Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Trades The Twins Should And Should Not Make

Although we are still at the beginning of July, you can bet that the Minnesota Twins and Major League Baseball contenders as a whole, have begun looking for ways to improve their rosters. For the Twins, this seems like uncharted territory given the last four seasons, but here we are. As Minnesota looks to hang into the AL Central, they no doubt need to remain patiently alert.

Terry Ryan and the Twins have rarely had a knack for making big splashes, and that should be counted on as a constant much more often than it shouldn't be. However, knowing this team is still outperforming advanced analytics, sustained winning will likely take other options to continue as a possibility.

Looking at the proposed names thus far in relation to the Twins, there's some intriguing options, and some less than appealing. How the Twins navigate this month could determine the way in which they deal with the end of it. Here are a few of the possibilities:

Will Smith- LHP Brewers

Smith is up for arbitration in 2016, and is under team control until 2020. At age 25, that makes him immediately someone tied to a higher acquisition cost for a team looking to upgrade their bullpen. On the season Smith owns a 1.47 ERA, 1.74 FIP, and an 11.7 K/9. He probably walks more batters than you'd like out of a reliever (3.5 BB/9) but there's no doubt the strikeout punch would be nice for the Twins pen.

If Minnesota is determined to make a splash of sorts, Smith is probably as far as I would suggest going. He's likely going to net the Brewers a sizable return, and while he should factor into the Twins future plans as well, I'm not sure I'd be for giving up valuable assets here.

Neal Cotts- LHP Brewers

Sticking with the Brewers, Cotts presents a different kind of possibility. At 35, and a free agent after the season, Milwaukee can't be expecting much more than a mid-level prospect in return. Cotts hasn't been lights out as he owns a 3.53 ERA backed by a 4.29 FIP. He strikes out guys at a solid rate (9.3 K/9) but also walks his fair share of batter (3.0 BB/9). Against lefties though, Cotts is more than respectable giving up just a .200/.224/.309 slash line. Also, in his last 18 appearances, he's been virtually untouchable: 19.2 IP 0.92 ERA 21/7 K/BB .217/.289/.232.

This is probably the type of move I would advocate the Twins to make. Right now, the bridge between each night's starting pitcher and Glen Perkins is shakier than a trapeze artist on a tightrope. Cotts isn't your typical LOOGY, and he's proved more than effective of late. If Milwaukee is willing to deal, the Twins should be listening here.

Marlon Byrd- OF Reds

Sure, he's 37 years old, but Marlon Byrd continues to prove valuable through his bat. For the Reds this season, Byrd has slashed .245/.300/.467. With 14 home runs, 32 RBI, and a .767 OPS, Byrd has kept father time at bay. It's not that the Twins offense is too good for a bat like that to play, but instead, that they don't necessarily have a place to put him.

Minnesota's largest position of depth at the major league level right now is in the outfielder. They have the best prospect in all of baseball who will be nearing a return, young players in Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario who continue to have value, and a veteran (who has posted similar numbers to Byrd) in Torii Hunter. On top of those mentioned, we haven't even discussed Oswaldo Arcia (who is mashing down in Triple-A Rochester: .412/.44/.824 4 HR 10 RBI in his last 8 games), or 40 man prospect Max Kepler.

It's probably not that Byrd doesn't have value, but adding him may hurt the Twins in the long run more than it helps.

Carlos Gomez- CF Brewers

A retread of a former Twins player has to be thrown in here. After all, Jason Kubel, Matt Guerrier, and Jason Bartlett have all been back through lately. Obviously Gomez is in another league than those guys, but it's worth noting nonetheless. Gomez is an All Star level talent and is hitting .268/.313/.420 in a down year this season. He's got six home runs and 32 RBI for the Brewers, and he continues to track down everything in the outfield.

Forget the fact that an outfield with Gomez, Buxton, and Hicks would never see a flyball drop (ever), but many of the same problems a Byrd acquisition would face come into play here. The Twins outfield is crowded, and is a position of depth more than anything. On top of that, Gomez would likely cost the Twins a prospect like Jose Berrios. Combine that with the fact Gomez is a free agent after 2016, and being a Scott Boras client, likely wouldn't re-sign with the Twins. I don't know how Minnesota could mortgage the future for a year and a half window.

The Twins find themselves in the curious position of being relevant before they expected. While relief help fills a need this season, it should be expected to benefit going forward (after all, internal options are thin at the moment). Going forward though, the Twins have more pressing needs at positions like shortstop and catcher than to be dealing for a boost in an odd area.

With plenty of time left in July, and more importantly games left to be played, things should sort themselves out on the field for Minnesota. If the Twins can keep winning and stay in the thick of the race, adding a lower cost relief option would be a necessary move. No matter how the situation shakes out though, making a big splash or dealing prized prospects likely won't (and shouldn't) be the plan of action.

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