Twins

The Twins Are A Team Worth Investing In At the Trade Deadline

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

It was a beautiful Sunday at Target Field. Fans had packed the stands, the sun was shining, and the Minnesota Twins were the only thing hotter than the weather.

The proof came in the first game of their doubleheader with the Oakland Athletics. Carlos Correa launched a two-run homer 393 feet into the right-field bleachers before Royce Lewis smashed an opposite-field home run to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. In the fourth inning, Correa hit a ball even further unleashing a 408-foot tank into the third deck in left field.

The vibes couldn’t be better, and in some ways, the landing spot of Correa’s second home run had some irony. To the left of Correa’s blast is the Twins front office, where Joe Pohlad and Derek Falvey have offices. In some ways, the decisions off the field have overshadowed what Minnesota has accomplished on the field. But with the trade deadline approaching, it’s clear this is a team worth investing in.

The month of June can be a tough time for baseball fans. They’ve watched their team for two months but can’t figure out their identity. For the Twins, this has been an interesting process. During one stretch, they look like sausage-wielding savages. In the next stretch, the New York Yankees look like they will take their lunch money.

It creates a polarizing effect when fans try to decide whether this team can become a contender. However, one stat stands out above the rest. In 14 games against the Yankees (0-6), Cleveland Guardians (0-5), and Baltimore Orioles (0-3), the Twins have yet to pick up their first win. Entering Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Twins have a 40-18 record against everyone else.

Some of this stretch includes beating up on teams like the Colorado Rockies and Oakland Athletics, who helped spark a 6-1 record entering the series with the Rays. But there are other signs of a team that’s beginning to come together.

The most glaring example is Correa and Lewis’s performance. Twins fans groaned as Correa battled through plantar fasciitis last year and questioned his star power as he was hitting .247/.320/.422 on June 5. However, he has responded with the best stretch of his career, going 24-for-47 (.511) with four homers, 13 RBI, and a double over his past 11 games.

Correa had a similar stretch like this, hitting .340/.414/.543 with nine homers and 29 RBI over the final 49 games of the 2022 season. However, that stretch came while the Twins faded from contention and wasn’t paired with Lewis’ sudden star power.

Lewis’s numbers are insane, and he looks like a transcendent superstar. However, he’s never clicked at the same time as Correa. In 12 games this season, Lewis is hitting .390/.447/.951 and has seven home runs – including one in each half of Sunday’s doubleheader – in just 41 at-bats.

A 5.8 home run to at-bat ratio is unsustainable. However, Lewis has been a high-level player when healthy. At this time last year, Lewis was in the midst of a .309/.372/.548 batter’s line with 15 homers and 52 RBI in just 58 games. He backed it up by hitting three home runs in six playoff games.

If there’s one thing that’s clear about Lewis’s game, it’s that he delivers under pressure. If Correa and Lewis keep playing at a high level, it could give Minnesota a middle-of-the-order tag team they haven’t had since Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau fuelled a run of dominance in the 2000s. However, it’s not the only thing the Twins have going for them.

There are many Twins who are currently the best version of themselves. Byron Buxton is playing in center field on a regular basis for the first time in two years, and other role players like Carlos Santana and Willi Castro have stepped up when young players like Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner have stumbled.

Even players who are slumping, like Ryan Jeffers and Max Kepler, looked like All-Stars in the early part of the season and could easily regain that form as we head into the middle months of the season. A bullpen that has relied on its depth ranks 15th in ERA and should improve as Jhoan Duran shakes off an early-season oblique injury and others join the mix.

With Joe Ryan avoiding the mid-season swoon that has plagued him and the possibility of Pablo López rebounding over the second half, the Twins can go into a playoff series with two strong starters and could use one more.

This team is not a perfect product but also has a unique problem: It just needs to figure out how to beat the Yankees, Orioles, and Guardians. It’s the type of team that a front office should invest in to add the final piece. However, that’s where it gets complicated.

The last time the Twins were all-in at the deadline, they were trying to make the most out of Correa’s one-year contract in Minnesota. The Twins were aggressive, adding Tyler Mahle and Jorge López, but those deals have left long-term scars.

The Mahle deal sent Spencer Steer to Cincinnati, who looks like the type of corner outfielder the Twins could use right now. The López deal also sent Danny Coulombe and Yennier Canó to Baltimore, who have become critical pieces for one of the best bullpens in baseball.

Even the deals the Twins didn’t make have scars when it comes to long-term effects. Remember when the Toronto Blue Jays wanted Lewis for Marcus Stroman at the 2019 trade deadline? Or how about the New York Mets asking for Lewis in exchange for Noah Syndergaard?

If Falvey had traded Lewis, he would have gotten PTSD every time he turned on MLB.tv, and it could have been the reason they stayed pat at the 2023 trade deadline. However, Falvey has made an effort to make deals, which raises far fewer questions than the Pohlads’ willingness to invest in the team.

Entering the offseason, ownership slashed payroll and agreed to a television deal with Bally. Now the largest cable company in the Twin Cities, Comcast, doesn’t carry Twins games. Pohlad saying “No” has become a meme among fans, bringing back flashbacks to the team’s Metrodome days.

At $128 million, the Twins payroll is still over two times as much as it was in the final year in the Metrodome ($56.9 in 2009). Still, it’s down $31 million from 2023. Pohlad bemoaned the idea of paying $30 million for a player when Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery were free agents last February. While Snell and Montgomery have flopped in San Francisco and Arizona, fans have questioned how much Pohlad is willing to invest at the trade deadline.

However, the Twins can’t compete as constructed. They could make it to the playoffs and even win a series like they did last season, but Minnesota hasn’t been to the ALCS since 2002. With only three teams standing in their way, adding a corner bat, a first baseman, or a frontline starter who can get them over the top makes sense.

Will that be enough to get the powers that be to give the green light? Maybe not. But this is the type of team that should be invested in and will bring an interesting dynamic to this year’s trade deadline.

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