Sep 10, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins outfielder Josh Willingham (16) is congratulated by third baseman Trevor Plouffe (24) after hitting a home run during the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Could 2013 Success Actually Hurt the Indians in Free Agency?

Teams Believe Thanks to the Indians

It sounds absolutely crazy, but could the successful one-year turnaround by the Indians in 2013 actually hurt them heading into 2014? It’s a distinct possibility, at least if you believe what Twins General Manager Terry Ryan has been saying lately. In a piece recently published by  LaVelle E. Neal III for Minnesota’s Star Tribune, Ryan pointed to the turnarounds by both the Red Sox and the Indians can be signs of encouragement, that a turnaround doesn’t have to be a five-year rebuilding project.

“I don’t think it will be that big of an obstacle,” Ryan said. “We saw what happened to Boston this year, and Cleveland was right in it. They were two teams that struggled [the previous] year. Players and agents realize that it can be a quicker turnaround than in years past.”

The bottom line here is that because both the Indians ans the Red Sox were able to rebound quickly in 2013 from disastrous 2012 seasons should serve as proof to free agents everywhere that the Twins could be capable of doing the same thing. The logic makes sense, but there is a lot that goes into rebuilding a team, a lot more than simply saying, “We’ll if that team can do it then so can we.”

Turning a 90+ loss team into a 90+ game winner involves a lot of smart decision making, but also a lot of luck. The Indians ended up being a struck gold with the acquisitions of Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles, Scott Kazmir and Ryan Raburn, but they all struck out swinging on Brett Myers, Mark Reynolds, and possibly even Drew Stubbs depending on what you thought of him prior to the 2013 season. They also got incredible pitching performances from some unlikely sources in the bullpen, had a magnificent turn around from Ubaldo Jimenez, and survived a severe regression from Vinnie Pestano.

That’s a lot to digest and it doesn’t even include the up and down seasons turned in by the Indians two biggest offseason acquisitions, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the failure of Lonnie Chisenhall to make an impact at the big league level, or the fact that Terry Francona was able to make every right move and push all the right buttons. It’s a lot more than just convincing big name and quality free agents to sign on the dotted line.

But then again, Ryan’s argument isn’t about luck or striking it rich. His argument is about the belief that if multiple teams can pull themselves out of the depths of hell, then any team can do it, including the Twins. If the players visiting Minnesota and being courted by the Twins believe it, then even better.

That’s where the problems lie with the Indians and why their 2013 success might work against them. Could high quality free agents see the Twins as a viable landing spot and contender waiting to happen based on the same logic? Could the Indians miss out on signing a guy because they think Minnesota can do what the Indians or the Red Sox were able to do? Given the history of baseball and free agency it seems unlikely, but with the shift in recent years to a more statistical and analytical approach to the game, maybe it is. Only time and the results of the 2014 season will tell.

Tags: Cleveland Indians Free Agency Minnesota Twins