The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

June 24, 2013

Thoma column: Trade season a time to set up the future

July is, in baseball terms, the month of rumors, trade talks and decisions.

The Twins’ decisions — not just during the next five weeks but next offseason as well — ought to be based on this reality: The major-league roster is about to undergo a significant transition. By the end of the 2014 season, the lineup will be built around Joe Mauer and a collection of youngsters, most of whom are now in the minors.

The current lineup is built around Mauer and a collection of 30-somethings: Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit.

The first wave of that transition — outfielder Oswaldo Arcia — is already making a place for himself in the major-league lineup. Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson may come soon. The next wave — third baseman Miguel Sano, second baseman Eddie Rosario, starter Alex Meyer, possibly center fielder Byron Buxton — figure to show up sometime in 2014.

This is some high-level talent marinating in the minors, and the challenge for the organization is to have the flexibility to give those players the opportunities when they’re deemed ready — and to have the right role players around them.

Here are three questions the Twins might do well to answer for themselves before they make July moves:

Who’s on first? Morneau, who has just three home runs on the season, is a free agent at season’s end. Chris Parmelee, his putative in-house successor, hasn’t hit enough to be a first baseman (or right fielder, where he’s spent most of the season).

Answer: I’m not convinced either will be the first baseman on the new-look Twins. I also doubt there will be much return for either in a trade next month. I think the Twins will keep both this month.

Which way with Plouffe? Trevor Plouffe is not good enough to keep Sano from taking the third-base job.

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