Archived Story

It’s Time for the Twins to Sell

Published 8:44am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

With the end of July trade deadline approaching, Major League baseball teams have to decide if they are in the buyer or seller mode. They have to evaluate their chances of winning their division and if adding someone else to their roster will help them achieve that goal.

In the most recent past the Twins have always put themselves in a buyer’s mode because they were either ahead in the division or reasonably close. This year they lie somewhere in that Twilight Zone area. They have played like contenders at times and like bottom dwellers at other times, like last nights Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I could maybe support either side, the buyer or seller, but I am going to take the seller side.

First of all the Twins are 7 games out of first place and are not only chasing one team they are actually chasing 3 teams which makes things just a little more difficult. The Twins have also not played all that well against Detroit and Cleveland and they happen to be two of the teams they are chasing. Both those teams will be in the buyer’s mode so the chances are they will improve from where they are right now.

Even though 7 games back isn’t the end of all ends and could yet be made up as the Twins still have a lot of games left with the top teams in the division, the way they have played the game this year it doesn’t bode well that they will be able to pull it off.

A monkey on a rock could tell you that the Twins have not played very good baseball this year. At most they have looked like a mediocre triple A team which makes sense since that is what players they have had to play with this season. Yes we all know that injuries have played a big part of it but some of the bad play has come from the guys who have not been AAA guys.

The Twins middle infield is really a mess. Alexi Casilla has improved but I still don’t think he is the answer at second base. Tsuyoski Nishioka has proven to not be a Major League ball player yet. I’m not sure he is even a AAA a player at this time as he seems over whelmed at the plate and his defense is a little below average.

Scoring runs has also been difficult for this team this year. This is mainly due to injuries but the reality is that they did get injured and have missed a lot of games and that has put the team in the position it is now. Some of the players have come back but haven’t performed enough to score any more runs than before.

Along with the middle infield mess the bullpen has been a mess all season. Matt Capps alone has lost 6 or 7 game for the team and you add what the rest of the pen has lost and the Twins could be in 1st place.

The only thing that has kept the team in any kind of contention at all is the poor division, a stretch of good starting pitching, and a little clutch hitting. Now the team is going through a bad stage again and it is getting late so in my evaluation they should be the sellers.

There are plenty of teams in both leagues who are looking to improve for the stretch drive. In most cases teams will give up some good stuff during this time especially their good prospects. Last year the Twins traded their best catching prospect in Wilson Ramos to get Matt Capps and how nice would it be to have him now. But the point is this is a good time to trade if you have value to trade and the Twins do have that.

The Twins have some outfielders who are either free agents or arbitration cases. Kubel and Cuddyer are free agents and Young is the arbitration player. The Twins take the chance of losing the two free agents and get little or nothing for them which they have done in the past like Torii Hunter and in some way Johan Santana. It might be best to trade them now and actually get something of value than letting it go and get nothing. Denard Span or Ben Revere could be other outfielders I would let people know were available.

The team has said it will not trade Cuddyer and I’m not sure why they said that. I happened to love the guy but the team could trade him because he is a wanted commodity. Trade him to a contender so he has a chance to get to a World Series and if you want him back sign him again in the off season.

Other Twins players who I think should be on the trading block are; Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, Matt Capps, Joe Nathan, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Fransisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and any of our AAA guys.

Some of these guys may not be wanted but I would think Capps, Nathan, Blackburn, Pavano, Slowey and Liriano could bring back some prospects. Mind you I’m not saying that all of these guys should be traded, you need to have somewhat of a core group to rebuild from, I am just saying if it was up to me these are the guys I would dangle out there for other clubs to think about.

What do I expect in return? I feel our minor league system has taken a hit the last few years. I am sorry but I am just not as high on our minor leaguers as some people are. Therefore if we could rob some top prospects from other teams now would be a great time to do it and I don’t care what position it is. I remember Bud Grant would always draft the best player available no matter what the position. The Twins should go after the best from other teams. If they could get Major League bullpen pitchers that would be one thing I would go after. There rumors of some selling teams that have good bullpen pitchers who are available maybe this would be the time to go after them rather than this winter. If we end up trading a starting pitcher or two then top pitching prospects would be what I would want in return.

Bottom line is this is a good time to start a rebuilding process. The Twins have a good core group of players and since the division is always up for grabs this is a good time to get things started before next season. Use the winter to fill in some more of the gaps.

As a footnote on why I think it is time to sell I got this. Last Saturday I was watching the Twins game and it was the game of the week so they had their network announcers doing the play by play. In this one at bat they were being very complementary of Michael Cuddyer. They said he was having this really great season and gushed about him a bit, which since I like the guy I thought was nice. Then they showed is stats on the year: .290 batting average, 14 home runs and 47 rbi’s. The next half inning when the Tigers were up they had two guys who are not thought to be the MVP’s of their team and quite frankly some people I have barely heard of, come to the plate and their stats were around the same as Cuddyer’s and actually were better in the run production part. It was at that moment I knew it was time for the Twins to sell; they will not catch the Tigers this year.

