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Today, Delmon Young culminates the best half-season of his big-league career.
Today, Young should be culminating the last half-season of his Twins' career.
This is the right time for the Twins to trade Young -- while he's healthy, hitting like an All-Star and prepared to crush them in arbitration this winter.
A farm system filled with unpolished prospects cost the Twins a chance to trade for Cliff Lee, the best pitcher available via trade. Finishing no better than third in the competition for Lee while watching their rotation crumble like aged bleu cheese should nudge our newly ambitious franchise toward these realizations:
• It's time to trade hitting for pitching.
• The Twins can't afford to miss on another opportunity to acquire an ace, not if they're serious about winning this year.
• They need an ace for next year just as much as they need one this summer.
• The Summer of Love at Target Field could become the Fall of Frustration if the Twins allow a calendar year of good feelings to dissipate with a third-place finish in a winnable division.
• The lousy play of top catching prospect Wilson Ramos at Class AAA Rochester has damaged his value as a tradeable asset.
The Twins just lost a competition for Lee to a bankrupt team not known for its farm system. They can't afford to lose again unless they're willing to write off this season, and I doubt that owner Jim Pohlad, known within the organization for his intense desire to win, is willing to write off what promised to be a historic season in his new ballpark.
Which leaves one possibility for the Twins to explore: trying to make Young the centerpiece of a trade to Houston for righthander Roy Oswalt.
This would be an uncharacteristic move for the Twins, trading an affordable, young, everyday player for an expensive pitcher. The deal would make sense for these reasons:
• Young may never have more value, and whatever wonderful reviews he has prompted this season, he still may not be worthy of the franchise's trust, considering that his fielding has again become shoddy and that he's still less than a year removed from the day when he tried to charge into his own dugout to beat up Jose Mijares.
• Replacing a corner outfielder is much easier than finding an ace, especially in an organization with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks in the fold.
• The Twins' rotation is awful now, and it may not be better next year. The Twins' most reliable starter is Carl Pavano, the one starter who isn't guaranteed to be here next year, and there are no starting pitching prospects who promise to dramatically upgrade the rotation by Opening Day 2011.
• Oswalt is expensive -- he'll cost $16 million next year -- but trading Young would save the Twins money next year, and the Twins have made a huge profit at Target Field.
Landing Oswalt would take some work, perhaps even some recruiting. He has a no-trade clause, probably favors pitching in the National League and the Mississippian probably wants to stay in the South.
So there's no guarantee that even a good Twins offer would land Oswalt. But the Twins have to do something before one of the most promising seasons in franchise history becomes a bigger embarrassment than Pavano's mustache.
The Twins need to treat Young the way they treated Bobby Kielty, another talented young hitter coveted by other organizations. After Kielty played horribly in right field during a series in Anaheim before the All-Star break in 2003 (much the way Young kicked the ball around in Toronto this week), the Twins traded him to Toronto for Shannon Stewart.
That remains one of the best trades in Twins history.
The 2010 Twins need that kind of talent upgrade and emotional jolt, and Young may never be more valuable than he is today.
Signing Mauer to a $184 million contract proved that Jim Pohlad is committed to keeping his best players. Trading for Oswalt would signal that, with Target Field becoming a limestone-and-glass ATM, he's willing to go after other teams' best players, an attitude that could elevate this cute little franchise to elite status.
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib • firstname.lastname@example.org