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.