La Velle E. Neal III's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions every Sunday.
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After watching the Twins reside near the bottom of the AL Central standings despite high expectations for an experienced core of players, the approach before the July 30 trade deadline should be clear:
Don't just tweak the roster. Reach for the detonator.
The trade of Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay for pitching prospects Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman on Thursday should be the first of several roster-shaking moves.
It was a few weeks ago when an imposter took over this column and wrote that the Twins would not make a lot of moves before the deadline. That person is now in custody. The Twins should consider making several moves and using 2022 as a development year.
Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano,Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver,Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers remain from the first season of the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine Project in 2017. This core has reached the postseason three times and won zero playoff games.
Injuries. Bad luck. Poor approaches. Wrong choices. You can pick which one of these ingredients has ruined the broth the most.
The reality is that the White Sox are going to be dangerous for the next several seasons, and the Twins aren't equipped to threaten them because of the following:
- Despite recent gains, position players like Kepler and Polanco are not the hitters they were in 2019, and Sano has become a major disappointment. Is former hitting coach James Rowson missed that much?
- Berrios, their two-time All-Star, looks prepared to leave as a free agent after the 2022 season.
- Prospect Josh Winder is expected to pitch in the majors before this season is over, but he and the rest of the next wave that also includes Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic and Cole Sands will need experience. You can now add Ryan and Strotman to that group.
Club officials have indicated that they believe they can compete next season with a lame-duck Berrios in the rotation. The way this roster is trending, I'm not so sure.
It looks more like competing in 2023, after a year of seasoning. So, a to-do list this month:
- Trade Michael Pineda to a contender.
- Get what you can for Andrelton Simmons.
- Cash in on Berrios while there's time.
- Move a couple of relievers.
- Gauge interest in Polanco and Kepler.
- If Josh Donaldson is tradeable, move him and apply the savings elsewhere.
Later, if the Twins can't sign Buxton to a long-term deal as they are attempting to do, look to trade him during the offseason.
Meanwhile, keep playing Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker. Prepare for the arrival of Royce Lewis and power-hitting prospect Jose Miranda next year.
This goes beyond fixing the broken pitching staff. The current mix of players has not worked. Press the button.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has done it now. He has launched himself into a historical debate. Not only did he drive the Milwaukee Bucks to their first title in 50 years, but his 50-point, 14-rebound, five-block performance in Game 6 on Thursday was also one for the ages.
His game is being compared with two other great NBA Finals performances. One is Magic Johnson's 42-point, 15-rebound, seven-assist effort — as a rookie and playing out of position at center — during Game 6 of the 1980 Finals. The other is Michael Jordan's flu game against Utah in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals during which he scored 38 points. I'm putting Antetokounmpo's game in front of Jordan's game but behind Magic's. Magic did it all that day.
Rudolph's fresh start
After 10 seasons with the Vikings, tight end Kyle Rudolph was released in March and is preparing for his first season with the New York Giants. He's looking to prove he's still a productive tight end, not the one who caught just 28 passes for 334 yards and one touchdown last season.
"I hope so," Rudolph, 31, said Wednesday from the 3M Open. "That was part of the reason why it was time for a change for me. My role had just changed to a point where I wanted to do things that I had done through most of my career.
"As a tight end, you certainly are called upon to block. But I'm hoping to get back to catching more touchdowns and catching passes."
Rudolph was at the 3M Open on Wednesday as one of the ambassadors for the event, which has raised $5 million for local charities in three years.
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AND TWO PREDICTIONS ...
Twins trades: more to come
With Nelson Cruz now dealt, the over/under on more trades made by the Twins before the 3 p.m. July 30 deadline should be 3.5. They have a handful of players in the final year of their contracts who could help teams.
Faith in red, white, blue
Despite losing to Sweden in the first round of group play, the U.S. women's Olympic soccer team will qualify for the quarterfinal stage and make a run to the semifinals. Just keep Alex Morgan on the field and find service for her.