Saturday, July 02, 2011

Buyers? Sellers? Neither? Both?

There is a lot of speculation out there about whether the Twins will be "buyers or sellers" at the trade deadline. This is an annual game played by the junior GM's in the blogsphere who have speculative roto-style wheeling and dealing as a significant part of their enjoyment of the game.

To put things in perspective. The Twins need to gain 3 games per month in order to win the division. To match that pace they will need to be 5 games out at the end of July. But what if they are 7 games out? Then they need to pick up 4 games per month in August and September, much tougher but entirely impossible. How about 9 games out? Still tougher. Not impossible but almost requiring that the teams ahead of them tank. If both Cleveland and Detroit are 9 games up it is very, very unlikely the Twins can catch both of them no matter how well Morneau hit's when he returns.

I laid out those scenarios, because frankly the most likely spot for the Twins to be in at the trade deadline is exactly where they are now. Of course, they may have played themselves out of contention altogether. But it more likely they will be neither out of the division race, nor really in it either.

What that means for deals is that the Twins will be cautious buyers and perhaps willing sellers for immediate help. As willing sellers they have a surplus in the outfield and at DH with both Kubel and Cuddyer becoming free agents at the end of the year. They also are six deep in their rotation with a couple prospects (Swarzak and Gibson) who might be able to step in if someone is injured.

As cautious buyers, the bullpen is the most likely area for improvement. Dumatrait and Mijares being the obvious weak links at this point. Although, Burnett's recent performance indicates he might be settling in he is still an unproven commodity. Likewise, Nathan may or may not be ready to step in to late inning situations. But by the end of the month, the questions about Burnett and Nathan should be answered. Its also possible Mijares will right himself over the next month. But adding a quality reliever seems like the Twins most likely target.

The infield is the other area for improvement. This is where the "cautious" buyer part comes in. I don't think the Twins are going to be ready to do a deal for short term improvement at the expense of their long term plans. Nishioka and Casilla are the Twins future middle infield. Its doubtful they will mess with that unless one or both really collapses in July. Much the same can be said with Valencia, although his continued failures with the bat are starting to look like permanent flaws rather than a bad streak.

What we shouldn't expect is the Twins to make a Capps-Ramos deal, trading the future for short term help. Nor should we expect them to trade away players who are still important pieces of winning this year, like Capps, Pavano, Nathan ... , for a handful of prospects who might help down the road.

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