I'm going to keep this short: That the Twins didn't do much of anything to help themselves at trading deadline wasn't as alarming as the team's inability to address its lack of bullpen depth in the weeks leading up to it. I could live without a new shortstop, as unfortunately unsettled as that situation has become, or added catching depth.
But consistently winning baseball demands a better bullpen than the Twins know they have.
Chasing a one-game wild card berth is not worth the bigger moves that you'd want a team to make if it's contending for a division title and an immediate jump to best-of-seven postseason play. Rental-for-prospect is a shaky calculus in that situation. But the Twins gave the impression they were operating under the assumption that the roster, as constructed in June and July, was good enough for August and September.
By most any measure, Twins relief pitchers rank among the bottom batch in the American League, and it is a situation that has been getting worse. Glen Perkins giving up four home runs to the last 20 batters he's faced is the ugliest mark. But Blaine Boyer is a right-hander who can't retire right-handed batters, who have a .361 on-base percentage against him, and lefty Brian Duensing gives up almost a hit per inning and walks a batter every other inning on average. (And lefties have a .449 OBP against him.)
I'll spare you more bullpen data, other than to say there's no way you can make a case that the Twins were approaching a tough August schedule with an sufficient group of relievers. The Kevin Jepsen deal on its own wasn't enough of a bump. Solid pitching, from top to bottom, can get a team through the inevitable times when the offense slumps. The bottom has been bottoming out.
Right now, the standings have the Twins in a three-way tie with Toronto and Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot. The latest postseason projections from Fangraphs have the Twins with an 11 percent shot at the Wild Card, compared with 22 percent for Baltimore and 43 percent for Toronto.
So if you're being an optimist, get good odds.
This is not a case of bomb-throwing at the Twins' baseball decision-makers. Some good calls have been made. The sequence in which the minor-leaguers were promoted defied conventional wisdom but worked pretty well. Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano were handled properly, and the Byron Buxton promotion was sidetracked by an injury, although I suspect he would have ended up back in Rochester rather than staying with the Twins. Trevor May has helped the bullpen. Paul Molitor has pushed more good managing buttons than bad ones.
The Twins have given us more meaningful games that we expected when the season started. Good on them for doing so.
But it also makes the current situation more frustrating. The best strategy for the next two months should be based on more than hope.