It's time for 1500-ESPN, the Twins' flagship radio station, to put their "#itshappening" t-shirts on clearance, or they could do a massive reprint with the Twitter hashtag, "#**itshappening."
Outfielder Delmon Young quit on a play against Toronto in May, and gave minimal effort on a home run by Chicago's Brent Lillibridge on Saturday, yet those two moments are easily forgotten when looking at his offensive statistics. Through arbitration, is he really worth $7.5 million next year? But can the Twins just non-tender him? It's one of many layered decisions for the front office.
Pitcher Nick Blackburn was mistakenly given a long-term contract when the team could have gone year-to-year and, predictably, he has struggled.
Catcher Joe Mauer has about the same slugging percentage as White Sox speedster Juan Pierre, and is lower than Texas' Elvis Andrus. However, if you are clamoring for a Mauer trade, he has a full no-trade clause. He still is a great player having a not-so-great year.
Danny Valencia comes at a very reasonable cost, but still has us wondering if he's the long-term answer at third base.
There is no wondering if Tsuyoshi Nishioka is the long-term answer at shortstop. He's not.
We have no idea if first baseman Justin Morneau will ever mash like he did in 2006, or the first three months of last season.
Outfielder/infielder Michael Cuddyer, the team's MVP this year, will command an eight-figure-per-year salary in free agency, making his return, and rightfully so, doubtful.
Soon-to-be free agent outfielder Jason Kubel should have no problem getting an offer that will trump anything the Twins present.
Except for lefty Glen Perkins, the bullpen has to be rebuilt. That could include current starter Brian Duensing, who has struggled mightily to contain right-handed hitters.
A shrewd move by the front office was not signing Francisco Liriano to a long-term deal. But for $5 million, he should be tendered this off-season and given one more chance in 2012. If he disappoints again, he'll still have trade value next July.
Another shrewd move will be to explore if a No. 1 bulldog-esque ace is available. The issue: do the Twins have enough ammo to pull off such a move?
This is a monstrous off-season for the Twins' front office. They can't botch it like they did the non-waiver trade deadline. It was a seller's market, and they didn't sell.
A lot will be forgiven if the right moves are made this winter. But the convenient excuse of injuries this year shouldn't be accepted. It partially explains this year's downfall, but not nearly all of it. What this year mostly has become is a reminder about how many guys had career years in 2010: Morneau pre-injury, Valencia, Young, Carl Pavano, Liriano, and Duensing, and a dominating bullpen.
An infusion of talent is necessary on many fronts.
This season, the Twins have more blown leads -- 18 -- than they have wins -- 17. Worse: eight of those 18 blown leads have come after being up after seven innings. They have the worst run differential in the American League by more than 50 runs (-91). They have scored the fewest runs, and given up the most runs, in the American League. They have yet to win a three-game series.
I really wanted to blog the absurdity of Iowa fans taking a picture with the Insight Bowl trophy this weekend or the impossible feat that director Adam McKay pulled off with "Step Brothers" -- making a movie with Will Ferrell unwatchable.
Instead, I will focus on the Twins and a trade idea.
It was a simple question via my Twitter account (@DarrenWolfson): Who says no to this trade: pitcher Francisco Liriano, outfielder Ben Revere, and prospects Chris Parmelee (1B) and Adrian Salcedo (P) to Arizona for outfielder Justin Upton?
Some of the 38 responses:
According to Aaron Gleeman, only six players in the last 50 years -- Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Boog Powell, and Cesar Cedeno -- have gotten at least 1,500 plate appearances by age 23 and posted a higher OPS than Upton.
He can run, hit for power, make good pitchers look ordinary, and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. He also has a team-friendly contract that runs through 2015. Why Arizona discussed him in trade talks at the winter meetings makes about as much sense as Lady Gaga's alien-like egg costume at the Grammy Awards.
Adding, or even slightly overpaying, for Upton is a no-brainer for any team. So why not put together a package for him headlined by Liriano? This basic idea is how Twins general manager Bill Smith should be thinking when talking with teams.
For reasons mostly unknown, two reports last week -- the Star Tribune and 1500espn.com -- indicate that Liriano is not in the Twins' long-term plans. Talking to one baseball insider this weekend, there is concern among many organizations that Liriano's violent delivery will eventually catch-up to him again. The Twins probably feel the same way, plus Liriano isn't exactly Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay on the dedication scale.
Being two years away from free agency, Liriano's trade value will never be higher. Personally, I would keep him for myriad reasons, mostly because he is the only Twins' starter with electric stuff. Everyone else gets by on guts and guile. Scott Baker occasionally teases us, but not enough to move Liriano for two or three B+ prospects. But if a trade of Liriano is inevitable, Smith should stay away from a package of minor-leaguers, no matter how tantalizing they are. Move Liriano for an already-established player. If Smith has to sweeten the offer with his own prospects, then he should.
In 2004, hours before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins sent first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox for minor-leaguer Justin Jones. With the Red Sox in town at the time, all Mientkiewicz had to do was walk down the hallway at the Metrodome to join his new teammates. Six years later, here's hoping a comparable scenario takes place at Target Field when Seattle is in town July 30 - August 1.
Here's the deal Twins general manager Bill Smith should propose to Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik: Wilson Ramos, Kevin Slowey, and a "C" level prospect for starter Cliff Lee and reliever David Aardsma. Such a deal would only increase the payroll by approximately three million dollars - not much for a team with a new ballpark and money still coming in from revenue-sharing.
The Twins will win their division. Smith's sole focus should be on winning in October. It's hard to believe that the team, as currently constructed, is good enough to win the World Series. Three wins in their last 19 playoff games is no longer just a coincidence. As nice as home-field advantage against the wild-card entrant would be; if it were the Yankees, facing C.C. Sabathia and then Phil Hughes or A.J. Burnett in back-to-back games would offset that in a hurry. But not if Lee is your Game 1 starter. Lee is one of the top five starters in all of major-league baseball, and also happens to have have playoff experience.
The Twins are 29-1 when leading entering the seventh inning. In other words, the bullpen has been very good. But Aardsma brings the threat of a strikeout (18 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings; 80 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings last year) and would be under team control through 2012. Aardsma's fastball would become the most reliable on the team. Would Seattle deal Aardsma? That's where Slowey comes in. They need a starter to replace Lee, and the Twins have minor-leaguer Kyle Gibson to take his spot next year. Sure, Carl Pavano is a free-agent, but he genuinely likes it here. I could see a two-year deal being worked out.
Offensively, the Twins are challenged a bit more than I would have guessed. But with closer Joe Nathan's contract partially insured, and extra money coming in via standing-room only tickets, adding a right-handed bat can be done through the waiver process in August. Guys like Kansas City's Jose Guillen, Seattle's Jose Lopez, and Baltimore's Miguel Tejada should be available, or making a separate deal in July for someone like Cleveland's Austin Kearns or Baltimore's Ty Wigginton would make sense. Also, if the Twins can get a look at Boston's Mike Lowell for virtually nothing, they should.
In 2006, the Twins made a competitive offer for Alfonso Soriano (Slowey, et al.), so it is not unheard of for this regime to try something drastic. Minnesota is starving for a champion. The Twins offer hope, maybe even more so than the Vikings this year. But the team needs to be tweaked. It would be a shame to have two MVPs in the prime of their careers -- Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau -- and not win at least one World Series. The time is now for Smith to give those guys the best possible chance to win.