  • Dean

    Tom, I agree the time is now to make some necessary moves… although it’s tough to throw in the towel after a game like the one last night. No matter how out-gunned, or how far out they are, they just don’t ever give up.

    Young, Span, and Liriano should have some decent trade value, and I would hope that the front office and Gardy can see that these three, while they often show bursts of brilliance, and are physically talented, are way too inconsistent and mentally… um, not-talented. :-)

    Capps has one foot in the Ron Davis zone… it’s possible he could recover, I don’t know at this point.

    Casilla… I’ve become a fan, sort of. I think he’s doing much better… better at bats, consistent in the field, and stealing some bases.

    Nishi… hmm, can’t hit, can’t catch, can barely throw, fast, but can’t steal a base. Ok, that may be a bit harsh… but just a bit.

    It’s possible Cuddyer could be a rental, and come back here next season. I doubt he stays anywhere else. I expect him to be in a Twins uniform for many years to come… player, coach, then probably manager ( or PR guy).

    I think the Twins like Plouffe’s bat, and have been grooming him for an of spot in case Young and/or Span depart. Revere has proven so far that he can handle cf, and has been an adequate hitter. His YTD stats are almost identical to Span’s, with Span having a few more walks while Revere has a few more steals. Span is due to triple his salary next year to $3 mil.

    We all know there are moves that need to be made to get the Twins to the next level… I hope that it happens this time.

  • Randy Larson

    I think the Twins should be selling and only certain players. They just can’t throw in the towel yet but there are players they could deal to maybe better themselves for this year and the future.

    • Randy Larson

      I’m replying to myself as the computer kicked me out. Span is one player who I think is not available. For his salary, I don’t think the Twins can do better. Young is available for anybody who wants him. I think it’s time to part with Liriano. There should be teams who will gamble on his left-handed arm and his ability. We could pick up somethiong good. I’d keep Capps, noone will give us much and I feel he’ll straighten himself out. The Twins might as well get something for Kubel, I doubt if we can afford him next year as a free agent. Slowey is available. Cuddyer worries me as I don’t know if we can compete in the free-agent market for him. Pavano or Blackburn could fetch some nice players in return but it’d have to be a good offer before parting with them. So it summary, I’m willing to sell but not at the expense of winning this year and only if the offer is good. We’re not desperate.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Sellers? There are 4 reasons to be sellers at this time of year, and all are premised on the belief that your team is out the race. But before a GM decides to become a seller, he better be damn sure that the team is out of it, because it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the Twins dealt Castillo in 2007 the players took that as management throwing in the towel. The team finished 12-20 down the stretch and finished 3rd in the division. A lot of years the ChiSox cashed it in early as well.

    But, if you’re convinced your team is loaded with underperforming high salary veterans who can’t compete in the future, then you blow the thing up – dump everyone with any value for prospects, prospects, prospects. A lot of contributors to this blog reached that point with the Twins in April (and fire the manager too). I disagreed with the lunatics then, and still do today. The Twins have a solid core.

    A second reason for jumping in as sellers now is to selectively shed salary while the market is high – unload that aging vet that doesn’t fit with your future plans. Cuddyer, Nathan, Pavano and Capps have been mentioned as guys in this category.

    A third reason is to tweak or reshape your roster for the future – deal excess to plug gaps in your talent pool. Thus the suggestion of trading outfielders for middle infielders and bullpen guys.

    The final reason is simply to sell high. It’s the only reason I can think why people want to deal Liriano.

    For the Twins, you know my position is that its not over. Its never over! I say BUY! BUY! BUY!

    But I’ll set that aside for now to be part of this discussion. Assuming the Twins should consider selling, the recent trade market is instructive, particularly the Pence, Fukadome, and Jimenez situations.

    Hunter Pence drew a tremendous bounty for Houston in Singleton and Cosart, both top-5 prospects in the Phillies’ system, both close to MLB-ready, and both with high ceilings. Singleton is an athletic first baseman converted to OF with a solid bat and power plus. Cosart is a RHP with an electric heater and a dynamic 12-6 curve that can still use some work. Also included in the deal was Josh Zeid, a solid grade B pitching prospect.

    I think the Twins should have been all over that one. Statistically Hunter Pence is pretty much Jason Kubel at the plate. Both are good hitters with some power, below average fielders and mediocre base runners. Of similar age, both are in the $4 mil. salary range approaching free agency. I really like Kubel and think that he fits well into the Twins plans going forward, but as GM I couldn’t pass up a deal like that with the Phillies.

    We should be talking to Atlanta who is starving for an outfielder with power, and has a butt-full of great young pitchers. I’d be talking to Atlanta.

    If the Giants are still looking for offense, I’d be willing to do another AJ for Nathan and Liriano deal with them as well. The market seems high for quality power offense – I’d shop Kubel and Delmon and be prepared to move both if the price is right. I doubt if the price would be right for Delmon and would be fine keeping him – he still is nowhere near reaching his potential. Sure, he’s frustrating, but just dumping him for emotional reasons is dumb.

