TwinsTakes on Acquiring Players – Trust the Process Part 2

Our TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process of Acquiring Players

Players are the lifeblood of your team. Acquire them well and often.

The Minnesota Twins are finally at a point where they have built a team with a lot of talent. Most of that talent is young and still developing into what they could potentially be. They will go a long way towards making the Minnesota Twins a perennial playoff team now and in the future. All those years of losing are…uhh…finally paying off? Wait…that doesn’t sound right. They are finally seeing the fruits of having the higher draft picks as a result of all those losing seasons.

This is part 2 of our “Trusting the Process” series on what it takes to build a perennial playoff and championship contending team. The first part, simply called Trusting the Process, was about how the Twins Front Office and CBO Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have helped or let the Minnesota Twins compete this season and why what they did, or didn’t do, at the trade deadline was actually showing how they are trusting the process.

At the end of the series, we’ll go over how the Minnesota Twins have done in each area. Maybe we’ll find why they struggled for so many of the last 6 seasons. Today, though, we will continue the series with how a team acquires players and what tools are available to each organization to do it.

4-Tool Player Acquisition

There is a process to developing a team into a champion. The front office of any organization needs to trust that process to become a championship caliber team, not just for one season, for every season. That is every team’s goal, to contend for a championship every season. Acquiring and developing players is how teams compete, how they improve and ultimately, how they win.

Every team has the same tools at their disposal to acquire players. The major tools are the Draft/Drafting, Free Agency, International Signings, and Trades. They have to use any means necessary to acquire players. If they lose focus or don’t do very well on any one of them, they’re probably not going to become that perennial championship-caliber team.

If a team doesn’t draft well, they won’t have many prospects. If they don’t sign good players in Free Agency, they’ll be stuck with bad contracts which will affect payroll and not allow them the flexibility to get other free agents or acquire the players they want or need in trades. If they get nothing from International Signings, they aren’t getting anything from all the time and money they put into their baseball academies and their international scouting and if they don’t make good trades, they’ll either get rid of their best players for nothing or trade their best prospects for very little return.

A team may need to make a few moves to help push an already contending team to the brink of winning a championship but, those moves could also change their team for the worse in the future and if they don’t win that season, they may set themselves back because of it. If they’ve done well in all areas of acquiring players, they should be able to recover from those trades.*
*One name….Matt Capps! Ughh!

First Draft

The best way to get players is through the draft. It happens every year and every organization picks and signs about 30+ players and they don’t have to give anything up to acquire these players. Obviously, the biggest problem with the draft is having to wait for 3-6 years or more for most of those drafted players to reach the majors but, if you’ve consistently drafted well, there should always be players coming or close to ready to contribute to the big club.

Of course, if the organization has done well in the other 4 areas of player acquisition, they won’t need to rely on rookies as much. If they do have players coming consistently every season, they have the opportunity to trade other pieces to either improve the club now by adding a good veteran or in the future by adding more prospects.

We can’t cover acquiring players without talking about scouting. Without scouting or a team’s scouts, they would have no idea how good a player is right now or how good they might be in the future. The movie, Moneyball, taught a lot of us that scouting is now a lot more than just watching a player and seeing their skills in person.

Analytics now play a big part in evaluating a player and their talent. Another area probably not talked about enough is a player’s makeup and how he’ll look on television and in a team’s promotional videos. Noooo….not that kind of makeup! Makeup as in what makes each player tick, how hard they compete, how good of a teammate they are and how they handle adversity. It’s not talked about very much because the fans rarely see that side of a player, especially when it comes in the dugout or in the clubhouse but a player can change the whole team with his makeup.

The draft is the easiest way to acquire players but it might be the hardest way to produce players. You can get a lot of players at one time but, of the 30 or so a team signs, very few of them make it to the majors at all or become impact players once they get there. That being said, the years a team has control over a player and their salary is a big reason why they need to get players from the draft.

Free Agency isn’t Free at All

Free agency is the quickest way for a team to improve. Teams can simply negotiate with a player and give them a better deal or more money than any other team. It’s not that simple, of course, and it doesn’t always work the way teams would like it to. Maybe a player just doesn’t fit or wasn’t as good as advertised so there are risks involved with every signing.

