LOS ANGELES – The Twins will spend the weekend in Oakland, trying to put a halt to a slump they hope is mostly Dodger-induced. Their front-office executives will spend it in Minneapolis, debating whether that slump requires a change of strategy as Monday’s trade deadline nears.
“It’s such a fluid situation at the deadline — where you are in the standings, people’s natural tendency to label teams as buyers or sellers, and how they flip you from one category to another,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. “We’ve had a couple of tough days [in Dodger Stadium] while Cleveland and Kansas City haven’t, and that leads to speculation about our intentions. Our goal remains to keep evaluating the situation right up to the deadline and do whatever possible to improve the team.”
That isn’t as explicit a commitment to beef up the current roster as a week ago, when the Twins trailed Cleveland by just a half-game in the AL Central. Falvey said at the time that “we’re definitely looking at opportunities to add, no question.” On Thursday several national outlets suggested, now that the Twins have fallen 5½ games back after being swept in Los Angeles and four games out of the wild card, that Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine have begun listening to trade offers for Ervin Santana, Brandon Kintzler, Brian Dozier and even Jaime Garcia, who makes his Twins debut on Friday.
Falvey laughed at the suggestion — but said things can change quickly. “There are dominoes that fall that lead to other dominoes falling. You don’t necessarily pick up steam on the third or fourth domino until the first two have fallen,” he said of ongoing trade talks, which he described as “constant.” “Each day has been fluid. We continue to field calls and make calls, and make sure we’re aware of what’s happening to the landscape of the market.”
Twins trade Murphy for minor league standout
Falvey executed one trade on Thursday, moving catcher John Ryan Murphy to Arizona for Gabriel Moya, a lefthanded reliever who is 17-for-17 in save opportunities at Class AA Jackson this year.
“Our reports identified Moya as someone who has a chance to impact us in the bullpen in the major leagues over the next couple of years,” Falvey said of the 22-year-old Venezuelan. Moya has allowed only four runs in 43⅔ innings this season, an 0.82 ERA. Murphy was acquired before the 2016 season from the Yankees for former first-round pick Aaron Hicks. Projected to be the backup catcher, Murphy, 26, hit only .146 in 26 games before being sent to Class AAA Rochester, where he was batting .222. The Twins acquired his replacement, 34-year-old Anthony Recker, in their trade with Atlanta on Monday.
Scouting report on Jaime Garcia
Garcia, who pitches in the Oakland Coliseum for the first time on Friday, “is a lefthanded version of Ervin [Santana] in a lot of ways,” Falvey said. “He knows how to use his mix of pitches, not just one way of attacking. He’s always had a very good changeup. that’s always been a strength, and he can really use his fastball to get guys to swing and mix. Not unlike Ervin, he’s a mature pitcher. Nothing fazes him.”
Buxton spending weekend in New York
Center fielder Byron Buxton should return to the Twins in San Diego on Tuesday, Falvey said, after playing three games in Toledo with Rochester. His migraines have subsided, but Falvey and manager Paul Molitor felt that, since two weeks have passed since the outfielder has faced live pitching, that a rehab assignment would be necessary after all. “We also wanted to see an amount of time, maybe 24 hours, of him being fully cleared and go through a workout and not have anything come back on him,” Falvey said. “We didn’t want to use him and then have him feel like he’s not quite there yet.”
Sano should be ready
Miguel Sano is expected to return to the Twins’ lineup Friday, after missing two games with a sore left wrist suffered when he was hit by a pitch on Monday.
Homecoming for Hildenberger
Bay Area native Trevor Hildenberger expects to have roughly three dozen friends and family members at the Oakland Coliseum this weekend for his first return as a major leaguer. “College teammates [from Cal-Berkeley], high school teammates, Little League teammates, a lot of my coaches, my girlfriend and her family, some kids I gave lessons to,” the sidearmer said. “I’ve thought about this weekend a lot. For years. It’s cool. I’ll be playing in front of guys who haven’t seen me play in 10 years.”
The crowd will include Cal coach Mike Neu, who was the Golden Bears’ pitching coach who suggested he abandon his over-the-top pitching motion and become a sidearmer eight years ago.