The Minnesota Twins are well on their way to their third straight October off, and the fans in Twins Territory are not happy.
With the trade of Justin Morneau to the Pirates and with Joe Mauer's slow recovery from a concussion, there doesn't seem to be much hope for the team as they trot out a lineup in which Brian Dozier is supposed to be their main source of power.
Yet, as the Twins go into another cold and dark offseason, there may be brighter days on the horizon.
Many know about the growing strength of the lower levels of the organization, but even at the major league level there are reasons for growing optimism for a team that's fallen on hard times.
A key to building a successful team is finding a closer that can slam the door in tough situations. While Glen Perkins hasn't been challenged in the heat of a pennant race, his performance in 2013 can get Twins fans excited heading into the future.
Coming off his first All-Star appearance this summer, Perkins has converted 32 of his 36 save opportunities. He's also posted an earned run average of 2.59 which is on par with his past three seasons.
All of this comes as good news considering the Twins were proactive in locking Perkins up prior to the 2011 season. He is currently under contract through the 2015 season and has a team option in 2016 at an affordable price.
Perkins will be a key piece for the Twins going forward and will give the team an advantage once they return to relevancy.
A popular reason for optimism is the rapid rise of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.
Those two are becoming household names before playing a major league game because of their sheer dominance in the lower levels of the Twins system.
Sano is making his way toward third base and just finished one of the most majestic power displays in the history of the franchise. His bat produced a .280/.382/.610 line with 35 home runs and 103 runs batted in between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain this season.
Meanwhile, Buxton completed his first full professional season since being drafted by the Twins with the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft. He didn't waste any time becoming the top prospect in baseball.
His line of .334/.424/.520 with Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers was bolstered with solid power (12 home runs) and tremendous speed (55 stolen bases in 74 attempts).
Both players have vaulted toward the top of Baseball America's prospect rankings and could make their debuts as early as 2014.
It's been a long time since the Minnesota Twins have had a decent rotation. In fact, the team has had one of the worst starting rotations in Major League Baseball over the past three seasons.
However, help is on the way.
General manager Terry Ryan has been able to stockpile solid arms throughout the Twins minor league system. While they could be a ways away from contributing in Minnesota, anything should be able to help the patchwork they've been throwing on the mound.
Alex Meyer, Trevor May and Jose Berrios are just a couple of names to keep an eye on as they will turn this rotation from a laughing stock into a strength in the upcoming years.
The trade of Justin Morneau was one unpopular move among Twins fans, but they might have to swallow another one, as Joe Mauer could be the Opening Day first baseman in 2014.
There are several signs that suggest a move is coming for the six-time All-Star catcher. The Morneau trade is just one of the indicators, as it leaves a gaping hole at first base. But another sign is Mauer's health.
He recently sustained a concussion that has left him on the seven-day disabled list, and the team doesn't want a scenario to play out similar to the one that derailed Morneau's brilliant career with the Twins.
Even if the move makes his value to the team less than the $23 million he makes through the 2018 season, it's best for the long-term prospects of the Twins.
It's almost unthinkable that the Twins would send Ron Gardenhire packing, but maybe it's time.
Gardenhire's successful tenure has resulted in five division championships since he replaced Tom Kelly in 2002, but it's how baseball has changed that has left his success in the dust.
No longer can a team get by with five contact pitchers in their rotation, and the amount of physical and mental errors that have been scattered across the diamond suggest that he's no longer getting through to his players.
It's always hard to see a manager who's had great success with one team get let go, but the Twins may need a breath of fresh air in the clubhouse in order to take a step forward.