We’re now past the All-Star Game and headed full steam toward the trade deadline on July 31. For the Minnesota Twins, a lot of things can happen between now and then, with games against Houston, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers coming up which may help tip the scales one way or the other toward whether the team will buy, sell or do something in the middle.
Part of the fun of this time of year is reading columns from Jon Heyman or Jim Bowden about which trades make sense. So I’ve cooked up four trades I’d make if I were in charge of the Twins.
I’ve chatted with fans of the teams involved in the trades below — all people whose intellect I trust — and they’ve advised me I was at least on the right track in terms of asking prices on each of these trades. Keep this in mind — and if you tweet me to the contrary, I will hunt you down — I am making each of these trades in isolation. You could argue that all four trades could be made, you could make any two of them, or any combination of them. I’m just taking them one-by-one, and it’s for this reason: the odds of even one of these trades happening is virtually zero.
Why compound that by saying any combination of these trades would happen?
So don’t come at me on Twitter saying it doesn’t make sense to trade Ervin Santana while moving a bunch of prospects to get another starter. I get where you’re coming from. I wouldn’t rule out that it still could happen, but I’m not definitely saying it will or even should happen. This is just a fun exercise as we head into the dog days of summer.
RHP Fernando Romero, OF Alex Kirilloff, IF Nick Gordon and IF Travis Blankenhorn to the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Marcus Stroman and LHP Francisco Liriano (or RHP Marco Estrada)
Why the Twins do the trade: Stroman is basically Jose Berrios plus grounders, has almost 500 solid big-league innings under his belt and is under team control through 2020. With this trade, you can fling open your contention window next year, while still spending a bit of money in the offseason while Stroman, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and friends are still cheap. Stroman has the heart of a lion, and is on the upswing. He also just turned 26 in May. Bringing back one of Toronto’s overpriced starters who has free agency impending works two-fold, as it can help lessen the prospect burden if the Twins don’t have quite as much as Toronto wants, and it can also help Minnesota fill the back of its rotation for the rest of the year. Don’t tell me Liriano out of the bullpen wouldn’t intrigue you, either. It’s a lot to trade, but if you want to start the contention clock next year, this is a good way to do it. Keep in mind — these are all Terry Ryan prospects. Maybe Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have favorites, but it still isn’t guys that they’re as attached to as this last draft class, for instance.
Why the Blue Jays do the trade: They’re in a weird spot with young pitching and old hitters. A retool for the Blue Jays makes sense in that they will probably move guys like Josh Donaldson (for a ton), Jose Bautista (for a so-so return) and Troy Tulowitzki (for whatever they can get). That’s a good start to a retool, but moving cost-controlled pitching in this day and age will jump start any sort of rebirth in an organization. By getting the Twins’ Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 7 prospects according to MLB.com, they’re doing just that. The Twins can’t really offer any more — and you can swap out Stephen Gonsalves for Romero if you’re the Jays and you wish — but they also get something they don’t really have in their system: a pitcher who can be a bona fide ace. I don’t necessarily think the Jays will move Aaron Sanchez or Stroman, but it might be the right time to consider it. With how close Romero and Gordon are to the big leagues, it wouldn’t be a huge step back in the medium term for Mark Shapiro.
RHP Ervin Santana to the New York Yankees for 1B Greg Bird and SS Jorge Mateo
Why the Twins do the trade: The honest-to-goodness truth is that it’s not clear this year’s team is good enough to compete at a playoff level. Santana deserves to play in a playoff push, and there’s only risk the longer he continues to pitch for the Twins with the number of years, innings and sliders on his right arm. Trading for Bird now would be scooping him up while the value is down — he’s currently on the disabled list with a foot issue — and the same could be said for Mateo, who has been as high as No. 26 on Baseball America’s prospect rankings in recent years, but is having a bit of a down season (.268/.330/.458 in 84 games between High-A and Double-A this year, with a crazy hot streak in 15 games at Trenton skewing the numbers). Every organization can use more up-the-middle talent, and this year alone Mateo has played 42 games at shortstop and 22 in center field. Bird has massive power and is a large human being (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), and I think he’ll be superfluous with the Yankees loaded in the outfield and likely needing to move someone from out there in to play first base — unless they make a trade for someone like Justin Bour.
Why the Yankees do the trade: I thought this was a fit even before Michael Pineda was going to have Tommy John surgery, and now I think it’s a tremendous fit. Sure, the Yankees would probably like someone younger, but Santana makes sense because he’s under control through at least next year with an option for 2019. This is important because Pineda, C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are all eligible for free agency next season. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery is a solid foundation for a rotation, and Santana in that mix makes it all the more solid. He’s also on a very, very reasonable deal ($13.5 million in 2018, $14 million option/$1 million buyout in 2019) which makes sense for the cost-conscious Yankees. Not so much in that they don’t want to spend, but that they need to be ready to go big in the next few free-agent markets with players like Bryce Harper, Shohei Otani and others available in the winters coming up.
NOTE: Luzardo has been traded to Oakland in a deal for Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle.
RHP Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals for LHP Jesus Luzardo
Why the Twins do the trade: As excellent as Kintzler has been for the Twins this season, the team also has to consider that he’s eligible for free agency at the end of the year. He won’t get a qualifying offer, and thus would be lost for nothing when he signs elsewhere. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but with teams starving for relief depth, making a move here would not be a bad idea. The contract I spoke to mentioned Luzardo by name as a player they’d heard in some rumors, and otherwise suggested a player in the No. 5-7 range on the Nationals list as the area to target. MLB.com has Luzardo at No. 10, and the 19-year-old lefty has been tremendous in Rookie ball this year: 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings (three starts), 15-0 K/BB ratio. He’s a long ways off, but that’s the kind of risk worth taking on a rental closer.
Why the Nationals do the trade: This way the Nationals can attack their late-inning woes — closer or otherwise — while not having to move any of their especially prized prospects. A move for Zach Britton or David Robertson would probably cost more, both in terms of salary and perhaps even value. Kintzler is not going to make anyone forget about Kenley Jansen, but he’s sturdy as a late-inning bulldog who has fear of no one.
UTIL Niko Goodrum to the Philadelphia Phillies for RHP Pat Neshek
Why the Twins do the trade: The Twins need to shore up their bullpen in the late innings, and this is a reasonable price to pay for a guy who obviously would be happy here, has good numbers but also won’t kill the prospect budget since he’ll be 37 in September. Over his last four seasons, Neshek has a 2.51 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and a WHIP of 0.93. He’s also handling left-handed batters (.543 OPS against) as well as righties (.539) this year. That’s a really good sign for a sidearm guy.
Why the Phillies do the trade: They have the worst record in the game and can’t exactly extort a ton for a pitcher at this age. Assuming the Twins would take on all the money owed Neshek ($6.5 million prorated for the rest of the season), Goodrum would be a good get for the Phillies. The Phillies person I talked to said the team would probably be looking for a No. 4-5 starter in Double- or Triple-A, or a flawed player with bench potential. Goodrum is a super raw athlete who has needed a little added time at each rung up the minors, but he’s still just 25 and is coming off hitting .275/.357/.451 at Chattanooga last year. This year, he’s played at least 10 innings at second, third, short, center and right. That sure sounds like a bench-type player to me.