The Twins are 13.5 games back in the wild card chase 12 games back in the AL Central race at the All Star break, and that latter gap figures to widen considerably once Detroit becomes truly interested in the 2013 regular season. These last few weeks -- two nice wins going into the break against the Yankees notwithstanding -- have reinforced what we all probably knew in our heart of hearts as soon as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training: the Twins, once again, will be sellers instead of buyers at the upcoming trade deadline.
For a while, much of the discussion centered on Josh Willingham and whether he would be good trade bait. Again, unfortunately, the Twins have missed on whatever chance there was to sell high on The Hammer. He is injured now, a season after his best in the majors, and it's a lingering kind of thing that makes his 2013 productivity far more questionable. Hence, his trade value is down even though his contract is still fairly friendly. Justin Morneau's name has been brought up often, as the once-MVP is entering the final year of a big-time deal that has fizzled in the back half of it because of his devastating 2010 concussion. Dirty secret: Morneau has rebounded somewhat from 2011, but his numbers in 2013 are actually worse than 2012 (RBI total notwithstanding). His OBP and slugging percentages are both lower than a year ago. Translation: He wouldn't fetch much in a trade even if there was a willing partner.
Indeed, if the Twins are going to be active sellers, they are probably going to have to swallow hard on some tough choices. Joe Mauer is probably out of the question because of his contract ($$ and no-trade clause). Their young outfielders and prospects should be off the table. Maybe someone would be interested in Mike Pelfrey or Kevin Correia, but the yield, again, would likely be minimal.
If they are serious about getting value, they have to give up value from their most solid area: the bullpen. And the biggest asset they have there is also a homegrown talent who has become one of the most popular players on the team.
Glen Perkins is a 2013 All-Star. This is his third consecutive season of very effective relief work in late-game situations. He gets strikeouts, his ERA is under 2, and his contract -- $3.75 million per year in 2014 and 2015 with a 2016 team option at $4.5 million -- affords Perk and his family a very nice life but is also considered very friendly by modern proven closer standards.
The market for pitchers tends to be good at the deadline (as opposed to position players, who tend to get moved more in the offseason). Granted, it was Bill Smith on the other end of the deal in 2010, but if Matt Capps is worth Wilson Ramos, a more dominant, money-friendly Perkins has to be worth even more -- maybe a high-level prospect in Class A/AA and a pretty good young player who is ready or close to ready for the bigs.
Having a very good closer on a 90-loss team doesn't make a ton of sense. Sentimentally and in terms of fan relations, however, trading a Minnesota native and one of the team's top players might be tugging at the Twins' brass. But if the Twins think they have another reliever who can be a closer -- much how Perkins evolved into that role -- and they think trading him can make them better in the long run, it's hard to let sentimentality stand in the way.
We're not sure how it will go, but we do know it will be an interesting next couple of weeks.