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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Twins Never Learn

Complaining about the Twins is a little too easy these days, as with each passing day they manage to look worse and worse. That's often the case when you possess the league's worst record after 43 games, and even more so when the team was expected to at least be close to .500.

Terry Ryan has proved for almost two decades now that he doesn't learn from his mistakes, so it should be no surprise that the team continues to make the same silly mistakes year after year.

Remember when the Twins sent one of their top prospects, a major league ready catcher (Wilson Ramos), for Matt bleeping Capps? While the team still had Joe Mauer catching at that point, it was hardly a sure thing he'd remain a catcher for the long term. The fact that he had to switch positions the very next off-season was a worst-case scenario, but hardly surprising. Regardless, to trade someone who projected as a future starting catcher for an overpaid reliever made no sense. As frustrating as it was, I always hoped it would serve as a cautionary tale for Terry Ryan and the front office: Don't give up a promising prospect for an expensive reliever. Bill Smith was technically the GM when the trade was made, but Ryan was a part of the front office and still had say. Both deserve blame.

Shockingly (or not), the Twins decided to trade two pitching prospects last July for... drum roll please... an expensive reliever. That reliever was 30-year-old Kevin Jepsen. The Twins knew he'd cost somewhere between $6 and $8 million for 2016 as well, so they kept pushing the angle that they were getting a year and a half of Jepsen. He was more than a rental.

Unfortunately, paying a good but hardly elite reliever that kind of money is hardly a bargain. While a one-year deal for that kind of money isn't a major risk, giving up two pitching prospects for the ability to overpay a reliever is silly.

Even sillier was that one of the prospects was then 21-year-old Chih-Wei Hu. Hu doesn't possess elite stuff, but he's consistently pitched well at every level, and he's always been young for the level he's playing at. Hu is now a 22-year-old who has pitched in both AA and AAA for the Rays this season, posting a 1.60 ERA in 45 innings across 8 starts. He's struck out 46 batters and walked just 11. He's going to be a solid starting pitcher in the big leagues in the near future, and he could even see some big league time as early as this year.

While Jepsen has been a bit unlucky through this point of the season, even if he had been lights out all year the Twins would still be terrible. For a team that is notoriously cheap and struggles to bring in big money free agents, losing Hu's six years of cost-controlled pitching for a year and a half of overpaying Jepsen is frustrating. To do it just a few seasons after trading six years of Wilson Ramos' cost-controlled catching for the right to overpay Matt Capps for a year and a half makes it idiotic.

Chih-Wei Hu might end up having a better season this year alone than Jepsen if he gets called up, but even if he doesn't debut this year, Hu is almost certainly going to be a valuable starting pitcher on a minimal contract for years. When you look at the Twins starting pitching and how badly they need some youngsters to emerge for the team to improve, it's just ridiculous. Poor decisions compounded by worse decisions, and Terry Ryan still can't learn his lesson. What an embarrassment this organization is.