The Minnesota Twins entered today five games below .500 and carrying the 10th best record in the 14-team American League.
They are also five games out of first place in the AL Central, with eight games looming against the division’s first- (Cleveland) and second-place (Detroit) teams.
The non-waiver trading deadline is two weeks away. Are the Twins going to try to add veterans, shed them — or a combination?
The typical July trade involves one team discarding a veteran who doesn’t figure in their long-term plans in exchange for younger, cheaper talent that might. The other team is looking to strengthen itself for the next two to three months.
The Twins fit both categories.
They have a flock of established corner outfielders — Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer — and more young ones pushing for playing time. (Kubel and Cuddyer are eligible for free agency after the season; Young is on a one-year deal but isn’t free-agent eligible until after 2012.)
They have five healthy starters in their rotation, plus the exiled Kevin Slowey and the much-touted Kyle Gibson in Rochester, plus Anthony Swarzak doing well in spot starts.
And they have a glaring problem in the bullpen, where Matt Capps’ second slump of the season has left Ron Gardenhire with only two reliable arms (Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan). Even if Capps were pitching well, it’s too thin a bullpen.
Sounds fairly obvious, right? Trade one of the established guys for bullpen help and let’s move on.
Not so fast. Remember: The teams trading established players are generally the ones out of the hunt, and they aren’t looking for rent-a-players.
Consider Oakland, which is out of the chase in the AL West but still loaded with good bullpen arms. There’s no reason for them to deal somebody like Michael Wuertz for two months of Jason Kubel.
Ben Revere or Joe Benson or Rene Tosoni might be of interest to the A’s, but the Twins have plans for those guys.
On the other hand, the Giants might be in the market for a bat such as Kubel or Young — but they won’t be eager to weaken their bullpen in the process.
This may require both buying and selling — moving a veteran outfielder for prospects in one deal, dealing prospects for immediate help in another.
The Star Tribune this weekend, citing an unnamed Twins official, said any in-season deal won’t involve Michael Cuddyer. The Twins intend to re-sign Cuddy.
Unnamed source stories on such matters are often unreliable, but this one passes my smell test.
I’m not sure the Twins can keep all three veteran corner outfielders, and I don’t think they should. There’s certainly room for one, maybe two, in 2012.
Cuddyer is the oldest of the three. But he’s also the most versatile; as a right-handed hitter he fills a need in what figures (if everybody’s healthy) to be a left-handed lineup; he’s a key figure in the clubhouse; and the Twins have, through his looming Type A status, more negotiating leverage than one might think.
If any readers are heading to Cooperstown for Bert Blyleven’s induction next weekend, send me an email or give me a call.