"When you look at the Yankees, their lineup stretches seven and eight-deep of all-stars," said Gardenhire, who was speaking at the Quality Inn in Winona on Tuesday as part of the Twins' annual Winter Caravan. "We're getting closer to that now. You look at our lineup, and we're almost to the point now where we've got six or seven guys that are all-star-caliber people."
Last year, Minnesota had 5 players who got more than 350 plate appearances and had an OPS+ of 91 or lower. The Yankees, on the other hand, had 9 players with over 430 plate appearances and Melky Cabrera was the least potent, with a 99 OPS+. The Twins brought in shortstop J.J. Hardy (career OPS+ 95), but I don't think many would consider him "all-star-caliber" although he did sneak onto the NL roster in 2007.
How about pitching? The Yankees team ERA was a quarter of a run lower than the Twins' last year, and the Yanks also picked up Javier Vazquez, who would probably compete with Nick Blackburn for the top spot in Minnesota's rotation.
I know Gardenhire is in the business of being optimistic about his team, but it's pretty clear that the Yankees were a whole lot better than the Twins last year and the gap, if anything, is widening. The Yankees have just as many resources as they've always had and Brain Cashman has been deploying them awfully efficiently as of late.
Peter Gammons notes this fact in an article on MLB.com this morning when he says "general manager Brian Cashman has turned his club into an efficient organizational model that has depth running through the system".
Rob Neyer, riffing off that article from Gammons talks about "the plight of small market franchises" and explains that there aren't enough good markets to house all 30 MLB teams. But Minneapolis is one of those good markets. It has 3.5 million people - making it the 13th largest media market in the country - and they are moving into a new ballpark next year.
The important thing to note is that the Twins don't have the same problem that the Rays, Orioles or Blue Jays do. They don't need to close to gap between them and the Yankees. They play in a division that has 4 small to moderate payroll teams and one current big spender that's in the process of coming back down to earth (Detroit). They haven't had much success in the playoffs despite winning their division 5 times in the past 8 years, but that has more to do with luck that the disparity between them and the Yanks.
With Target Field set to open this April and the walleye-on-a-stick scheduled to hit the fry-o-lators shortly thereafter, the Twins are primed to continue their dominance of the AL Central. The new revenue will certainly help them compete with the likes of the Tigers, White Sox and the Indians, but they are going to have to put a huge chunk of that money into action if they are going to get discernibly "closer" to the Yankees. Locking up Joe Mauer long term would certainly be a good start.