With just one day separating us from Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins sit two games above the .500 mark at 52-50. They rank sixth out of 14 American League teams in runs scored per game, and seventh in runs allowed per game. It's fair to say that this is a thoroughly mediocre team. A trade here at the deadline might help cover up one of the club's glaring weaknesses, but won't likely be enough to get the Twins over the hump and propel them to the playoffs. Right?
On July 16, 2003, the Twins sat five games below .500 at 44-49. They were riding an eight-game losing streak that had pushed them 7.5 games out of first place in the division. Hope was seemingly lost. But that was the day they traded Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart.
Stewart played well for the Twins during the second half of the season, hitting .322/.384/.470 while even earning a few MVP votes, but his production alone did not boost the Twins to a 44-23 record the rest of the way out and a division championship. Whether the team's overwhelmingly excellent play following the Stewart trade was coincidental or the result of a team being sparked by a new acquisition (or, most likely, a combination of those two things), the Stewart trade illustrated how a flawed and struggling team's fortunes can be reversed after a major midseason trade. And yet, for some reason -- despite the resounding success of that move -- the Twins have been silent around baseball's trading deadline in the five years since.
This year's Twins are under somewhat similar circumstances to that 2003 club. Their record is better and they're considerably closer to first place, but these Twins are flawed and their competition in the division is stronger than that of the 2003 squad. With that being the case, and with the current club's stars voicing their frustration with the front office's lack of action, it seems that a trade of some sort would be a logical option for Bill Smith and his front office colleagues.
The Twins have been connected to a number of different players, which normally breeds a great deal of excitement amongst the rumor-mongering fan base. Yet, this year's trade speculation has fallen somewhat flat, at least in my eyes. While the Twins have reportedly kicked the tires on a few legitimately good players -- like Freddy Sanchez, Michael Wuertz and Brandon League (with the last of those names making me especially giddy) -- the majority of names that have come up as potentially serious targets hardly command enthusiasm.
For instance, the Twins have repeatedly been connected to A's shortstop Orlando Cabrera. He's been a defensive liability this year and his .281/.319/.368 hitting line -- while an improvement over the paltry .243/.303/.342 line the Twins have gotten from shortstop this year -- still falls below the major-league average of .268/.324/.388 for that position. Cabrera also is not signed past this year. I fail to see how such a move makes any sense. More recently, it's been suggested that the Twins have been looking into David Eckstein. With a .264/.326/.332 line, Eckstein has been even worse than Cabrera or Brendan Harris offensively and much like them he's a liability in the field. On the plus side, he and Nick Punto could combine to form perhaps the scrappiest (and crappiest) middle-infield duo in baseball history. Another player that the Twins have reportedly voiced interest in is Mariners reliever Sean White. White has posted an incredibly lucky 3.06 ERA so far this year buoyed by a .232 batting average on balls in play. He has also struck out less then a batter per every two innings while posting a terrible 21-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Combined with his unimpressive minor-league track record, White's ugly peripherals make him a poor bet to perform any better than Sean Henn would over the remainder of the season.
If the Twins are actually looking at players like these as ones capable of changing their fortunes down the stretch, I have to seriously question the sanity of their scouts and decision-making personnel.
Given the facts that Kevin Slowey is out for the season, Glen Perkins has battled intermittent shoulder problems and now Francisco Liriano is plagued by a forearm problem, I have my doubts as to whether this team is good enough to keep up during the final two months even with a beneficial trade in the next two days. But, with the White Sox and Tigers failing to run away with this thing, and with the Twins' core players growing increasingly displeased by the front office, I'm thinking some sort of move is well warranted.
I'd love to promise up-to-the minute coverage leading up to tomorrow's deadline in this space, but I'm leaving this afternoon to spend a long weekend in Chicago with some friends, so my Internet access (and sobriety) may be limited. If anything happens that compels me to locate a computer and rattle off a reactionary post I'll be sure to do so, otherwise I'll have a full write-up on the Twins' activity (or lack thereof) on Monday.