Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Recognizing Identity Is Key For The Twins

Here we are on the week of the Major League Baseball trade deadline, and the Minnesota Twins control their own destiny. Three games in front of the Toronto Blue Jays for the second and final wild card spot, the AL East competition just made their splash. In acquiring Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies (and now David Price from the Tigers), it's apparent the Blue Jays are going for it. Despite the big move, the Twins absolutely need to disregard their competition.

Coming into this season, the home nine was expected to have an outside chance at a .500 record, with somewhere around 75 wins being more than acceptable. After stumbling out of the gates, the Twins entered the All-Star Break as the second best team in the American League. As fun as it has been, Minnesota needs to continue to stay the course.

Right now, Paul Molitor has the Twins positioned to make summer baseball relevant at Target Field again. Despite everything pointing to a third place finish in the AL Central at best, Minnesota has defied the odds. Now, the organization needs to stack their chips and continue to ride out the hot streak conservatively.

The Blue Jays are clearly gunning for the Twins and are looking to overtake the second wild card spot. The last thing Minnesota should be looking to do is hold serve however. In making a big splash or a substantial move, the organization would be denying the reality at hand. This Twins team is competing when they should not be, and while they absolutely should capitalize on their good fortune, doing so within realistic boundaries still makes sense.

There's no doubt that the Twins have problem areas. Minnesota's bullpen owns a 3.91 ERA (24th in MLB), 196 strikeouts (30th), and a .259 BAA (25th). The starting catcher, Kurt Suzuki, is slashing .229/.289/.301 while playing below average defense (-3 DRS). At shortstop, Minnesota has ran Danny Santana out for 72 games while allowing him to bat .219/.243/.300, commit 16 errors, and be worth -14 DRS. Yes, the Twins have problems.

Of those issues, the most easily fixed remain the former two (to a certain extent). The Twins can (and likely will) go get relief help before the deadline. In doing so, less innings will be afforded to arms like Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Ryan O'Rourke, and Blaine Boyer. At times they've been effective this year, but as a whole they have failed to get it done. A competent reliever will afford All-Star closer, Glen Perkins, more opportunities, and in turn more tallies in the win column. The acquisition cost of a reliable reliever should be manageable, and the Twins have plenty of options to pick from.

Looking behind the plate and at shortstop, they Twins have bigger fish to fry. Neither position offers much to call the future looking throughout the organization (even more so at catcher), and a rental would be nothing short of a Band-Aid. A.J. Pierzynski could be a fit, and he may help the Twins this season, but he too would be gone going forward.

For the Twins to truly solve their issues behind the plate and at shortstop, they will need longer term answers. Settling for a Jean Segura type or a quick fix doesn't do much for changing the Twins course, and addressing things with a bigger move coins Minnesota into more of a win now mode.

At the end of this week, and no matter what the Twins do, it's best served for the organization and their fans to remember what this team is. Right now, Molitor has his club playing playoff baseball and it's all the more exciting because of it. That's not to say there isn't some smoke and mirrors, and that the true identity of this team might be pointed a little bit lower.

Addressing a bullpen need to help fend off challengers and squeak into the playoffs would be a great move. Doing something drastic trying to solve future issues before the real window opens up a season from now, at the cost of something more damaging, is a situation that Minnesota should look to avoid. For now, it's just fine that the Twins operate in a "happy to be here" mode.

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