The Minnesota Twins have plenty of tough decisions ahead of Friday’s MLB trade deadline. On one hand, they have several players who would fetch a meaningful return who don’t appear to be interested in re-signing with the team. On the other, the Twins don’t appear to have the appetite for a multi-year rebuild that comes with a fire sale.
This gives the front office the unenviable task of deciding what’s best for the long-term future of the team. But what if there was a middle ground that could accomplish both objectives? A scenario in which the Twins stay competitive for 2022 but add pieces that can restock their farm system?
That’s a challenge. But as Dan Hayes of The Athletic mentioned, it was exactly what the New York Yankees did in 2016.
The Yankees came into that season with World Series expectations but were out of contention heading into the trade deadline. With the season in doubt, they turned into sellers and traded away Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
The trades added Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Justus Sheffield to an already strong farm system. With Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez in the midst of a breakout, the Yankees were back in contention in 2017 and lost to the trash can-banging Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.
So as the Twins decide the degree to which they want to overhaul their roster, they should look at the Yankees’ approach as a blueprint. Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, and Jhoan Duran could be the foundation that pushes them back into contention next season, but Minnesota has to decide which pieces are expendable.
Byron Buxton and José Berríos are two players who could be traded for prospects on the cusp of the majors who could help jumpstart the organization, but the Twins need to have a type of player in mind. Hayes reported that Minnesota’s mindset is to find players who could be MLB-ready by 2023. If those prospects wind up ahead of schedule, they could at least play complementary roles on a contender next season.
That’s especially true if the Twins focus on pitching. The Twins came into Wednesday second in the major league in home runs but 26th in earned run average. The issue is even worse in the bullpen where they can’t seem to hold on to a lead.
But the Twins could also decide that Buxton and Berríos are too important to trade away. Buxton has had a breakthrough at the plate, his defense makes the pitching staff better and his absence has been a big reason why the Twins have cratered this season. Berríos has become Minnesota’s de facto ace and is in the middle of a career year.
So if the Twins have to keep Buxton and Berríos, who is expendable? They should start by exploring Josh Donaldson‘s trade market.
It won’t be easy to move him with two years and $55 million remaining on his contract, but the Twins could add money to help enhance the prospects they get back in a deal.
The Miami Marlins did this by trading Starling Marte to the Oakland Athletics. They included “a significant amount of cash” to get a deal done, which allowed them to ask for a better prospect. In the end, the Marlins landed Jesús Luzardo, who was a top-10 prospect the last two years and has 31 starts in the major leagues.
The Twins should also consider trading several players from the Bomba Squad core who may have reached their peak.
Max Kepler has drawn interest from several teams thanks to his bat. While his 2019 season continues to look like an outlier, his Statcast metrics are through the roof, and a team like the New York Yankees could pursue him and give up a better prospect than they should. Even small-market teams could be interested in Kepler due to his cheap ($18.5 million over the next two seasons) and controllable contract.
Even Taylor Rogers should be considered expendable during an All-Star season. Much like how the 2016 Yankees took advantage of the reliever market, Rogers could be a critical arm for a contender once he recovers from his sprained middle finger. They don’t want to replicate the Ryan Pressly deal here, but if they can find a more advanced prospect, it may be worth moving on from a reliever who will turn 31 in December.
This would create holes on the roster but nothing a quick tour of the free-agent pool wouldn’t fix. If the Twins could rebound from their disaster this year, they could add pieces around Buxton, Berríos, and even Kenta Maeda that could produce a contender next season.