    If the Pence trade suggests huge value for Twins outfielders, the Fukadome deal should bring everyone back to earth. The Cubs coughed him up to Cleveland for Carlton Smith and Abner Abreu. Smith is a non-prospect minor league arm and Abreu is a young, athletic, toolsy single A guy who’s career is in neutral – his obsession with swinging at everything is the apparent reason that he’s dropped off the team’s prospect list. The stuff I found on him suggests that he still has a high ceiling, but an increasingly remote chance of reaching it. So it looks to me like the Cubs got a single A project and a Dan Sarafini or Travis Miller (at best).

    This is sobering because Fukadome is by most measures somewhere between Span and Young as a player. He’s a better defensive outfielder than Young and not as good as Span. He has more power at the plate than Span, but not as much as Young. He has a higher OPS than both, but not by much. He is a poorer base runner than both. The big difference is that Fukudome is 34, has a big contract, and is approaching free agency. He’s also a veteran presence in Cleveland’s young clubhouse. I wouldn’t consider Span or Young for that measly return.

    Now, the Ubaldo saga is not complete, but probably will be this weekend. By reports, the Rockies are interested in 2 top prospects and no teams are biting on that, but talks continue. And despite the rumors about other starters, not much is moving. So what is the market for Pavano and Liriano? Maybe one serious B prospect and some fillers. I’d consider that for Pavano. The Twins have arms on the way, no slot for Slowey, Swarzak, or Gibson. Pavano is signed to a two-year $16 mil contract. I don’t think that’s excessive, but money needs to be freed up to address the middle infield mess. Baker is ready to be the team’s #1 pitcher, and if the return is right, maybe trade Pavano. I’d have no problem with keeping him though.

    But not Liriano. He is stabilizing into a solid rotation guy who still has unmet potential.

    Is there anyone who has to go, on the addition by subtraction theory? Frustration has put Slowey, Casilla, Nishioka and Capps on the list. Slowey would be logical, but there’s no market for him and no way to get value back at this point. Gotta keep him for now.
    Casilla has blossomed the last two months. Lets see if it lasts. There’s no market for him now anyway. Nishioka is certainly more of a project than we thought he’d be. But remember, he’s signed for less than Punto money.

    Capps? Cut and run. Set his stuff outside the locker room door at Target Field and change the locks. File a change of address for him with the Post Office. Anonymously order 53 large pepperoni pizzas delivered to his SUV. Surrender his cat to the local Humane Society. Give his home address to the Jehovah Witnesses. Post pictures of his dog on the internet. Turn him into the IRS. Sign him up for the Tea Party Express. Expunge his name from the team records. Fumigate his locker. Burn his uniform.

  • Tom Grout

    Tracy I think you said all that I said only in more detail than I had time for. Selling doesn’t mean giving up. Selling at this time if done right is a wonderful time to sell because some teams, like Philly with the Pence deal, give up a lot to get what they want. The Twins have some players I would think that a pennant contender would want. If the Twins could get the maximum for these guys it not only would make the rest of this season interesting but set them up for next year.

    I would make a list of who was available and let the leagues know and then see what happens. They don’t have to make a trade if they don’t want to, as this time of y ear it is usually a sellers market.

    I would take a hard look at anyone who is a free agent at the end of the year. This would mean Cuddyer and Kubel. I would hate to losse either of them but I don’t want them to end up like Torii Hunter and get nothing. We also lost Crain and Gurrier last season so loyalty doesn’t always go so well when money talks. So there is no garuntee that Cuddyer and Kubel will resign with the Twins so maybe they should be used as trade bait now and hopefully they can sign them back in the winter.

    I’m with you on Pavano. He could be traded or kept. He is signed for next year so that would be ok. But is he overpaid for what he is producing? Liriano I would consider heavlily about a trade. It would be real interesting to see what he could bring. I am not as sold on him as you as he is very inconsistant and I’m not sure he will ever be mentally able to be that guy.

    Joe Nathan is another interesting player. I believe he is a free agent at the end of the year so there will be some decision to make. Not sure I would sign him to a multi year contract and that may be what he will want. He would be good on a pennant contender right now so what could he bring.

    As far as our infield I am satisfied other than Nishioka. Maybe he will turn out to be something or maybe not. I haven’t given up on him but he doesn’t look like a shortsop for a division contending team right now, but we are stuck with him for awhile. Casilla if he can stay doing what he is doing great. Maybe if Plouffe proves he can handle second base Casilla could go back to short.

    Agreed that Capps should be sent to help Ron Davis in whatever endever he is in now. Span I would trade because he is something of value only we have to get good value in return. Young, he confuses me. He has soooo much talent and I’m not sure he will bring back much.

    So to wrap this up, I think they should sell but sell on the higher side unless it is someone they really want to cut contact with like Capps.

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