July baseball can be an exciting time for some teams, trying times for others — and noisy for both.
If a team is in contention, or even on the fringe of it, trade talk can excite a clubhouse. That’s good noise. Players want to track rumors about who is joining the playoff cause.
If you’re the Twins — after the front office has indicated its intention to sell and regroup for 2019 — trade deadline anxiety could sweep through the clubhouse.
The Twins ability to focus will be tested this month as several players are sure to see their names mentioned as trade targets, and possibly dealt.
Second baseman Brian Dozier, who said during spring training that he didn’t “want to become a trade show” can’t avoid that now.
“As far as all the stuff that is coming up, we’re not playing our best baseball coming up to what possibly could happen with moves,” Dozier said. “Bad timing again.”
Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Zach Duke, Kyle Gibson, Fernando Rodney and Lance Lynn are among Twins who could attract varying levels of interest from contenders before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. It’s an indictment of a team that expected to be successful this season but has been inconsistent. Injuries, and a PED suspension handed to Jorge Polanco, have kept their best lineup off the field. But the hole they have dug themselves — they are 11½ out of first place in the AL Central — looks too deep to get out of.
The situation could be fluid over the next few weeks, and Twins players might want to stock up on earplugs.
“You’ve got to try to focus on what’s going on in the locker room,” said Gibson, whose start on Tuesday against Milwaukee was watched by a scout from the Yankees. “You have enough to worry about in here.”
How bad can it get? The Tampa Bay Rays spent the offseason moving good players, leading to an uproar among players and fans. Rays icon Evan Longoria was dealt to San Francisco. Brad Boxberger and Steven Souza were dealt as well. And Corey Dickerson, an All-Star in 2017, was designated for assignment, upsetting many.
Wait, there was one more deal. Jake Odorizzi was traded too — to the Twins.
“It can mess with clubhouse chemistry if you have pillars you have built around for a while,” Odorizzi said, “if they are the ones going it definitely sends a ripple through the locker room.”
The Twins have some experience dealing with trade season. They were buyers for about a week last July, dealing for lefthander Jaime Garcia. Suddenly, after a few losses the last week of the month, Garcia was spun off to the Yankees and Brandon Kintzler was traded to the Nationals.
This year, with a larger deficit, it would take a drastic reversal of fortune to convince the front office to add and not sell. So players should prepare for the worst.
Odorizzi, 28, has already been traded three times in his career. He’s learned that in addition to playing for a team, you are playing for your career. Remembering that can help fight off trade deadline anxiety this month.
“Your job is here,” he said. “If you get traded, your job is somewhere else. If not, then you don’t have a job.”
INDIANS: Cody Allen has never saved more than 34 games in a season, but he’s now tops among great Indians closers. He earned the save on Wednesday to become Cleveland’s all-time saves leader. Not Jose Mesa. Not Doug Jones. Not Bob Wickman. Cody Allen. “This will be one of those trademark moments,” said Allen, who entered the weekend with 140 saves in his career.
ROYALS: Alex Gordon stole home on Wednesday, the first Kansas City player to do so since 2015. But it wasn’t pretty. He was on third when teammate Hunter Dozier, who was on first, took off for second. Gordon got caught too far off the bag, but Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez fell down while catching the throw to third. Gordon then scampered home.
TIGERS: The Tigers will be in major sell mode before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. Nicholas Castellanos and Francisco Liriano could be a couple of players on the move as Detroit looks to add younger talent and build for the future. They could move Michael Fulmer in the right deal.
WHITE SOX: While Trevor Larnach signed with the Twins on Thursday, his friend and Oregon State teammate Nick Madrigal inked his deal with Chicago. Madrigal, a middle infielder, was the fourth overall pick and signed for $6,411,400. Madrigal didn’t waste time, playing for the White Sox entry in the Arizona rookie league Thursday night.
THE 3-2 PITCH
Here are three observations ...
• It could be a real buyer’s market this trade season, as more teams seem are open to pulling the plug and hitting the reset button for 2019. There should be at least nine AL teams looking to sell, and Oakland could make it 10.
• I agree. The Cubs’ Javier Baez is the most exciting player in baseball right now.
• I disagree. The Mets should hold onto Noah Syndergaard but see what they can get for Jacob deGrom.
... and two predictions
• Eduardo Escobar, Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney and Lance Lynn will be dealt before the trade deadline, but Brian Dozier will not.
• The Nationals will not only get on track but will zip past the Braves and Phillies and win the National League East.