In a game of inches, one game that can come down to a bad hop here or a ball hit half a foot foul there, Major League Baseball teams spend hours upon hours seeking — and trying to implement — every possible advantage they can.
The Twins think they’ve found a major one in St. Paul.
Gone are the days where a bleary-eyed player, operating more on adrenaline than sleep, wakes up, heads to Greater Rochester International Airport in Upstate New York and boards a flight headed toward the Twin Cities before 7 a.m.
Now, for call-ups to get to Target Field, it’ll be a 20-minute drive or short ride on the Green Line would do the trick if the Saints are at home.
The Twins severed their ties with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings after nearly three decades last month and announced their new affiliation with the St. Paul Saints last week. And with it, comes a bunch of potential benefits.
“I can say that we are uniquely positioned now as a major league franchise to have our two highest levels of play within just a few short miles of one another,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “And we view that as a competitive advantage.
“In this game when you’re seeking every possible competitive advantage in scouting and development, in player selection and performance, this is something that we feel is going to be a significant benefit to our club.”
Geographic alignment was a priority for Major League Baseball as the minor leagues underwent a wide-scale reorganization. And in that sense, the Twins hit the jackpot. At 10.6 miles away, no MLB team will be closer to their top affiliate than the Twins.
Instead of making a late-night call to get a player on a flight early the next morning, the Twins will have more time to assess a situation before making their roster decisions.
Players being called up won’t have to live out of a hotel in Minneapolis upon their promotion, and others who are up and down between the majors and minors won’t potentially need apartment leases in two cities, making the acclimation to the majors a little bit easier.
In addition, Triple-A players can now be easily assessed by the Twins’ medical staff and team doctors in the Twin Cities.
The whole thing will save the Twins money on travel and arrangements, certainly — money they can allocate elsewhere — but Falvey and team president Dave. St Peter were quick to point out last week that they view this move as more of a competitive advantage than a cost-saving measure.
The arrangement will give manager Rocco Baldelli a chance to go over to St. Paul on an off day, or pitching coach Wes Johnson an opportunity to go watch a prospect throw a bullpen if the schedule aligns itself.
It will often provide rehabbing major leaguers a chance to get their work in while sleeping in their own beds at night.
Falvey, general manager Thad Levine and other members of the front office will have an easy journey over to St. Paul, affording them the opportunity to see the team’s near-ready prospects in person more often.
It will also allow for many of the Twins’ minor league coaches and coordinators to be around the major league team and staff more often as the organization tries to align its vision for player development. The new arrangement should further build relationships between Baldelli and his coaches and the team’s player development staff, from assistant general manager Jeremy Zoll and farm director Alex Hassan on down.
“I’ve always (compared) major and minor league baseball, for people who don’t understand, this feels like you’re running a bit of a high school or college, with your freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors all in different parts of the country,” Falvey said, “and you’ve got to try to figure out how to align the development between all those levels. This gives us a chance to align two of them really closely, with a lot of the same staff.”