To Trade or Not to Trade
Up front, I want to say that I'm not really going to identify potential targets or discuss specific names. I just don't think it makes any sense to go into a lot of detail on a specific deal when there's been very little actual discussion about specific names. Instead, I'll talk generally about whether it even makes sense for the Twins to pursue upgrades right now.
The first point that I think everyone needs to keep in mind is that the Twins aren't supposed to be where they are. The Indians and Tigers both suffered extreme collapses from what they were expected to do (although the Tigers seem to be improving). On top of that, the Twins rotation was filled with young starters and the lineup experienced drastic turnover from the year before. At best, the Twins were supposed to finish third -- and there were some pundits predicting that a last place finish wasn't out of the question. Expectations, in other words, were low.
Actual results early on didn't do a lot to change expectations. The Twins got virtually nothing out of most of their off-season acquisitions, with Craig Monroe, Mike Lamb, and Adam Everett all being clear busts. Livan Hernandez had a very solid start to the season, but he has been only marginal since then. Centerfielder Carlos Gomez has gone from goat to hero to goat and back several times. Michael Cuddyer has either been injured or bad all year. Pat Neshek was ineffective before suffering a season-ending injury. Juan Rincon finally self-destructed. Delmon Young became the butt of derision for many fans when he showed a complete lack of power for most of the first half. Francisco Liriano was so bad he got busted back to AAA, and still hasn't re-emerged. Many of the results on the field, then, fit perfectly within the low expectations for this team.
Despite all of this, the Twins are now in position to make a run. Upgrades to the bullpen and third base would clearly be welcome. A legitimate bat off the bench would be a nice find, as well. I fully agree with the legion of fans who have identified these areas of concern and who think improvements can be made. By no means do I think the Twins are perfect.
The question, however, is whether it makes any sense to swing a deal right now. I personally think the answer is no -- this team is not good enough, in my opinion, to do anything even if they make it into the playoffs. The rotation is too young and unproven, and the offense is just not good enough to compete regularly with teams like the Angels and Red Sox. I know that for some people, making it to the playoffs is an end in itself. After all, if you make it to the playoffs, then luck can go your way and bounce you right into the World Series. I don't disagree with that -- obviously, if you don't make it to the playoffs you have no chance, while getting in at least gives you some chance. To what extent do you really want to mortgage the future for what is likely to be an extremely short-lived playoff run, however?
Look at the Pirates/Yankees deal involving Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, for example. They don't perfectly fit the Twins needs, but they provide a good example of what you have to get up to get good players right now. The Yankees gave up three solid AAA pitchers and promising AA outfielder Jose Tabata to get Nady and Marte. The Twins probably would have had to give up something similar -- so we're looking at something like trading Brian Duensing, Kevin Mulvey, Nick Blackburn and Ben Revere to get a comparable deal in place. That's probably on the high side, because Revere has upped his stock significantly this year and because Blackburn has more big league experience than anyone the Yankees gave up. Still, seeing those four names together should give you pause.
It sounds like the Twins discussed some deals, especially the Adrian Beltre swap. In the end, Bill Smith seems to have determined that the price was too high, and I don't doubt it. Teams recognize how value prospects are, and squeeze every bit that they can out of seemingly desperate teams. Every time I see fans commenting that Bill Smith is an idiot for sitting pat and not making a deal to shore up the team, I wonder whether the realization has set in that many of the prospects he'd be asked to give up are probably more valuable down the road than the acquisitions would be now.
The way I see it, the Twins have already over-performed. They're just 2.5 games behind the White Sox, a team that I think is just as flawed for the Twins. If I were Bill Smith, I'd sit pat unless an offer blew me away, and I'd see if this young team could find a way to get it done. That's not to say I wouldn't make internal improvements -- Francisco Liriano should be on the team in some capacity (my preference, as always, would be for him to replace Livan Hernandez). Denard Span should be in the lineup every day even when Michael Cuddyer returns, even if it means being creative with you use Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, and Michael Cuddyer. Adam Everett should never, ever be brought back to the Twins. Mike Lamb should be released when Matt Tolbert is ready to come back. I see no reason, however, to give up major prospects to go get somebody's castoff third baseman or a reliever.
I suspect I'm in the minority. Most of you can taste the post-season, and you'll be convinced that if Bill Smith does nothing by the deadline that he made the wrong decision. For me, this just isn't the year to go all in.
Labels: Trade Speculation