By Jack Tuthill
ST. PAUL, MINN. — The Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers will be fortunate to finish the 2013 season with 70 wins, but the future seems especially dim for Minnesota. Joe Mauer’s current concussion issue is as troubling as his gigantic contract that is eating up over 30 percent of the team’s salary.
Milwaukee’s season has been marred by Ryan Braun’s suspension, and the absence of 2010 all-star Corey Hart who is still recovering from two knee surgeries. But the immergence of outfielder Carlos Gomez, 23-year-old rookie second baseman Scooter Gennett, and shortstop Jean Segura should have Brewers fans excited about next years possibilities. Moreover, catcher Jonathan LuCroy and outfielder Norichika Aoki have been respectable this season, and are in the Brewers future plans.
Across the border, the Twins have received little production from outfielder Josh Willingham, third baseman Trevor Plouffe, and catcher Ryan Doumit. These three were supposed to be rocks in the Twins lineup this season, but collectively have tallied just 40 homeruns—a number Willingham nearly surpassed by himself in 2012 with 35. Outside of Mauer, no other starter is hitting over .252; a stat that cannot be ignored.
Minnesota (64-85) and Milwaukee (66-83) hold similar records, which is astounding considering the Twins are 26th in batting, and 29th in pitching. Meanwhile, the Brewers are a respectable 14th in batting and 17th in pitching. On paper this Brewers team should be somewhere near a .500 team, much like last year’s squad.
Every season, no matter how unsatisfactory, has high points. Minnesota’s high point has been the bullpen, which is ranked 8th in Major League Baseball with a 3.35 earned run average (ERA). A long season of replacing Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, Pedro Hernandez, and Vance Worley in the fourth and fifth inning attributes to their reason lack of success. The Twins rank dead last in starting pitching with a 5.16 ERA—and it is not even close.
Milwaukee’s bullpen, which ranks fifth, has been sharp all year long. The real issue has been the poor performances from starting pitchers Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada, and an array of AAA call-ups. Former Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse has carried his weight for Milwaukee, but without consistent run support his win total sits at a lowly 10.
The Brewers remedy for success should be simple: get Braun and Hart back, sign a couple veteran innings-eating starting pitchers through free agency and dump Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, Juan Francisco, and Yunel Betancourt. These four players are well beyond their prime, and it would wise to invest in younger, better players next season.
Milwaukee still needs to replace Prince Fielder, which never happened. Attempting to sign Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Robinson Cano is out of the question. But Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo would be a great fit, as would Seattle first baseman Kendrys Morales. Look for the Brewers organization to take a stab at one of these all-stars this off-season.
The Twins organization is ecstatic about their 2012 first round pick Brian Buxton, who was recently named Baseball America’s minor league player of the year. Buxton is only 19. His age and inexperience likely means he will not suit up next season at Target Field, but a September call-up is not impossible. Buxton’s 55 stolen bases this year has Ron Gardenhire salivating in anticipation.
Gardenhire’s 12 year run as manager of the Minnesota Twins could be coming to a close this winter because of the team’s inability to win games on a consistent basis. His seemingly lack of interest in the dugout and poor managerial decisions has many Twins fans begging for a change.
After back-to-back winning seasons, Ron Roenicke’s job should be intact at season’s end. After all, he did manage the Brewers to 96 wins in 2011—the most in franchise history. A couple fresh faces on the field and the right mentality should have the Brewers on the road toward success.
Free agency will be vital for both clubs, but something tells me the Twins will lay low. Last winter’s big acquisitions were Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, and Vance Worley—need I say more?