Fausto Carmona entered last night's start for the Indians with a 5.61 ERA in 85 career innings. Opposing hitters had compiled a .299/.371/.456 hitting line against him during that span, and in 40 appearances (including nine starts) Carmona had picked up just one win and had never lasted more than six innings in a game. Of course, none of this stopped the 23-year-old righthander from tossing 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball against a once-again inept Twins lineup as he picked up his second career victory and pushed Cleveland to a two-game sweep at the Metrodome. Carmona allowed just six hits and two walks while striking out two. After allowing an RBI single to Justin Morneau in the fourth inning, Carmona retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced and never allowed the Twins to put together anything resembling a rally. Johan Santana was solid, allowing just six hits and a walk while striking out seven over seven innings of work, but he gave up four runs and on this night the offense could give him no help. All of this equated to a 5-3 defeat, the Twins' fourth loss in their past five contests.
It was another terrible display by the Twins offense against a hittable pitcher, but rather than vent my frustrations I'm going to discuss something else today.
April 25 is too early to be considering specific trades, but it's never too early to take a look at some teams that may be potential trade partners down the line and to point out some players who might be worth keeping an eye on. With the Twins' LF/DH situation somewhat in limbo, there is a team that caught my attention, and that team is the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs seem committed to giving rookie Felix Pie a shot in center field, shifting Alfonso Soriano to left and creating a logjam in right field, with Jacque Jones, Matt Murton and Cliff Floyd all vying for playing time. There's no way I would condone bringing back Jones, but Murton and Floyd are both intriguing and each could be a valuable addition for the Twins if the price was right.
Murton is a 25-year-old righthanded hitter who can play both corner outfield spots well. He has a very nice career hitting line of .301/.367/.453 in 622 major-league at-bats. Murton possesses relatively little power and doesn't run particularly well, but he is a solid hitter with a good eye at the plate. Not only would Murton provide the Twins with a legitimate major-league to play in left field or at DH when Rondell White is injured, it would also be beneficial to the team's future. If Jason Kubel continues to develop into the player many (including myself) think he can be, acquiring Murton would potentially make Michael Cuddyer expendable, as Kubel could slide to right field and Murton could take over in left. That's not to say I want Cuddyer gone, but that might be the inevitable result once his arbitration years are up if the Twins intend to keep Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana and Joe Nathan. The thought of losing Cuddyer is pretty scary at this point, because the Twins are lacking corner outfielders in the upper levels of their minor-league system. In this respect, Murton would be a solid addition.
Floyd is another guy worth looking at, and he might be a more realistic option if only for the fact that the Cubs would probably be more willing to deal him. The Cubs signed Floyd to a reasonable $3 million one-year deal in the off-season, with incentives and an option for 2008. In 15 major-league seasons, the 34-year-old lefty has amassed a .278/.358/.487 line with 214 homers and 787 RBI. If the Twins wanted to add a veteran power presence in their lineup, they could do a lot worse than Floyd. With White seemingly injured at all times, Floyd could be inserted into the lineup at DH, allowing Ron Gardenhire to trot out the following batting order:
1. Castillo - 2B
2. Punto - 3B
3. Mauer - C
4. Cuddyer - RF
5. Morneau - 1B
6. Hunter - CF
7. Floyd - DH
8. Bartlett - SS
9. Kubel - LF
That lineup has some good lefty-righty balance and it has power potential spread throughout the order, rather than the five consecutive singles-hitters we currently see some nights. I certainly like the look of that lineup better than the meager one the Twins trotted out last night with Jason Tyner at DH.
Murton and Floyd are both guys that are worth keeping an eye on for the next couple months. In order to get one of them, I'd imagine the Twins would have to part with a reliever (Jesse Crain or Juan Rincon most likely) and a pitching prospect, but at this point that seems worthwhile. Whether it would actually ever happen is debatable, considering Terry Ryan's hesitation to part with pitching. Hopefully he'll bring himself to make a move if this offense continues to be as frustratingly inconsistent as it has been so far.