Monday, July 21, 2008

The Trade Deadline Approaches...

As the Twins returned from the All Star break, they continued their brilliant play of late by taking 2 of 3 from the Rangers (and in the process shutting down one of the best offenses in baseball—Texas’ 4 All Star hitters combined to go 5-40 in the series). Besides the great baseball that the team has been playing, there have been two major subplots revolving around our club: the Francisco Liriano situation (that post will be coming later this week) and the trade deadline.

Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline comes on July 31st. Some teams in the hunt for the postseason have already made moves to try and better position themselves for a playoff run. This is especially true in the National League, where the Cubs (Rich Harden), Brewers (CC Sabathia and Twins-killer Ray Durham), and Phillies (Joe Blanton) have all made huge splashes by acquired some of the top pitchers in the market. It seems like only a matter of time before some of the big guns in the American League (Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Twins) do the same thing to better their teams for the stretch run. So what are the Minnesota Twins going to do?

The big rumor over the last couple weeks has been that we should be/are going after Adrian Beltre, the third baseman from the Seattle Mariners. I dislike this idea for a number of reasons. First, this rumor is based on the assumption that we have a pressing need at third base. I’d say that we have a solid three bag prospect in Brian Buscher (5 hits in the Rangers series including a homerun, by the way), but for some reason Ron refuses to play him on a regular basis. Gardy somehow thinks that playing Brendan Harris, whose batting average is hovering in the .250’s, at third is a great idea because he’s a little bit better than Buscher (hitting in the .330’s) defensively—despite the fact that Buscher has looked solid at the hot corner most of the time. Oh, and Brian is left handed. This is a considerable handicap in Ron Gardenhire’s world. Unless your name is Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau, there’s no possible way that a left handed hitter can have success against a lefty pitcher. It’s simply not possible (this is a direct result of him coming from the Tom Kelly School of Coaching).

The second reason I don’t like this trade is because of what we might potentially have to give up. I’ve read recently that it might take one of our young starters (Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, or Perkins) to make this deal work. Are you kidding me? We’re going to trade away a starting pitcher in his 20’s who is just starting to come into his own for Adrian Freaking Beltre? If Bill Smith is half the man I think he is, then he’ll realize that this is a terrible idea. *Side contradictory note: if we trade the guy we perceive to be the weakest of the four, Slowey in my opinion, then that would open up a rotation spot for the Franchise and thus diffuse that situation altogether.

Finally, we’re talking about Adrian Beltre here. This guy parlayed one completely out of character, possibly steroid influenced, 48 homerun season (he hasn’t hit as many as 30 in a year since) into a monster, unwarranted contract. He’s the same guy who has hit over .300 only once in his career (guess what year that was?). He has been widely unproductive in Seattle; consistently hitting in the .260’s with 150 more strikeouts than RBI during his time in the Great Northwest. Plus, he signed with the Dodgers at a very young age, which history and Miguel Tejada has shown us could mean that he’s 29 years old, as his “birth date” would suggest. Or he could be 35—who knows? Oh and there is that tiny little fact that they seem quite willing to get rid of him…

If you believe that the Twins need to make a move to help their playoff chances, and I do, then the move to make is to acquire some bullpen help. Without the services of Pat Neshek, there has been a big hole in the pen in terms of getting the ball to Joe Nathan. Guys like Brian Bass and Boof Bonser have been incredibly terrible, while guys like Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain are good only on occasion. Having a dominant, shut down bullpen has been a signature of all good Twins teams over the past 6-8 years. It would be even more crucial to this year’s team because of the inexperience in the starting staff. Much to my surprise, my arch nemesis Ron Gardenhire actually agrees with me. In the Pioneer Press today, Gardy says, “If they could get somebody that can really help us at the end of the game, to set up, to take the place of Neshek, that would be really great.” For the first time in a long time, I think Ron and I are on the same page. /Shudders/

In one of the first ever posts on this site last summer, I lobbied hard for the Twins to acquire a bat to spark some life into their beleaguered offense—namely, Dimitri Young. I still think that was the right move. Can you imagine how dominant our lineup would be this year if Young was in the DH spot instead of the Kubel/Monroe platoon? Plus, Morneau might actually be able to get a day off every once in a while. But I digress. This year, I am once again campaigning for a new addition to the Twins: Brian Fuentes of the Colorado Rockies.

The guy has been a very good closer for Colorado (though he did briefly lose his job last year) and I think he would flourish as our 8th inning setup guy. I’ve been hearing a lot of talk on Baseball Tonight about how he could be available; though I have no idea what kind of package it might take to get him here. Acquiring him would mean that our starters would only need to pitch 6 innings and then they could hand the ball over to a Guerrier-Fuentes-Nathan trio to end the game. That would be very tough come September and October.

Realistically, however, most Twins fans know by now that one of two things will happen at the trade deadline. Either the team will stand pat and not make a move because they are unwilling to put together a solid package or deal prospects, or we will trade for some fringe Major League pitcher that no one has heard of (someone in the Craig Breslow mold). Then the blogs (like this one), sports radio shows, etc. will be all over the organization for not making an impact move. Until we make the playoffs, that is…

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