Three teams that know how to play the winter waiting game

The Brewers, Twins and Rays are perpetually a couple of bad deals from a crisis. But each has learned to use the newfangled free-agent market to its advantage. Mike McGinnis/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays don't know where they will play in a decade. The Milwaukee Brewers spent about $150 million less in payroll than the champion Red Sox. The Minnesota Twins just announced they will retire the number of their most prominent 2018 star, Joe Mauer, who is headed into retirement.

These three franchises face perpetual challenges in payroll and resource management, working with the knowledge that one big personnel mistake -- paying too much money to the wrong guy -- could devastate their franchise, a concern the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and other superpowers don't bear. For the Rays, Brewers and Twins, two significant mistakes could require a recovery period of five to eight years, and (probably) front office turnover.

Because of that ledge the Rays, Brewers and Twins must carefully creep along, they will never be the envy of other franchises. But they seem to be some of the best current examples of how teams are carefully sorting through their choices, and aggressively working to avoid risk and extract the full power of dollars spent.