I'm sure most of you by now have heard the big news. Gary Sheffield was traded to the Detroit Tigers yesterday for three pitchers with fairly high ceilings. My wish was to make a post on the offseason outlook, name some needs, and indentify some possible trade partners. This trade obviously changes things. The Twins may have to become a little more desperate.
Naturally, a lot of people are going to point out that Sheffield had wrist surgery last year, and considering that he swings so hard with those wrists flailing away, there are no guarantees. That, and he's going to be 38 in just over a week. However, he is also the same hitter who has 455 career home runs and 1501 RBI. He's a very productive hitter and he may change the balance of the AL Central.
Needless to say, its apparent that Detroit wants to win now and not in the next few years. Does this mean the Twins should get more aggressive? I think they have to make at least a moderate trade and try and improve the team. The problem is that any time another AL Central team makes a fairly big trade (Chicago, Thome/Vazquez trades last offseason), the Twins don't do much to counter the balance of power. Sorry, but Luis Castillo doesn't exactly count.
So, what do the Twins need? Well, Nick Nelson identified DH, 3B, and SP as the big ones. I tend to agree. The problem is that starting pitcher is going to be overvalued right now and DHs are easier to sign as free agents then trade for. Look at all the potential DHs on the market: Moises Alou, Mike Piazza, Shea Hillenbrand, Aubrey Huff, and of course Mr. Bonds.
Personally, out of those, I would think Alou and Piazza are the best options. Bonds is unrealistic and Hillenbrand and Huff aren't terribly productive hitters. Hillenbrand hits for a decent average, but his power is limited and he never walks. We have enough of those guys. Alou and Piazza aren't the most patient guys either, but better than Hillebrand. Also, Piazza slugged .564 against the home-run-killing Petco Park in 2006 and a .283/.342/.501 line isn't bad at all.
Alou, because he's 40, isn't going to make big money. For a couple million, a career .301 hitter who has maintained his power in old age isn't bad at all. After all, in just 345 at-bats in 2006, Alou his .301 with 22 HRs and 74 RBI and slugged .571. I think he would make a great DH and he could play the outfield if entirely necessary.
As for trades, the Twins should probably concentrate on a middle infield. Unfortunate for them, the Indians already snatched Josh Bartfield from the Indians a older prospect who is better off being a DH.
The problem with third baseman is that, for one, the Twins appear to love Nick Punto at third, despite the fact he's probably better at second (for his offense) taking over for Castillo. Also, the Twins aren't exactly filled with options. I'm sure they'd love to trade for Alex Rodriguez or Miguel Cabrera, but those are pipedreams. Its not going to happen. As far as realistic trades, about the only guys I can see available are Hank Blalock, and maybe Adrian Beltre or Eric Chavez.
I mention Beltre and Chavez because they are both can potentially be portrayed by their teams as disappointments. I'm not sure that would expect them to be traded and neither of the players is particularly cheap. As for Blalock, he also had a down year, hitting .266/.325/.401 with only 16 HRs and 89 RBI. After a breakout year in 2004, when he hit 32 HRs and drove in 110 runs, Blalock has had to straight disappoiting years. If Texas did try and trade him, the price on Blalock would be down significantly and I believe it would be a trade the Twins could easily pull off.
As for starting pitching, I doubt the Twins will try to make any trades. This would be because the market for pitching is so high right now that they would be practically guaranteed to overpay, something Terry Ryan isn't likely to do. It would seem more likely for them to pick up a talented, but largely unsuccessful pitcher, like say Tony Armas, and see if the Rick Anderson program has the same magic it did on Dennys Reyes.
As a Twins fan, I'd love to see the Twins get aggressive, but in a market that looks to value the needs of the Twins very highly, I am not sure its likely. I expect most of their needs to get filled with bargain free agents and with internal candidates. Of course, I wouldn't mind the surprise of Alex Rodriguez on my team. Only New Yorkers are smart enough to undervalue such a good player.