A few thoughts on the midseason hot stove, as seen from 1 Twins Way:
* Unsurprisingly, the wayward Twins haven't been prevalent in trade speculation with the non-waiver deadline approaching on Sunday. One annoying rumor that wouldn't go away was that the Twins and Nationals were discussing a swap of Denard Span and Drew Storen. The rumblings stemmed from a Ken Rosenthal report and picked up steam when Jim Bowden tweeted that the two sides were "working hard" on getting a "multi-player deal" done.
I don't really understand how such a move would make sense from either side. After suffering a concussion earlier this season, Span's health status is very much in flux. The Nationals would have to feel pretty confident in his recovery to offer up something worthwhile.
Assuming that's the case, the Twins are not in a position to trade yet another valuable up-the-middle starter for a relief pitcher. While Storen would certainly represent an ideal long-term closing solution, Span isn't really an expendable piece at this point.
The center fielder is under control through 2015 on a very team-friendly contract, while Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are on the verge of free agency and Delmon Young will be heading into his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Span ranks third on the team in on-base percentage. In 2009, he ranked first. In 2008, he ranked second. Setting aside his mediocre 2010 campaign, Span has basically been an ideal leadoff hitter, whereas last night in his absence the Twins started Ben Revere (.294 OBP) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.269 OBP) in the first and second spots preceding Joe Mauer. Yuck.
While I like Ben Revere, the jury is out on whether he can be an everyday player in the majors, much less a leadoff man. By unloading Span, the Twins would risk creating the type of headache in center field that they've already created at shortstop and catcher through similarly misguided moves.
* Ultimately, I'd guess that the chatter regarding Span's trade availability has mostly come out of Washington's corner, and the center fielder will stay put through the weekend. I do, however, expect that Kevin Slowey will be gone by Monday.
I'd prefer to the see the Twins try and utilize Slowey rather than moving him, but at this point it seems clear that bridges have been irreparably burnt. If he has to go, I just hope something palatable can be had for him.
The Twins could certainly do worse than right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt, whom La Velle E. Neal III mentioned as a possible target in noting that the Twins and Rockies have discussed a Slowey deal.
Betancourt's 4.28 ERA this year understates his effectiveness. He holds a fantastic 43-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40 frames, and over the past three seasons he's posted a 3.47 ERA while averaging 11 strikeouts and two walks per nine innings.
A reasonable $4.25 million option in 2013 makes Betancourt, 36, especially desirable considering the Twins' bullpen uncertainty going forward.
Still, it'd be a shame to lose a good young talent like Slowey for him.
* I wrote earlier this week about the miserable options Ron Gardenhire is facing at the shortstop position. Now, with Alexi Casilla landing on the disabled list after pulling a hamstring on Wednesday night, the manager's dilemma grows even more gruesome.
Meanwhile, J.J. Hardy has bashed four home runs this week, pushing his season total to 18. Hardy is hitting .280/.330/.519 for the Orioles, making Bill Smith's offseason decision to dump the shortstop for little return look predictably awful.
Also, for all the grumbling about how "injury-prone" Hardy is (and all the chiding I received when he landed on the DL with an oblique strain back in April), he's played in more games than all but three Twins players.
(Oh, and for the swarms of people who are sure to complain about another reference to Hardy: his name hasn't been mentioned in a post on this blog since April. Simmer.)
* One additional note: next Wednesday I'll be participating in a sports trivia contest at Gabe's by the Park in St. Paul. Also competing will be Tim Allen of the Timberwolves blog Canis Hoopus, Nathan Eide of the Wild blog Hockey Wilderness, and David Erickson of Minnesota Vikings Chat.
The event will feature food specials and opportunities for the audience to take part in the action, so if you've got no plans, come on by and watch me finish last.