Column: A View from the Stands, by Aaron Stanley
The best part of the current baseball playoff format that features two wild card teams instead of one is that it has created whirlwinds of trade deadline excitement.
As wild card teams like Kansas City and San Francisco have made World Series runs in recent years, the temptation for clubs to go all in and try to land a playoff slot through midseason trades has broadened the pool of buyer clubs while reducing the number of sellers.
This new equilibrium has created a flurry of deals ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, as teams rush to acquire rent-a-players in the form of an extra bat to beef up the lineup, a marquee starting pitcher to shore up the rotation or patching up a leaky bullpen. All of these could be the missing piece of a deep playoff run.
For teams on the other end of the spectrum, the trade deadline affords the opportunity to dump overpriced veterans in exchange for young talent.
2016 has been no exception, headlined by the Chicago Cubs paying a king’s ransom to obtain hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. The Twins jumped into the fray last week by shipping away Eduardo Nunez, their lone All-Star, to San Francisco for Adalberto Meija, a top 1000 pitching prospect.
The big question heading into this weekend’s deadline is that of White Sox SP Chris Sale, who achieved instant baseball legend status last weekend when he destroyed his team’s throwback jerseys before a game because he thought they were too uncomfortable.
Sale has been among the most dominant starters in the league the past five years, but his relationship with Chicago has soured and the team is falling out of contention. Because Sale is good enough to transform a borderline playoff team — such as Texas, Miami or the LA Dodgers — into a World Series contender, if he is traded it will have a dramatic impact on the competitive landscape.
Other impact players who could be traded include New York Yankees RP Andrew Miller, Atlanta SP Julio Teheran, Kansas City closer Wade Davis, San Diego OF Matt Kemp and Tampa Bay SPs Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi.
For our beloved Twins who are weathering through a miserable season, they need to be in full-blown fire sale mode after firing General Manager Terry Ryan. In particular, they need to acquire young pitching and build a respectable rotation for the coming years. Trading Nunez was a good start, but they should be working the phones frantically over the weekend to move veteran starting pitchers Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco — both of whom haven’t panned out and have bloated contracts.
But they could be useful pieces for a team that needs end-of-rotation help. Santana is probably the best bargaining chip, though the team has signaled a reluctance to part with him (probably a negotiating ploy). His strong July performance — in which he had posted a 1.92 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP through Sunday — shows that the 33-year-old still has gas left in the tank and can still be a key contributor. The stumbling block is the ridiculous $27 million that he is owed over the next two seasons.
Hopefully, the Twins can extract some benefit out of their lost season by cashing in on the trade deadline frenzy.