If you’re expecting the Twins to make a significant splash before the MLB trade deadline arrives at 3 p.m. Monday, Derek Falvey has a word of caution for you. “My early indications are that it might be on the quieter side,” Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, said during a video conference on Tuesday.
This should come as no surprise given that this year’s deadline will hit just over a month into the 60-game regular season and with 16 of the 30 teams in MLB set to grab playoff spots. The two top teams in each division in the AL and NL will make the postseason, as will the next two teams with the best record in each league. The Twins are in excellent shape, holding a 1.5-game lead on the Indians and White Sox after losing 4-2 on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
“We’re in touch with a lot of teams trying to figure out where there might be fits,” Falvey said. “I’ve said this before: There are a lot of clubs who you call right now who you might expect in a traditional season might be outside looking in and ready to unload some pieces. That’s not the feeling I get. I feel like there’s a lot of clubs that still view themselves (as being) within shouting distance of that seventh, eighth spot in both the AL and NL that want to try and compete for it. That could change over the next week, but I still feel like there’s probably more buyers in the market than there are sellers.”
The trade deadline will serve as the Twins’ final chance to add outside help to bolster their roster. The defending AL Central champions are looking to end their MLB-record postseason losing streak at 16 games. Minnesota currently has a lengthy injury list that includes catcher Mitch Garver, third baseman Josh Donaldson and center fielder Byron Buxton. They are joined on the IL by starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Homer Bailey and relievers Cody Stashak and Zack Littell.
Falvey points to the return of some of the above players, along with starting pitcher Michael Pineda, as the most valuable additions the Twins will get. Pineda was suspended for 60 games late last season for taking a banned diuretic and will be eligible to return late this month after sitting out the opening 36 games of the season.
“When we look at our club, we see a team that’s performing pretty well on the field,” Falvey said. “There’s certainly always opportunities to try and get better, but I really look at a lot of our group that’s coming back to this team as a way for us to meaningfully improve just already, organically, in-house. Josh coming back will be a huge addition for our lineup. Byron Buxton is on a good course here. He came in (Monday) and (Tuesday) feeling much improved, got some swings in and feels like he’s progressing really well. Those types of talents you don’t acquire at the deadline more often than not. You don’t get that kind of impact with players like that.”
Donaldson, whom the Twins signed to a four-year, $92 million contract in the offseason, has missed 21 games because of a right calf strain. Buxton is dealing with inflammation in his left shoulder and Garver is still a ways from returning after suffering a right intercostal strain. Both Buxton and Garver were injured on the Twins’ last home stand. Pineda and Odorizzi’s returns figure to help the starting rotation — Odorizzi suffered a chest contusion when he was hit by a come-backer last weekend in Kansas City — but every team can use more arms this time of year.
As Falvey mentioned, there are going to be plenty of teams that will be reluctant to sell because they consider themselves to be contenders to make the best-of-three first round. This also means that the teams that do put their players on the market are going to be asking for plenty in return. What makes this deadline even more interesting is that only guys in each team’s 60-man player pool can be traded, although deals with players to be name later will be allowed. Then there is the issue of guys who might not want to be traded away from their families to an unfamiliar city during a pandemic. There would be the option for those players to opt-out, likely putting an end to any agreement that was made.
Those are reasons trades might not happen, but Falvey also cautions against being certain things won’t get done. “One thing I’ve learned about the trade deadline is just buckle up in the last 48 to 72 hours because that’s when it seems like most of the calls occur,” he said. “I would anticipate still this year having the vast majority of our dialogue, if any at that point, happening in the last 24 to 48 hours is my best guess.”
There could be some teams looking to dump salary now because of a loss of revenue from fans not being allowed into games this season. But Falvey said that hasn’t been a primary topic either internally or with other teams in recent days.
“We’ve talked a lot internally about potential future obligations, and what payrolls look like for us in the short term, long term, all those things,” he said. “I don’t sense that this trade deadline that’s been a lot of our conversation. I anticipate going into the offseason potentially having more dialogue around that. … In the early going, I think a lot of it is pretty traditional. If a team thinks they are within a stones throw of a playoff position they are going to try to stay in it as long as possible, and because there are just more playoff positions now, I think there’s more clubs in that conversation. In terms of longer-term discussions, my sense is the market looks a lot more like it has in the past. A lot of short-term rental conversations, maybe free agents to be. Those types of discussions are the most common ones we’ve had so far.”
Another interesting factor will be how much stock teams put in trying to win the World Series in such an odd and hurried season and whether that might cause some clubs to simply stick with their roster and see what happens.
“Our guys, and internally for us, we don’t view it any differently,” Falvey said. “You could make an argument that over 162 games and a full playoff stretch and winning during that year, it’s challenging. You’re going to face adversity through that. I could argue and I probably would argue that over a 60-game season, and facing what we’ve had to face in terms of travel challenges and some of the protocols and the lack of traditional ramp up to go into the season and all the other unique realities to the season, (that) maybe we face more adversity this year than at any other season, certainly in my career and probably for a lot of people’s careers in the game.
“Whoever is crowned the champion at the end of all this, I think deserves it. They probably persisted through a lot of ups and downs and health and otherwise. That’s the way our guys view it. They’re going out to try to compete every night to win this World Series. That’s the goal. And that hasn’t changed from the day we showed up in Fort Myers to the day we re-started here in summer camp.
“With respect to the trade deadline and how that impacts that, I’ve never really viewed the one move at the deadline to be the single answer. I think that the group that is within our walls right now is going to be the vast majority of what will carry us ultimately to whatever outcome we get to this year. I still feel that way. If there are ways to help our club and opportunities that present (themselves), certainly. But we’re going to do it on the backs of a lot of the people who are already within this organization.”