There is the problem of not getting the player you want and then having to go to further down your list and/or maybe overspending to get the player you want. Free agent contracts in Major League Baseball are getting crazier by the year. Because of how long teams have control of their players, the majority don’t hit actual free agency until they are in the high 20s or early 30s. Obviously part of that also has to do with teams re-signing their players and buying out some of their free agent years but it may make free agency even more of a risk.

Depending on many factors, players hit their peak sometime around 30 years old, give or take a year or two. That’s also when most of them hit the free agent market. So, teams are signing players to gigantic multi-year contracts and it’s very likely they end up paying more money as they age and as their play declines. Yoenis Cespedes signed the biggest contract last offseason at 4 years/$110M and he was 31 years old when he signed that contract. Will he get better in the span of that contract or will his play decline as he gets even older? That’s up for debate and it’s different for every player but you might want to keep that receipt just in case.*
*”Umm…this didn’t work like it was supposed to. Can I get a refund?”

Free agency is a great tool to use to quickly strengthen an area of weakness or to get that player a team might need to get them over the hump but it might not work as well as they’d like it to work. I’m sure that won’t matter when the General Managers get their owner’s checkbooks out next offseason, though. 

Foreign Signatures

The MLB International Signing Period is how teams sign players born outside of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico because there isn’t an International Draft. So, it’s basically International Free Agency but it’s for prospects and players who are as young as 16 years old. That means every team has to trust their international scouts but every team also has Baseball Academies in the Dominican Republic and other countries so they can develop these players and get them into their system.

Look no further than the current Twins roster as proof that International Signings work. 2009 was a good year for the Minnesota Twins on the International market as they signed current players, OF Max Kepler, SS Jorge Polanco and 3B Miguel Sano*. Those players are a part of the core of this young Twins team and it shows how big of a part international signings are for every team.
*Pelotero: Ballplayer (2012) is a highly recommended documentary that is mainly about the signing of Miguel Sano and all of the problems that occurred through that process. A sequel, The Miguel Sano Story, is on the way. No release date is available at this time.

Trading Place

There is also the possibility for any team’s General Manager to pick up the phone and call another team’s General Manager, tell them they’re interested in a player and ask if he’s available. The answer could be no, he’s untouchable, what would you give us or this is what we’d need coming back to us if we were to trade him. It could get done right away. It could take a week, a month or even more. They could get really close to making a deal and then something makes it go wrong.

Look at the Brian Dozier saga from last offseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers were looking for a 2nd baseman. The Minnesota Twins have Brian Dozier and the whole league knew he was on the trading block. Did the Twins want to trade him? Not necessarily but he was the player with the most value at that time. The Twins need pitching. Starting, relieving, sales, any kind of pitching. They need it. They wanted a significant return for their All-Star 2nd Baseman who had 2 years left on a contract at a good salary. The Dodgers did not want to give up more than one of their top pitching prospects, Jose De Leon.

The talks seemed to go on forever. The Twins wanting another top prospect added to the deal. The Dodgers, not wanting to give up another prospect or, at least, a prospect as high as the Twins may have wanted, decided to go in another direction and trade Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for 2B Logan Forsythe. Some have said the Dodgers basically traded for Brian Dozier because of how similar they are but, as the season has gone on, you have to wonder if the Dodgers will be kicking themselves if the postseason doesn’t work out like they want it to.

Just like in Free Agency, there’s risk involved in making trades. It’s almost the same thing except teams are giving up prospects instead of money to acquire players in a trade. They can acquire almost any level of player in a trade so if they believe there’s a diamond in the rough and they can get him on the cheap for a low prospect or two, the risk isn’t nearly as steep.

Closing Time
You may already be home and you CAN stay there!

There aren’t many other ways to acquire players but they shouldn’t be considered major tools. Waiver claims are another way to acquire players but I’d consider that either under trades or free agents. Teams may have to waive one of their own players to get the player claimed on the roster or not so that’s pretty much a player for player trade if they do lose the player or signing a free agent if they don’t.

There’s also the Rule 5 Draft. Yes, it’s another way to acquire players but it hasn’t really shown to be a very consistent way to find good players.

In the next article, we’ll delve into Trusting the Process of Player Development. After the series, we’ll see how the Twins have done in all these areas of Acquiring Players and Trusting the Process. There has to be a reason they’ve had such a terrible run since 2010. Was it because they didn’t trust the process?

Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process of Acquiring Players!  We’d love to hear your TwinsTakes on the subject! Please comment below or on the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+!

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