When the Twins were 16.5 games back in the AL Central following their June 1 game, I was ready to say it was over. The team was playing terribly. Jason Kubel and Jim Thome each went on the DL. Quickly the Twins reduced their deficit in the division to less than ten games, and by the All-Star break they were just six games back. Twice in the last week the team has cut the lead to five. All along, the fans have been saying that the team had talent to win and come back, but the question was whether or not they put themselves too far behind to make the comeback. As much as they pushed and clawed their way back to five games back, they still are behind three other teams in the division.
They are now seven games back and it would be strange to say that the Twins have no chance to win a division title. At the same time, it is also a bit naïve to say that they have come back from just as far back two or three other times in the last half-decade that they’ll do it again. The past few days, The Twins Geek has been taking a look at what relief pitchers the Twins should consider acquiring by Sunday’s trade deadline. Between now and Sunday, the Twins have three more games against the Rangers and three games against the A’s. We can’t throw the towel in yet, but by Thursday, it is possible that the Twins will be sellers.
So, let’s take a look at who the Twins could trade if they deem themselves Sellers. As I stated a couple of months ago, all decisions at this point have to take 2012 into account. There is enough talent around to compete again in 2012 even if they trade several players. Some of the money that comes off the payroll could be used, and young players could step up. We know that some players won’t be dealt because of their status and their contract situations (Mauer, Morneau). We know that some players won’t be dealt because they can be productive at a low cost, which is always important (Valencia, Revere, Plouffe). There are even a couple of players that won’t be dealt because, frankly, no one would want them at this point in time (Nishioka, Mijares).
However, here are some guys that could be dealt in the next five days:
Michael Cuddyer – Yes, I know. The Twins said a week ago that he would not be traded, as they should have been saying. However, the Twins were playing well and just five games back at the time. If the Twins find themselves nine or even ten games back in the division by the end of the week, he should be shopped. The Giants, Phillies and Braves should all be interested in his services. As a Type A free agent, the Twins should rightfully get a very good return for him in a trade. But they should also insist that they would like to bring him back for 2012 and beyond if he is interested. You see, although he is a Type A free agent, the Twins would likely be picking in the top 15 picks in next year’s draft, so their 1st round pick would be protected. I would give up a 2nd round pick to bring back Cuddyer on an appropriate contract.
Jason Kubel – He is also a free agent at the end of the year. He has shown himself to be healthy. He has tremendous power and can hit for average. He has proven himself happy and could fit well in several lineups as a DH/OF in the AL or even a right fielder for an NL team. Currently he is at the top of the Type B free agents, so the Twins should still insist on getting at least one prospect that would rank similarly to a supplemental first round pick, and then a couple more pieces.
Delmon Young – Does anyone think that Young will be back for his final arbitration-eligible season with the Twins? Thankfully since he has returned from the DL, he has played much, much better. That should, maybe, add some trade value to the still-just-25-year-old outfielder/DH. Could they get a decent puzzle piece in return?
Denard Span – I have to start by saying that I think that trading Denard Span would be a huge mistake. However, understandably so, he probably could bring back the biggest return. He’s a very good defensive centerfielder with excellent leadoff skills. What team wouldn’t want that!? He also has a very friendly long-term contract calling for $3 million in 2012, $4.75 million in 2013, $6.5 million in 2014 and an option for $9 million for 2015 ($0.5 million buyout). There are rumors that the Twins and Nationals have discussed a deal that would send Span to Washington, likely in return for a reliever and possibly SS Ian Desmond. Let’s hope that Bill Smith says No to any such deal!
Francisco Liriano – Maybe the Twins should have taken that alleged offer from the Yankees this spring of Ivan Nova and Ramiro Pena! OK, they shouldn’t have, but after a really bad, inconsistent, frustrating season, there is no way they would be able to get Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances at this point. Yes, he can be dominant, and yes, he could throw another no-hitter on any given day, but give me some consistency! (See also Mijares, Jose)
Nick Blackburn – Sure, last night wasn’t exactly the night after which to try to trade Blackburn. Because he strikes no one out, occasionally he will have a stinker like that. However, you can count on 180+ innings from him at league-average production which does have value. He will make $4.75 million in 2012, $5.5 million in 2013 and has an option for $8 million for 2014. That’s why the Twins should consider dealing him. The lack of strikeouts is why other teams should hesitate.
