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Postgame: Twins have tough choice to make

  • Blog Post by: Phil Miller
  • August 29, 2013 - 12:23 AM

 The Royals scored two or more runs three times on Wednesday, in the fourth, eighth and ninth innings. The showoffs. The Twins haven't touched home plate twice in one inning since last Friday.

That's a streak of 38 innings without a two-run inning, and you have to go back a week, to their final game in Detroit, for their last three-run inning -- 49 innings ago.

Whew. And this team is thinking about trading a guy who drove in 110 runs last year?

Actually, yes, the Twins are at least considering moving Josh Willingham, who was claimed, as confirmed by the Baltimore Sun, by the Orioles on revocable trade waivers this week. And a trade might make sense, but only if the Orioles are willing to include a decent prospect. Otherwise, the Twins might be happy to simply keep Willingham, let him regain his health over the winter, and see if his value has increased next summer.

It's a decision that has plenty of risk, no matter what they decide.

Willingham's contract is more than reasonable; in fact, if he produces at last year's level, before he injured his knee this season, he's a bargain at $7 million a year. That's likely one of the reasons the Twins were resistant to moving him last year.

But his value is low at the moment, because of an alarming number -- and it's not his .212 batting average. Willingham is 34, he'll turn 35 during spring training, and it's no sure thing he'll ever hit 20 home runs again. Willingham is producing more than it appears, because he still draws walks; his .343 on-base percentage is second on the team to Joe Mauer's .404. But at his age, power is his greatest value, and his .386 slugging average means the Orioles might well be leery.

Willingham still sends baseballs deep into the seats during batting practice, so perhaps he'll bounce back next year, with his knee completely healthy again. When he's hot, he's a big bat to put in the middle of a lineup, the sort of player, Ron Gardenhire said Tuesday, that might put a pennant contender over the top.

The Twins have had a habit of trading when players are at a low ebb in the past few years -- J.J. Hardy, Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano come to mind -- so it will be interesting to see how motivated they are to move Willingham. He's not likely to be a contributor to the next Twins' postseason team, but there's also no rush to dump him.

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