With hopes of a mid-season turnaround fading, the Minnesota Twins will likely be sellers at the trade deadline. Despite salvaging a split with the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, the Twins are coming off a 3-4 road trip that included dropping two of three games to the Baltimore Orioles.
If the Twins really were contenders, they wouldn’t be losing a series to the worst team in baseball and following it up with a 14-5 pounding in Kansas City. The Twins could add a reliever, a starter, and an extra bat at the deadline, but this is looking like a fight they can’t win. Instead, they enter the deadline with several attractive assets that could help them avoid a two-to-three-year slump.
The most attractive thing about their roster is that it’s loaded with expiring contracts. Nelson Cruz is the Twins’ top asset, and with a $13 million salary that will be pared down to around $4.2 million at the deadline, he’s a rental player who could be affordable to a frugal organization like the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays own the best record in the American League but could also use Cruz in the middle of their lineup. If the Twins decide to trade Cruz, they can choose from a farm system ranked No. 1 in baseball by MLB.com. While they won’t likely fetch a top-100 prospect, they could add an arm that could help them in the future.
Andrelton Simmons is another player on a one-year contract who could be attractive to teams. While Simmons has a .656 OPS at the plate, his defense hasn’t slipped, ranking third in MLB in outs above average.
Picking up the phone and calling the Los Angeles Dodgers isn’t a bad move as they are waiting on Corey Seager to return from a broken hand. If Seager isn’t ready by the end of the season, Simmons could provide an upgrade over Gavin Lux and give the Twins a mid-level pitching prospect in return.
Michael Pineda’s two-year deal expires after this season, so he will also be of interest to pitching-needy contenders. With Pineda sporting a 3-3 record and 3.40 ERA, teams will come calling for the big right-hander. If the Twins can find the right team, it’s another opportunity to cash in.
But the Twins value isn’t limited to just one-year contracts. The Twins have several players with multiple years of team control who could fetch a bigger haul than Simmons, Cruz, and Pineda.
Contract negotiations with José Berríos and Byron Buxton haven’t reached an agreement on a long-term contract, and the Twins could decide to move on before it’s too late. While both players could help the Twins in the future, they’re attractive names who could help a team extend their championship window.
Even struggling players such as Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Miguel Sanó make sense as tradeable pieces. While all three haven’t played up to their 2019 standards, they’re on affordable contracts that will entice teams to take a gamble.
In the case of Sanó, his power could help a team like the Milwaukee Brewers. With a $10.25 million salary in 2022 and a team option in 2023, the Brewers could plug Sanó in at first base and hope that he channels his inner David Ortiz. Of course, this would frustrate Twins fans, but the haul for a player with multiple years of team control might be worth it.
Trading these players could be detrimental to Minnesota’s future, but they have the prospects who could potentially replace the players they deal at the deadline. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have been productive this season and cleared a path to playing time that could set the Twins up for a rebound, similar to what happened in 2006.
But Minnesota also has the flexibility to sell off its prospects. An example of this is the 2019 trade that sent Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds. Although the Reds were out of contention, acquiring Bauer was a move that was made for the following season. The gamble paid off as Bauer won the National League Cy Young Award in 2020 to help lead the Reds to the postseason.
Whatever path the Twins choose, they need to operate with the intent not to let this year’s struggles bleed into the next couple of seasons. If the Twins make the right moves, 2021 can be an outlier, and they can reload and be a playoff team next season.