Drew Butera – No, he can’t hit. Yes, he’s great defensively. Yes, he is very smart and understands the game. However, if Joe Mauer needs more and more time out from behind the plate, the Twins do need offense from the catcher position. Just some! Before the season, there were rumors of a couple of teams having interest in Butera. At the time, they wanted him for his defense. That part of his game hasn’t changed. Maybe some are still interested.
Matt Capps – I will agree that Jon Rauch was spiraling downward quickly at and around the All Star break last year. The Twins needed someone to take over that spot. Matt Capps came in and did really well for the Twins in 2010. This year, he has been a mess. He doesn’t walk anyone, but he throws pitches right down the middle. He is apparently allergic to strikeouts. Can they get anything for him? Maybe some other team will trade a top five prospect for a ‘proven closer.’ Probably not.
Joe Nathan – The Twins have a $12.5 million option for Nathan that should be impossible for them to consider picking up. However, they should consider declining said option and signing him to a lesser contract. I would be happy with that. If the Twins are sellers, I would be even happier if they traded him and brought back a couple of decent prospects for him, and then brought him back next year too.
Scott Baker – I certainly wouldn’t deal Baker unless overwhelmed. He has been the team’s best pitcher all year. He is set to make $6.5 million in 2012, and he has an option at $9.25 million for 2013. He could fetch a very good return thought.
Jim Thome – He’s Paul Bunyan with a baseball bat. He is four home runs from 600 career home runs and it would be great to see him get there with the Twins. At this point, he can’t catch a good fastball. His value to a winning team would be his presence and as a pinch hitter. The Twins would get basically nothing in trade for him. If they are going to make a bunch of trades and play a lot of young guys in August and September, I like the idea of having Jim Thome’s presence in the Twins locker room.
Kevin Slowey – It appears to be a given that he will be traded by the end of the weekend. To whom? That is really the question. Slowey has been blessed with great run support in his time with the Twins and has a great win-loss record despite about league average numbers. That said, he is still young. He has talent. He could be a steal for someone who will throw him into their rotation and let him work. The Twins have been so vocal about their dislike for Slowey (something I won’t ever understand) that they have taken away any possible trade value, so they will be selling for pennies on the dollar. (On Monday night, Slowey started for Rochester. He gave up three runs on 10 hits in six innings against Indianapolis.)
Phil Dumatrait – The lefty has actually been fairly decent for the Twins this year. Signed as a minor league free agent in the offseason, if the Twins can get a B-level prospect for him, they should jump at it.
Obviously I am not saying that it is completely over. By Sunday’s deadline, we may be closer to being able to say that, or we may feel that selling makes no sense again (as we did about four days ago). I just think it is important to start thinking about who the Twins could try to deal should they reach that point.
What do you think?
·         Nick writes of Liriano’s Self-Inflicted Wounds.
·         On Sunday, Parker wrote about several Twins Notes, and last night, he wrote about the Texas Massacre, specifically the pitching of Michael Cuddyer.
·         Minor League Highlights/Notes from Monday:
o   Rochester – 1B Aaron Bates (2-3, BB, 4th HR)
o   New Britain – Eagan native and Minnesota State – Mankato alum Mark Dolenc went 4-5 with his 10th double, 4th triple, 16th stolen base, and he drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th against New Hampshire, the top team in their division.
o   New Britain – Chris Parmelee (2-6, 24th double), Yangervis Solarte (2-5, BB, 26th double), Brian Dozier (2-5, 11th double). Unfortunately, LHP Tony Davis will be going in and having elbow surgery on Friday.
o   Ft. Myers – Dan Rohlfing (2-4, 5th and 6th doubles), Ricky Bowen (3.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 6 K)
o   Beloit – Lance Ray (3-5, 28th double, 7th stolen base), Danny Santana (2-4, BB, 14th double)
o   Elizabethton – JD Williams (3-3, BB, 4th double, 3rd stolen base, 3 RBI), Eddie Rosario (2-5, 10th home run), Niko Goodrum (2-4, 1st triple), Miguel Sano (2-5)