The Twins are in a good position heading into the All-Star break, with a 5.5-game lead on second-place Cleveland.
Still, the division is far from over. After a sluggish start, Cleveland’s turned it on in June and July. They’ve made up six games on the Twins since June 2, when Minnesota held an 11.5-game lead. The Twins and Indians will meet 13 times during the season’s unofficial second half, meaning Cleveland will have ample opportunity to make a push in the Central.
The Twins, of course, will be buyers this year, as they look to secure the Central and put together a pitching staff that can compete deep into October. It seems unlikely Minnesota will trade for a bat, given the offensive output they have produced and depth of the lineup. Their focus should be squarely on the starting rotation and bullpen.
The rotation, as it presently stands, is solid. Two of its five members are all-stars (Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi), and Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez and Michael Pineda have all been productive. If the Twins want to upgrade the rotation, then, it probably makes sense to add someone who could pitch in the first three games of the ALDS, rather than a mid to back of the rotation starter.
In the bullpen, the Twins clearly need to add a couple of legit arms to help Taylor Rogers, who has been phenomenal. The rest of the ‘pen has been steady, but not spectacular. As teams continue to lean more and more on their relievers in the postseason, it’s become imperative to have a lights out bullpen to succeed in October.
The Twins have a very deep farm system that includes three top 100 prospects (Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brusdar Graterol), and a number of other intriguing pieces. Based on the public comments of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, it appears unlikely they’ll trade either Lewis or Kirilloff, so we’ll operate on the assumption those two players are untouchable.
With that in mind, let’s engage in a little reckless speculation. Below are five potential trades that could make sense for the Twins as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Although the prospect packages in any actual trade surely wouldn’t exactly match what’s outlined here, each proposed trade represents a best guess at the level of prospects necessary to land each target. (Note: This is Part 1 of this series. You can find Part 2 here).
Smith is presently the closer for the last-place Giants. He’s been phenomenal this year, pitching to a 2.10 ERA, 13.9 K/9, and 0.786 WHIP. Smith is on a one-year deal, so he’d be a rental, meaning the Giants’ asking price will be lower than if he had a couple of years of team control.
Still, he’ll be in high demand, with a bidding war likely to ensue among playoff hopefuls. As one of the best relief arms available, he’ll likely require either a top-100 prospect, or a package of strong second-tier prospects.
Yes, it’s a lot to give up. Gordon and Rooker are both former first round picks who are putting up good numbers in Triple-A. However, they play positions at which the Twins are stacked. Luis Arraez has emerged as the second baseman of the future, and Jorge Polanco is locked in for the next five years at shortstop, meaning there’s no real spot for Gordon presently. Rooker is a corner outfielder having a big year (.291/.413/.549), but he’s blocked by talent at both the big league level and in the minors (Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach). The Giants are getting poor production from middle infielders Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford, and are desperate for corner outfielders—they acquired Tyler Austin off waivers from Minnesota and put him in an outfield spot, even though he’s primarily a first baseman. The trade could make sense for both teams.
(Note: Bumgarner was hit in the pitching elbow on a comebacker Saturday, but X-rays were negative. For the purposes of this column, we’ll assume he’ll be okay by the trade deadline).
Bumgarner has been perhaps the most talked about trade target for the Twins, and a topic of much debate. Will the Twins be getting a version of Bumgarner that’s close to his dominant years, when he was one of the best pitchers in the National League and an incredible playoff performer? Or will they get 2019 Bumgarner, whose numbers are on par with Gibson and Perez? Can pitching coach Wes Johnson get an extra 5% out of him, as he’s done with Perez and others? Would Bumgarner, as old school as they come, be willing to listen and implement changes from the Twins’ progressive field staff and front office? All of these are unknowns, and so Bumgarner is a pitcher who has a large range in terms of what he could give the Twins in 2019.
He’s also a rental, and with his modest numbers the asking price won’t be exorbitant. Still, with his track record of playoff success, the Giants won’t give him away for pennies on the dollar.
Truthfully, the trade described for Smith could probably work for Bumgarner as well. In my view, the asking price will be slightly higher for Smith, because of the latter’s mediocre numbers. I’m including Gonsalves here because I think he’s another trade chip in the farm system worth mentioning. Gonsalves has been hurt all year, but his numbers throughout his minor league career have been outstanding, he’s still just 24, and was a top-100 prospect entering 2018. Pitching in a pitcher-friendly park in San Francisco could benefit Gonsalves, who gets a lot of fly ball outs. Helman is a middle infielder in High-A who put up really strong numbers in Low-A last year (.355/.398/.486) but has struggled in High-A this year. MLB.com lists Helman as the No. 29 prospect in the organization.
The Twins may want to package Smith and Bumgarner together. If they went that route, there’s a good chance they’d have to part with Brusdar Graterol, the top pitching prospect in the organization. Graterol’s currently on the IL with a shoulder issue, which obviously hurts his trade stock, but he’s a consensus top-100 prospect with a fastball that touches 100 and great numbers in Double-A (1.89 ERA).
Again, giving up Graterol is significant, but if the Twins view this as an all-in year, trading Graterol to get two significant postseason pieces would make sense. Severino is a legit prospect–he’s currently the No. 14 prospect in the organization according to MLB.com–whom the Twins signed for $2.5 million last year out of the Dominican Republic. Severino was originally signed by Atlanta, but granted free agency after MLB determined the Braves circumvented international signing rules. He has the tools to eventually be a big leaguer, but is currently in Single-A and likely several years away.
Toronto is reportedly open to shopping Stroman. The Blue Jays are in full rebuild mode, and unlikely to compete before Stroman hits free agency after the 2020 season. He’s having a phenomenal 2019 (3.18 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.261 WHIP), and will be Toronto’s lone representative in the all-star game, though he won’t pitch due to a minor injury that’s not considered serious.
Stroman is a borderline ace who would likely slot in after Berrios in the rotation. With a year of team control after this season, the asking price will be very high, but the payoff could be huge for a Twins team looking to make a run both this season and next.
This is a lot to give up, but Stroman is the type of pitcher who commands this type of package. The Blue Jays have an obvious need for pitching, and haven’t gotten a lot of production out of their outfield this season outside of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Graterol and Rooker would fit both those needs, and allow Rooker the chance to get consistent big league at-bats, which he won’t get in Minnesota. Baddoo is a rangy centerfielder who’s still a couple of years away from the big leagues. He’s out for the rest of this season with an injury, but should be ready for spring training next season.
After missing two weeks with an injury, Giles is back and pitching well in the Blue Jays ‘pen. Along with Smith, he’s one of the most coveted relief arms on the market. Unlike Smith, he has another year of control after this season.
After a down year last season, Giles has been phenomenal this year. He has a 1.45 ERA, 15.4 K/9, and 1.000 WHIP. His walk rate is down and he’s not giving up many home runs, which was a problem last season. Paired with Taylor Rogers, Giles could be a game changer in October. Just like with Stroman, the extra year of control means the asking price will be high.
Duran and Maciel were acquired in the Eduardo Escobar trade last year. Duran’s fastball touches 100 and he’s having a good year for High-A Fort Myers (3.48 ERA, 11.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.177 WHIP). He’s the Twins’ third best pitching prospect according to MLB.com, and packaging him with fellow top-30 prospects Jax (2.04 ERA, 5.7 K/9 in Double-A) and Maciel (.320/.407/.393 across Low-A and High-A) may be enough to get a relief ace like Giles.