Terry Ryan plans to call up a few minor leaguers next month to supplement the Twins roster, though don’t expect them to see much playing time against the league’s elite. “Against Oakland and Tampa [Bay] and the Rangers and the Royals and Indians, you’re going to see our best club,” Ryan said. “We have a responsibility to the other teams in the league to make sure we put our best team out there.”
That may be true — but there are no guarantees that some of the Twins’ best players will still be here.
With five days remaining for potential postseason rosters to be upgraded, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau took the field in the Twins’ 6-1 loss to Kansas City on Tuesday night after emerging once again as potential trade targets. Willingham has been placed on trade waivers by the Twins, according to Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, making him available to any team willing to trade for the 34-year-old power hitter.
And Morneau “would appear to be [the Pirates’] next target,” according to a report by cbssports.com’s Jon Heyman.
Neither player did much to entice potential suiters Tuesday — but maybe Kevin Correia added himself to a few ask-about lists.
While the power hitters in the middle of the Twins lineup combined to produce one single in eight at-bats, Correia shut down the Royals on six hits over seven innings, becoming the first Twin in almost two years to throw 118 pitches.
Of course, James Shields was even more effective — and the Twins bullpen wasn’t effective at all. The Royals battered Jared Burton for four runs in one-third of an inning and Caleb Thielbar for a run in two-thirds of an inning. Three of the runs scored when Alex Gordon lined a bases-clearing double into the right field corner, though Gordon was thrown out trying to go for a triple. Minnesota’s lone run scored on a Brian Dozier double in the eighth, and Billy Butler homered for the Royals in the ninth.
Willingham’s 12 home runs this year are barely a third of the 35 he slammed a year ago. But his manager made it clear that the power hitter still has plenty of value to postseason teams worried about offense, especially now that his knee has healed following surgery in July.
“If you’re looking for a righthanded bat that can hit the ball in the seats, Willingham would definitely be one of those guys,” Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s definitely the type of player [contenders] are looking for. Even though he’s not swinging great now, who knows? You put him in a different atmosphere, he may take off. And that’s what everybody’s looking for — something to get them over the top.”
For his part, Willingham said he likes the atmosphere in Minnesota just fine, and isn’t looking to be traded this week, ahead of the Sept. 1 deadline to be eligible for postseason play.
“I’m comfortable here,” Willingham said. “To be honest, [being on waivers] isn’t going to affect me one way or the other. Right now, it’s no big deal.”
It becomes a bigger deal if Willingham is claimed by a team, which would give the Twins 48 hours to work out a trade, let Willingham (and the $7 million he is owed next year) go without compensation, or pull him back. If no team claims him, as happened to Morneau two weeks ago, the Twins can trade him to any team.
“If I get called into the office and told I’m traded,” said Willingham, who never has played a postseason game, “I’ll deal with it then.”
Morneau, who will earn a little more than $2.2 million in September, then become a free agent in November, has already cleared trade waivers, so he might have to deal with it, too. The cbssports.com report noted that the Twins privately have indicated their willingness to pay part of Morneau’s salary in return for a higher quality prospect coming back, an offer the Pirates have “deemed the Twins’ requests as high.”