giles.
Call the Tigers to see if they’d be interested in letting you borrow Shane Greene for the duration of his team control. I’m guessing that Joe Jimenez will not be available but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
The Reds find themselves in a tough division? See if Raisel Iglesias would be made available again.
If you’re really going to call San Francisco about Madison Bumgarner, it’s worth it to ask off-handedly if Will Smith is a guy they’d consider moving, even if you’d prefer to have longer term control than that.
A couple summers ago I advocated calling the Padres about a guy named Brad Hand and then see if you could tack on Kirby Yates. Hand now pitching for your rivals, and I’d still be open to adding Yates but for two problems: 1) The Padres are trying to compete; and 2) the secret is out that Yates is a Good Reliever.
So the grand point I’m making here is twofold. This is a very good Twins team without any additions. And secondly, there will be time and currency to make additions when the time is right. I can’t blame the Twins for not getting a deal done with Kimbrel.
KIMBREL UPDATE! – SKOR North Twins Show LIVE! https://t.co/OKgbqPLIVU
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) June 5, 2019