Buyers or Sellers
Just 1.5 games behind Detroit in the Central and three out in the Wild Card race, Cleveland has been the American League's biggest surprise. Staring up at a stacked Tigers squad that last year pulled away with a 44-32 record in the second half en route to a World Series berth, you'd better believe that the Indians are looking to add at the deadline.
What They Need
The Indians could use some help at the top of the rotation, where the talented yet inconsistent Justin Masterson currently leads the way, and have been linked to Matt Garza among others. The Twins obviously can't offer anything in the way of high-end starting pitching.
Cleveland may not be prepared to make the kind of aggressive moves necessary to garner that kind of talent, anyway. Although in the thick of things presently, this is a flawed team that is still in the midst of a rebuilding project geared toward fielding a title contender once Trevor Bauer (hopefully) figures things out and top prospects like Francisco Lindor and Danny Salazar are prepared to make an impact.
It would be short-sighted to part with any premium prospect talent in the -- probably futile -- hope of catching the Tigers, but smaller deals aimed at improving, say, a bullpen that ranks 23rd in the majors in ERA would make more sense. This is where the Tribe might find a match in the Twins.
What Might Work
Intra-divisional trades are somewhat rare but Cleveland and Minnesota have hooked up on minor post-deadline deals in recent years, one sending Carl Pavano to the Twins and another sending Jim Thome to the Indians. If the two clubs were to connect again this year, I'd expect a similar non-blockbuster swap.
Cleveland has been a little weak at DH, where 42-year-old Jason Giambi has been the principal recipient of at-bats. Ryan Doumit could be a fit there, although with Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher on hand, the Indians are already pretty well stocked on 1B/DH types.
In the bullpen, any one of the Jared Burton/Casey Fien/Brian Duensing group is a candidate. Chris Perez is firmly locked in as the closer and is controlled through next year, essentially ruling Cleveland out as a Glen Perkins destination, but beyond Perez the Indians only have a couple reliable relief options. Vinnie Pestano, a bullpen ace over the last two years, was recently demoted from the setup role.
Mitch Brown - RHP - Rookie League - 19 years old
A second-round draft pick in 2012 out of Century High School in Minnesota, Brown enjoyed a solid pro debut last year but has had a tough follow-up in 2013. He started out in Low-A, pitched poorly, landed on the DL for six weeks, and has since been pitching (poorly) in the Arizona Rookie League. Potential buy-low guy with added appeal thanks to the local ties. Might not be in play for anything the Twins have to offer, even with the poor results this season.
Jesus Aguilar - 1B - AA - 23 years old
If the Twins are looking to add more depth to their future first base equation, Aguilar would be a worthwhile name to look at. Right-handed hitter with a little pop and the ability to draw a walk. He currently has a .760 OPS in Double-A.
Tony Wolters - 2B/C - High A - 21 years old
Mired behind four superior middle infield prospects in Cleveland's system (Lindor, Dorssys Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez and Jose Ramirez) Wolters has transitioned this year to catcher. Opposing teams have run wild on him, attempting a whopping 51 steals in 31 games, so who knows how long that experiment will last. The Twins have no such concerns about overloaded infield depth, and Wolters has shown some decent offensive ability in four pro seasons.
Austin Adams - RHP - AA - 26 years old
Interesting case, this one. A former shortstop in college who converted to pitching in the pros, Adams performed well as a starter in the low levels of the minors with a big fastball that ranked as the best in Cleveland's system. A shoulder injury cost him the entire 2012 season, but this year Adams is back pitching out of the bullpen, where he has racked up tons of strikeouts (49 in 34 innings) while registering a 2.65 ERA. His control is iffy and he's pretty old for a prospect (he'll turn 27 in August) but if the Twins were going to give up an established relief arm he'd be an interesting one to bring back.
Dorssys Paulino - SS - Low A - 18 years old
Lindor, who is backing up his top prospect status with a great season at High-A, isn't going anywhere. Paulino, another shortstop prospect playing in the Midwest League as a teenager, might be a more realistic possibility, if the Twins could package enough talent. He's a long way from the majors and he's hitting just .238 this season, but Paulino has big upside and would instantly give the Twins a viable prospect at shortstop, something they have lacked for a long, long time.