The Twins completed a 3-6 road trip on Sunday, losing 3-2 to the Tigers as their losing streak hit five games. The Twins remain very much in the eight-team American League playoff picture but are now 1.5-games back and in third place in the AL Central.
Minnesota’s struggles include a complete lack of production at the plate. So with the MLB trade deadline arriving at 3 p.m. Monday, the question becomes whether the Twins will look to deal for help? Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, pointed out on a recent video call that the best moves his team will make in the coming weeks will be getting back several players from the injured list.
So who will be coming back, how much of a difference could they make and what is the confidence they will remain healthy? Let’s take a look at the five most important players who should be returning.
Injury: Right calf strain. He last played on July 31 and went on the injured list retroactive to Aug. 4.
Impact upon return: The third baseman, who might be able to return on the Twins’ upcoming eight-game home stand, only played in seven games and hit one home run before being forced from the lineup. Considering Donaldson received the biggest contract the Twins have ever given an outside free agent last winter (four years, $92 million), expectations remain extremely high for the 2015 AL MVP to play a large role in the Twins’ success. And, no, we aren’t talking only about success in the regular season.
Will he stay healthy? This one is concerning. Donaldson has dealt with calf problems in recent seasons and the Twins have been extremely cautious because they do not want him coming back too soon and being lost for the rest of this short season. When Donaldson does return, be prepared to hold your breath when he runs the bases.
What he could mean? On a scale of 1-10, Donaldson’s return could be a nine considering he’s not only a key part of the lineup but also very good in the field.
Injury: Left shoulder inflammation. He last played on Aug. 19 and went on the IL the next day.
Impact upon return: Buxton is the best center fielder in the big leagues and when things are going well on offense he provides speed on the bases and power at the plate. He can be one of the most exciting players in the game. The Twins have no one who comes close to his skill set.
Will he stay healthy? This is the million dollar question. Buxton has had issues staying in the lineup throughout his career and this injury appears to be an aggravation of the shoulder issue that ended his 2019 season. That has to be considered concerning.
What he could mean? This is a 10, assuming everything is clicking for Buxton.
Injury: Right intercostal strain. He last played on Aug. 19 and went on the IL the next day.
Impact upon return: This will depend on which version of the catcher returns. Garver led all big-league catchers with 31 home runs in 2019 but was off to a horrible start this season. He was slashing .154/.262/.212 with one home runs and two RBIs in 17 games. The Twins brought over Ryan Jeffers from St. Paul to replace Garver and he had four hits in 14 at-bats entering Saturday’s doubleheader in Detroit.
Will he stay healthy? This isn’t the big concern with Garver. What remains to be seen is if he can put his slump behind him when he does return. The Twins are making it sound as if it might be a while before Garver does return.
What he could mean? This is a 5, at best, at this point.
Injury: Bruised chest. He was hit by a come-backer against the Royals on Aug. 21 and went on the IL the next day.
Impact upon return: The veteran righthander is near the top of the rotation when he’s available, but that hasn’t been the case very much in 2020. Odorizzi opened the season on the injured list because of back pain and has only made three starts, carrying an 8.10 ERA in 10 innings. A healthy and effective Odorizzi would figure to be one of the Twins’ top starters in the postseason so his impact could be significant.
Will he stay healthy? Given how things have gone so far, it isn’t a slam dunk that the answer to this question is yes. This might be one of those years where nothing goes right. That would be a shame considering Odorizzi gambled on himself by accepting the Twins’ one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer last offseason with the hope of having a big season and hitting free agency this winter. If Odorizzi, doesn’t get on track, and with many teams probably reluctant to spend money this winter given how much revenue has been lost, it might not cost that much for the Twins to keep Odorizzi.
What he could mean? Knowing Odorizzi’s importance in this rotation when healthy, I’d put this at a 7.
Injury: There isn’t one. He’s been suspended since last September when he had an 80-game suspension reduced to 60 games by MLB after he tested positive for Hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic and common masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs. The Twins still decided to bring back Pineda on a two-year contract last winter after he went 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts.
Impact upon return: The righthander will be eligible to return after the Twins’ 36th game of the season. Right now, that’s scheduled to be following Monday’s game against the White Sox. Pineda has been working at the Twins’ alternate training site in St. Paul. While those players are participating in intrasquad games, it’s not the same as being able to throw in actual games in the minor leagues. All of this is saying it might take some time for Pineda to get back to normal, but he can work on that in the remaining month of the regular season.
Will he stay healthy? The only concern would be if the Twins rushed him as far as pitch counts go, but manager Rocco Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson aren’t going to do that.
What he could mean? Pineda turned into an effective starter for the Twins last season before his suspension and would have been in the playoff rotation. We’ll put this figure at a 6.