Part one of this series proposed five trades that could make sense for the Twins, as they seek to reinforce their bullpen and potentially add a starter.
Part two continues that discussion…
Hoo boy. This would take a lot. With a year and a half of control each, Toronto wouldn’t part with these two unless they were overwhelmed. So, let’s overwhelm them.
You may not have heard of Balazovic yet, but that’s going to change. The right-hander from Canada has been phenomenal between Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers. He has a 2.74 ERA, 12.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. His fastball has reached the high-90s this year, and he’s shown impeccable command. He was just named to the Futures Game last week. Balazovic will surely be a top-100 prospect going into next season, and has the upside to be an eventual ace. Many already rank him above Graterol as the top pitching prospect in the organization. Alcala came over in the Ryan Pressly trade last season. He has a big fastball and high strikeout rate, but has struggled in Double-A (6.69 ERA) in his age-23 season. Still, he’s a highly-thought-of prospect who would be a nice second piece in this type of mega deal. Keirsey is a corner outfielder with pop and some speed whom the Twins selected in the fourth round last year out of Utah, and Raley is a kicker in the deal who was having a strong year at Triple-A (.302/.362/.516) before being sidelined with an injury.
I don’t think Cleveland’s going to sell, given their recent surge and standing in the wild card race. However, for argument’s sake, let’s say they go into a tailspin over the next three weeks and decide to cut bait on Bauer. What would it take for the Twins to get him? A lot. Bauer has a year of team control after this season, and is having another very good season. He has a 3.61 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 1.174 WHIP for the Indians, while consistently pitching deep in games. It’s unclear whether Cleveland would even consider trading him to their top division rival, but trading within the division isn’t thought of as the cardinal sin it once was.
Would this be enough? Graterol and Larnach rank as the No. 3 and 4 prospects for Minnesota, respectively. Larnach, the Twins’ first round pick last season, is having an excellent year at High-A Fort Myers (.303/.372/.448) and projects as a big league corner outfielder. Cleveland is weak in the corner outfield positions, and Larnach could fill that role as soon as mid-2020. Bauer, meanwhile, would slot in as potentially the Twins’ No. 1 starter in October, and certainly no lower than two. This trade would also effectively eliminate Cleveland as a contender in the Central in 2019, and probably 2020.
The Chaska, MN native would be coming home to the team he (presumably) cheered for growing up. Hand is signed through 2020, so his price tag would also be very high. He’s one of the premier relievers in the American League (2.17 ERA, 13.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.991 WHIP), and acquiring him would essentially be like adding a second Taylor Rogers to the bullpen. He’d be a difference maker in October.
Javier was viewed as one of the top two or three prospects in the organization before an injury derailed his 2018 season. He’s back in 2019, but isn’t playing well (.153/.254/.225) in Cedar Rapids yet. Nevertheless, the talent is there, and for a team that would be going into full rebuild mode if they traded Hand (and likely others), Javier could be the shortstop of the future in Cleveland, if Francisco Lindor leaves in two and a half years, as many expect. Blankenhorn is a solid, but not elite, third base prospect with pop (17 home runs across High-A and Double-A).
Getting Bauer and Hand from Cleveland would send shockwaves through the A.L. Central. Not only would it essentially hand the division to the Twins in 2019, it would make them heavy favorites in 2020. Like with Stroman and Giles, it would take a huge return to get them.
Too much? Maybe, but you have to give up a lot to get a lot. Bauer and Hand would arguably be the two best pitchers on the staff after Jose Berrios, and the Twins would have them for this October and next.
Graterol could be ready as soon as next season, if the injury isn’t serious. Gordon could take over at second base for Jason Kipnis, who will likely depart via free agency at the end of the season, assuming Cleveland doesn’t pick up his $16.5 million option. Javier and Enlow are both projects, but highly regarded. Enlow was the Twins’ third round pick out of high school in 2017, and is the No. 10 prospect in the organization, according to MLB.com. He’s already up to High-A in his age 19 season, where he has a 1.95 ERA.
Yates, a hard-throwing closer for the Padres with a nasty splitter, is under team control through 2020. He’s having a phenomenal year (1.15 ERA, 13.8 K/9, 0.795 WHIP). With a year of team control beyond this year, San Diego would want a lot, and the fact that they’re only two games back in the wild card complicates things further. However, they have a .500 record and no chance of catching the Dodgers in the division, so selling seems like the wise bet.
Jeffers was the Twins’ second round pick last year out of UNC-Wilmington. He’s a power-hitting catcher who’s putting up very solid numbers this year for High-A Fort Myers (.265/.335/.433). The Padres already have catching prospect Francisco Mejia, but he’s struggled so far in the big leagues and there are questions about his ability to stick defensively, so Jeffers could be a nice fit. Larnach gives them a high-upside corner outfielder who could be an everyday player by mid-2020 or 2021.