Minnesota Twins‘ GM Terry Ryan has already made some bold moves by trading established major league starters for high end prospects. His aggressiveness on the trade market has bolstered up a farm system that was depleted while simultaneously emptying the Twins’ roster of big leaguers.
The Twins, new stadium or not, simply are not a big market team, so a strong minor league system is essential for their success as a franchise. Recently ESPN’s Keith Law wrote the Twins have the second best farm system in Major League Baseball with seven of the 100 best prospects. Things are looking up for a team who is sporting back-to-back last place finishes in the AL Central, but unfortunately for Twins’ fans, they probably won’t have the MLB-ready pieces to contend for a few more years.
So what do they do with their current roster? Injury-riddled, slugging first baseman Justin Morneau is entering the final year of his contract. If Morneau starts the 2013 season hot, it will mean two things for the Twins. One, they probably wont be able to afford to extend him. Two, his big left handed bat might serve as some good trade bait come mid-2013. As a lifelong Twins fan I would be sad to see the former MVP go, but it may be a necessary evil in the name of progress.
The other slugger in the Twins’ lineup is left fielder Josh Willingham who is coming off a career year in which he hit 35 home runs and knocked in 110 RBI. Currently Willingham is signed through 2014 at a bargain $7 million a year–which would make him even more valuable than Morneau come the trade deadline.
As talent continues to develop, Ryan will have to decide just how far out the Twins are from becoming legitimate contenders. If that answer is as soon as 2014, he should keep Willingham on the team and as a veteran presence on a young roster. If 2015/2016 is a more realistic answer, then he should trade two of his best players for more pieces.
Ryan has done a remarkable job after inheriting a dismal situation. It’s unlikely the Twins will compete in 2013, however, they’re a few moves away from making a minor league system so strong, they will compete for years to come–as they did in the early 2000s. Stay tuned for how Ryan deals with two of his stars and their expiring contracts and don’t be surprised to see both of them in different uniforms come this September.