Start here: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan are superstars who arguably are the best players at their respective positions in the league. When you have multiple elite players and play in a below average division, you shouldn't miss the playoffs three consecutive years. Yes, the 2007 season was injury-filled for Mauer, but he still had 471 plate appearances, enough to make an impact. And yes, the Indians were dominant in '07, but former general manager Terry Ryan divided the clubhouse by trading away second baseman Luis Castillo at the trade deadline when the team was still very much in it.
Instead of poking and prodding at GM Bill Smith's inadequacies the last 18 months, let's encourage and inspire him to make a deal before the July 31 non-waiver deadline arrives. Making a significant trade is far from a playoff guarantee, but going with the status quo is a 99.9 percent non-playoff guarantee.
While other teams play with 25-man rosters, the Twins, on a daily basis, trot out a team with two minor leaguers and a guy who would be better served coaching at this point. Matt Tolbert and Brian Buscher are not major league players. They severely handcuff manager Ron Gardenhire, preventing him from making logical moves in late game pressure situations. If Buscher were cut today, there's a good chance not one team, even Washington, would give him a major league roster spot. Tolbert can be sent to the minors and he should be. Catcher Mike Redmond would look great in the minor league system working with Wilson Ramos (when healthy) and Drew Butera. Redmond can no longer throw out baserunners, is limited when at-bat, and isn't a better No. 2 option than Jose Morales.
Easy moves for Smith: Add third baseman Danny Valencia to the 40-man roster by releasing Buscher and call him up. Gardenhire can play Jason Kubel in left, allowing Valencia to get at-bats as the designated hitter. Send Tolbert down and bring infielder Steven Tolleson up. Finally, release Redmond and bring up another pitcher, maybe that guy should be Anthony Slama from AA.
In addition to those recommended moves, this trade should happen: Alexi Casilla, Anthony Swarzak or Brian Duensing (their choice), and pitcher David Bromberg (21-year-old with good numbers at "A" level) to Pittsburgh for second baseman Freddy Sanchez and reliever John Grabow. Combined, the Twins would have to take on $12 million through the 2010 season. Grabow is a free agent after the season. Sanchez has an option for next season at $8 million that will automatically kick in if he reaches 600 plate appearances (already has 329). By offering a more than fair package, Smith could ask for money in the deal. But, keep in mind, whether the Pirates are willing to do that or not, the Twins have payroll flexibility. Good news late Friday night, the Twins are very much in on Sanchez.
This is a team that for a good chunk of the season has been the tenth best in the league. Lucky for them, they play in the worst division in all of baseball. With a major transaction, their postseason chances will increase monumentally. I can already hear the clamoring, "Who cares if they win the division? They can't beat the Red Sox or Yankees anyway." My comeback: There are way too many variables to factor in so drawing such a firm conclusion in mid-July is close to worthless.
The Twins have way too many valuable chips in the minors to just sit tight this trading season. A move should and needs to be made. Not even two years into his tenure, the negatives outweigh the positives when evaluating Smith, but not by a wide margin. He has a chance to redeem himself in the next few weeks. Chicago GM Kenny Williams added a reliever this month and almost assuredly will do something else. It's now your turn Bill Smith.