MINNEAPOLIS — You hear all the time that it’s too early to start thinking about MLB trades in June. I think that there’s some truth in that in some cases, because there are teams out there that are still evaluating how good they’re going to be, and whether or not this is a year to go all out chasing a World Series.
The Twins are in no such position. It’s go time.
And so it’s perfectly fine to start speculating about trades that could upgrade the roster in time for the postseason run. The Yankees just swung a trade for Edwin Encarnacion, a power bat to add to their “depleted” lineup. And there will be some logjams to sort out once everybody is healthy and that lineup gets back into the conversation for the second-best unit in the American League (behind the Twins, of course).
A few thoughts before we explore a couple of the recently “proposed” trades floating around on the national media circuit.
a) I don’t have a strong opinion for when a trade has to happen.
b) Any move at this point is not with an eye on winning the division; it’s for October.
c) You could argue that it’s important to get a deal done now to give somebody like, say, Taylor Rogers, more of a break the rest of the summer.
d) Or you could argue that it’s vital to upgrade now to win as many games as possible, with an eye on home-field advantage in October.
e) Or you could argue that the price goes down in six weeks. But on that suspicion, ultimately, I think we’d only be guessing.
Twins get LHP Madison Bumgarner and LHP Will Smith for RHP Brusdar Graterol and Nick Gordon, proposed by Jim Bowden in The Athletic.
I like the idea of adding pitching, no doubt. And I’ve heard that there are some Will Smith fans within the Twins’ front office. (I’m more interested in this trade package for Smith than I am for Bumgarner.) But the two things that trip me up about this deal are the rental component and the Graterol component.
The stud pitching prospect is on the shelf right now with a shoulder injury, and that has to be at least a little concerning to those of us on the outside who don’t know the full extent of his medical evaluations. But there’s the thing. He’s 20. And before he got hurt he was tearing up the Southern League (1.89 ERA in 9 starts, with 46 strikeouts and 19 walks in 47 2/3 innings.) You’re not supposed to tear through that league at 20 years old, and it’s the kind of half-season performance that would make me pause trading him for anything less than an elite return.
And three months of those two pitchers — both free-agents-to-be — just doesn’t strike me as an elite return. Not worth giving up 6+ years of team control of a potential star.
Twins get Trevor Bauer from the Indians, proposed most recently by Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic.
I’ve talked about this trade for quite some time now, and I’m a believer in Bauer. This proposal doesn’t even include a price tag, but if you’re not talking about Graterol, Royce Lewis or Alex Kirilloff, then I’m listening.
I always get the pushback in conversations like this about the “division tax,” and some of my friends would consider an all-A.L. Central trade to be a no-fly zone for both clubs. I honestly don’t understand the rationale, in this case, of a team like Cleveland hoping to trade present wins for future wins. Why would they care which team gets those present wins? It’s not like this move would be with an eye on winning either of the next two World Series trophies.
Adds Rosenthal: “The Indians operate with a similar mindset – if they decide to move established talent, they will not rule out trading within the AL Central, sources say.”
Bauer, unlike MadBum and Smith, is not going to be a free agent this winter. He’s making $13 million this year and he has one more year of arbitration before he can file for free agency. So the Twins, in theory, would add wins to the ledger in 2019 and in 2020. It would cost a salary and it would cost in terms of prospects.
Bauer is only a year-and-a-half younger than MadBum, and it’s true that the Indians starter hasn’t been the same lights-out, Cy-Young-caliber ace that he was a year ago in Cleveland. It’s just hard for me to shake the memory of how dominant he was a year ago, and to mute the belief that the beast is still in there.
Just to circle back on another line from the Bowden column:
“I think Madison Bumgarner or Trevor Bauer would be the best trade targets for the Yankees, but I’m not sure that GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees would be willing to pay the exorbitant prospect cost required for either one.”
If the price tag for Bumgarner and Bauer is even close to the same, I’d target Bauer. (And if that’s the case, I’d also drop MadBum’s name from the Giants trade and just go get Will Smith and call it a day.)
It all comes down to a careful calculus of balancing an attempt to win a World Series today with the aspiration to be in them again in the future. Derek Falvey talks about the ‘sustainable winner’ model, and he has since the day he was announced as Chief Baseball Officer. GM Thad Levine spoke of the desire to marry the “best of today with best of tomorrow” within the Twins’ organization, right around the time of the contract extensions for Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco.
With all of this, I’m not saying that the Twins shouldn’t be aggressive this summer. I think they should be. And I don’t think it’s a prudent strategy to hoard prospects and instead settle for lesser players in return. In sum, I’m perfectly comfortable trading future wins for October wins, now that the trade gates are open.
I would just try to make sure to target the right guys to put you over the top this Fall. And I’m not keen on trading the guys future difference-makers for a Summer fling.