A tidal wave of Twins prospects is about to hit the majors. And General Manager Terry Ryan will be pressed to make room for it sometime this year.
Not only do the Twins have several top prospects, they have several who are nearly ready for prime time. And that should eventually lead to roster moves.
By the end of the 2015 season, the Twins could see third baseman Miguel Sano, outfielder Byron Buxton, righthander Alex Meyer, righthander Jose Berrios and outfielder Eddie Rosario make their major league debuts. Infielder Jorge Polanco could return after his emergency call-up from Class A last year. Two hard-throwing relievers, Nick Burdi and Jake Reed, could enter the picture to help a bullpen that lacks power pitchers. Righthander Trevor May should get another chance in the rotation. And someone like lefthander Jason Wheeler will be at Class AAA Rochester and could pitch his way into a call-up.
If the Twins are out of contention at the July and August trade deadlines, Ryan could push the button on several deals that will send veterans out and usher in a new era. Or the new era might begin with a few offseason moves. Ryan’s best trade ever was made when he made room for Joe Mauer before the 2004 season, dealing catcher A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser.
That’s just one way to look at how the Twins’ season will go. What if the Twins, somehow, remain relevant around the trade deadline? After all, the rotation should be better and the offense showed signs of life during the second half of last season. And there should be a positive response from the clubhouse in Paul Molitor’s first season as manager.
If the Twins shock the world and decide to go for it, they have an abundance of prospects they could use to help a playoff push. This is not suggesting they should trade Sano or Buxton, but rather that they should act under the assumption that not all prospects pan out. The trio of Michael Restovich, Matthew LeCroy and Michael Cuddyer were supposed to lead the Twins for years. How did that work out? Only 1-for-3.
No, the Twins can’t be too nervous about moving young players as they enter a stretch in which the roster is going to change one way or another. Owner Jim Pohlad said he had no problem with the payroll going over $100 million this season. He could authorize adding more if the Twins wind up in one of those worst-to-first runs.
There’s not much recent history to go on when gauging the Twins’ willingness to make deals at the trade deadline to fuel a postseason run. In 2009, they traded infield prospect Tyler Ladendorf for Orlando Cabrera. In 2010, they traded lefthander Joe Testa and catcher Wilson Ramos for closer Matt Capps, then traded 7-foot-1 righthander Loek Van Mil for reliever Brian Fuentes. But those moves were made by then-GM Bill Smith, not Ryan. And they weren’t exactly blockbusters.
Ryan’s best July trades came in 2001, when he dealt Matt Lawton for Rick Reed, and 2003, when he added Shannon Stewart for Bobby Kielty. Ryan did sign Kendrys Morales last year when the Twins weren’t that far out in the race, but then they fell out of contention and dealt Morales for Stephen Pryor six weeks later.
The Twins expect to compete in 2015, and either way they are set up to hit the transaction wire after midseason. Ryan’s moves this year will set the course for the next several seasons and perhaps define his legacy in his second stint as GM.