As much as I would like to write about the triumphant return of Rondell White (46-point increase in slugging percentage in one night!) and the continued success of the Twins at home (six straight wins), I have another topic I'd like to discuss today, so gushing over their latest winning streak will have to wait.
The trading deadline is just 11 days away, and at this time of year there is always a lot of talk about what moves particular teams might make in order to set themselves up for a playoff run or for success in future years. Buyers, sellers, contenders, pretenders... selling the farm for that one last piece. Even though most of the blockbuster trade rumors never even come close to materializing and few of those that do actually have a legitimate effect on a team's ability to make the playoffs, it's a fun time of year for speculation.
The Twins are in an interesting position right now. Five games out of the Wild Card lead and 9.5 games behind the Tigers for first in the AL Central, the Twins are on the fringe of contention. Today I will examine what, if anything, Terry Ryan might try to do in the next week and a half in terms of roster moves.
The recent injuries to Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart have put a serious damper on the Twins' trade possibilities. If the Twins were going to be part of a blockbuster deal of any kind at the deadline, it would have involved Hunter. Before he got hurt, many felt that the Twins might try to deal him in order to wipe themselves clean of his $12 million salary for next year while adding a few solid prospects at the same time. With Hunter gone until at least mid-August, that won't be happening. Likewise, there was much talk about the possibility of the Twins unloading Stewart, who was having a decent year, for something of value. Since he is in all likelihood done for the year, the Twins will probably have to let Shannon walk in the off-season and get nothing in return.
One guy who the Twins will most likely deal by the deadline is Kyle Lohse. Ryan passed on the opportunity to deal Kyle during the off-season, which turned out to be a big mistake. As a result of his horrific performance early in the season, Lohse's trade value has dropped considerably. Still, due to the fact that he is young, has had success in the past, and has pitched relatively well as of late (just two runs and eight hits allowed in 11 July innings to go along with 12 Ks and one walk), Lohse might be worth a little more than one would initially be led to believe. I'm not saying he's going to bring back an impact outfielder, but there are a lot of teams in contention for a playoff spot around the majors and a number of them are desperately in need of starting pitching help. The pickings are fairly slim, particularly if the A's aren't shopping Barry Zito, which I believe to be the case.
With Stewart and Hunter hurt, the Twins don't really have anyone who needs to be unloaded aside from Lohse. Luis Castillo and Brad Radke aren't going anywhere, Rondell White has no value, and the rest of the team is pretty young and cheap. If the Ryan does have a particular player in mind who he'd like to add, he certainly has some weapons in his arsenal. The emergence of Pat Neshek as a potentially excellent reliever gives the Twins a lot of bullpen depth and might entice Ryan to part with a guy like Jesse Crain or Matt Guerrier for the right price. Keep in mind, there are a number of contending teams out there looking for bullpen help, and if you need evidence that some general managers are ready to wildly overpay for relief pitchers, just take a look at the Reds/Nats trade from last week. The Twins also have a number of valuable pitching prospects waiting in the wings, but again, Ryan is unlikely to blindly deal any of those guys unless the offer truly blows him away.
There has been some speculation that the Twins may try to trade for a starting pitcher, which to me is pretty stupid. Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana are lights-out, Brad Radke should be at least serviceable, Scott Baker is solid, and Carlos Silva -- while unpredictable -- seems capable of getting the job done as a fifth starter. The Twins should be okay for the rest of this season, and like I said before they have plenty of pitching prospects who will merit a look in 2007 and beyond.
If the Twins were going to try to acquire an impact player of any sort, it would probably be a young outfielder or third baseman who would help them not only for the remainder this season but in the future as well. I heard a totally unsubstantiated rumor that the Twins have offered Matt Garza and Lohse to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and that Ryan would be flying down to Florida to discuss a deal. This is undoubtedly just a pipe dream since there's no way the Marlins would make that move, but it's still a fun thought. Even though Garza is my favorite prospect and I would hate to lose him, Cabrera is an absolute stud and the thought of him hitting between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau makes me lick my chops.
In any case, the Twins have played so well as of late that it doesn't really seem like any changes need to be made. Nonetheless, while they have some nice young players and are looking good at several positions, the team does have areas of need that will have to be addressed at some point. Will it happen by the end of the month? Probably not, but it's at least worth keeping an eye on.