On the latest edition of the Twins Insider podcast, beat writer Phil Miller and I took a look ahead to the MLB trading deadline. It might seem far off, but today is the final day of June — and the non-waiver deadline is the final day of July. That means the next month could get plenty busy for the Twins — especially considering GM Terry Ryan said recently that he anticipates the team being active in the trade market because the Twins are, in his words, “struggling here big-time.”
Here are five players who could be dealt in the next month for a variety of reasons:
*Trevor Plouffe: This is the obvious one. If the Twins are committed to ending the Miguel Sano outfield experiment and returning him to third base — pop flies off his head notwithstanding — then trading Plouffe would free up the position.
The downside of trading Plouffe now — as opposed to this past offseason, when some thought he should have been dealt to make room for Sano immediately at third base — is that he’s in the midst of a down year. He’s missed some time because of injuries and his OPS (.659) is nearly 100 points lower than it was the previous two seasons.
Still, Plouffe would be an upgrade at third base for plenty of teams. He has extra-base power to all fields, he’s turned himself into a solid fielder (though those metrics have dipped this year) and he’s under a reasonable contract ($7.25 million this year, arbitration-eligible in 2017). I don’t imagine he would fetch a massive haul in return, but even a modest deal could be a win-win with the right team.
*Brian Dozier: With essentially one scorching hot month, the conversation around Dozier has changed from “should the Twins bench him?” to “Dozier his having the best year of his career.” His current batting average (.261), slugging percentage (.467) and OPS (.811) would all be career-highs.
His resurgence has led to an interesting quandary for the Twins: should they keep Dozier, who is under a team-friendly contract in 2017 and 2018 for $15 million total ($6 million then $9 million) and re-commit to the idea that he’s a player to build around when times get better … or should they “sell high” while Dozier is hot, potentially maximizing the return and opening up a position for the quite possibly Major League-ready Jorge Polanco at second base?
An All-Star last season, Dozier’s combination of power, speed, solid glove and reasonable contract should be enticing to trade partners. Of all the players on the roster, he is the one who I believe would bring the biggest return. In the right deal, this could make sense.
*Kurt Suzuki: Here’s another player who has played himself into trade consideration with a hot stretch. After looking washed up in April and May, Suzuki has been fantastic in June — posting a .377 batting average and a 1.011 OPS.
Of the 28 MLB catchers with at least 150 plate appearances this year, Suzuki is 6th in batting average (.280) and and 9th in OPS (.743). In other words, he could be an offensive upgrade for a lot of teams.
In the mean time, John Ryan Murphy — who struggled badly with the Twins to start the year after being acquired for Aaron Hicks — has rebounded at Rochester to hit nearly .300 in June with some pop. He could be ready soon for another try in the majors, making Suzuki expendable in a lost season.
*Eduardo Nunez: He’s by far the biggest bright spot on this year’s Twins and someone who has a great chance to go from bench player to All-Star thanks to a great three months.
Nunez is hitting for power (11 homers, .487 slugging percentage) and average (.316) while also flashing speed with 18 steals. He’s signed for a very modest $1.475 million in 2016, so any team acquiring him wouldn’t be taking on much salary. He can play three infield positions and can even jump into the outfield in a pinch.
The Twins would seem to be in another great “sell-high” position with Nunez, who is in the midst of a career year and could genuinely help a contender.
*Ervin Santana: He’s been inconsistent this season, with the numbers adding up to an ugly 2-7 record and 4.64 ERA. Still, Santana has a track record and still has enough stuff to make you think you’ll have a decent chance to win whenever he’s on the mound. You can’t say that about a lot of Twins pitchers this year.
His contract ($13.5 million in both 2017 and 2018) would appear to be a stumbling block, but if there is a contender that can add payroll and is desperate for pitching — perhaps any number of teams in the AL East? — he could be a good fit.