Monday, July 30, 2007

Now Or Never

Like Johan Santana the day before, Matt Garza tossed an absolute gem in Cleveland yesterday but was unable to collect a win because the Twins' offense could not support him. Garza pitched six innings, notching a career-high 11 strikeouts while allowing five hits and just one run. Sadly, the Twins were down 1-0 when Garza left the game, and it appeared that by the end of the day the right-hander might have held a 1.37 ERA and a 1-3 record.

Fortunately, the Twins offense once again managed to get the job done in the late innings and they came away with a 4-1 victory, taking the series against the Indians and moving within 6.5 games in the Wild Card standings.

With the non-waiver trading deadline approaching tomorrow afternoon, one must wonder what is going through Terry Ryan's head right now. The Twins have a lot of ground to make up in the standings, but they're not dead in the water. If they want to get back into the thick of this race, they're going to need to start stringing together some victories, and that will have to start with the eight-game homestand that opens tonight against the Royals. In order to get back on the winning track, there is little doubt that something is going to have to be done to improve the offense.

Despite the sweep over the Athletics and the series victories over the Angels and Indians, the Twins' offense has been mired in an awful slump ever since the All-Star break. They've averaged just 3.4 runs per game, and haven't scored more than four runs in a contest since July 21 (a stretch of seven games). Sure, they managed to win on Saturday and Sunday, but you can't expect to get pitching performances of that caliber on a regular basis.

A post-season run is not out of the question at this point, but it's still a real long-shot. With that in mind, any hitter the Twins make a move to acquire had better be someone that can help them beyond this year. They've already seemingly missed the boat on a couple guys who would fit this bill in Dmitri Young (who signed a two-year extension with the Nationals) and Ty Wigginton (who was traded to Houston), but there are plenty of other fish in the sea. One thing is for sure: tomorrow is going to be a rough day if Ryan once again stands pat and sends the message that he's satisfied with this team's current offense. With Santana, Garza and Scott Baker as their top three starters, the Twins have a chance (albeit remote) to climb back into the race within the next couple weeks, but as long as Nick Punto and Rondell White continue to start almost every day, I have a hard time believing they'll score enough runs to make that happen.

5 comments:

S.Chancellor said...

Prediction: The GM won't make a move. When asked, he'll reply "July 31st is an artificial deadline. Trades happen all time time in August, there is just a different process you go through. We'll continue to see if any deals make sense, and if they do, we'll look at helping at our club," or some such nonsense.

If he does make a move, it will not be for a proven hitter. It will be for a Morgan Ensberg or someone else of his ilk: either a veteran long past his prime, or a flyer on someone who has been slumping to such a degree that his current club is giving up on him.

In his 13-year tenure, the GM has traded for a grand total of 2 proven ML hitters in their prime: Shannon Stewart and Luis Castillo. And neither one of them were/are a threat to drive in runs. Ryan dallies on the waiver-wire fringes - prowling for Phil Nevins, Rondell Whites, Tony Batistas - players whose best years were in, well, the 20th Century.

He has never traded for a proven power hitter who is still hitting home runs.

He is skittish about trading for a player who is under contract beyond the current year, but also averse to adding a rent-a-player. He has enough [self-induced] contract headaches with Hunter, Santana, and Morneau, in that order. He certainly is not going to complicate those matters by trading for a hitter making 8 million+ next year. And the other side of the coin: he is not going to trade prized prospects that he will need to help pick up the pieces after the departure of Hunter et al.

So we have a GM only willing to part with marginal prospects and so not in league to acquire a big-name hitter, but further handcuffed by an unwillingness to commit to a hitter who he must pay in '08.

I have noted before that Hillenbrand fits the GMs bill. Wigginton would have been useful, although he is due to make some money next year.

Re-acquiring Shannon Stewart is not without merit. He could be had for some small change.

We are all aware that the Twins need a third baseman, a left fielder, and a DH. Knowing that Ryan would at best make one move and not three, 3B seemed the logical position to upgrade. Kubel is doing OK, White if healthy is at least a body for the DH hole with some track record of successful hitting.

Other than Ensberg, I do not know of any 3B still available that meets the GM's limited, restrictive criteria.

This is a long way of saying none of us should hold our breath. Perhaps the GM should write '07 off and focus on re-signing his three stars. We would all agree that locking those three up long-term is more important than the band-aid we are waiting for Ryan to cover up this team's lesions.

Nick M. said...

S. Chancellor -

I mostly agree with you here. In fact, I recently basically wrote this in my own post. I really think Ryan won't make any big moves either. He's too conservative and there is no way he trades any prospects or risks trading pending free agents that would bring more prospects. However, I disagree about Ensberg. Honestly, I think Ensberg is the kind of move I'd approve that Ryan won't make. He doesn't like low-average hitters with power and patience; he likes low-average hitters with some power and zero patience (of course, Batista comes to mind). Somehow, he'll pass on Ensberg, which is too bad, because even at his current stats, he is a much better offensive option than Nick Punto. That would be one less "pirahna" in the lineup that opposing pitchers can throw strikes down the middle and have nothing to worry about.

Ryan said...

I believe that that absolute worst thing that could happen is for Terry Ryan to do nothing. Either he believes the Twins still can be a contender and picks up a bat or two, or he doesn't and he starts building for the future. If he sits back and just does nothing, we're going to be screwed now and in the future.

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