Twins Need to Regroup and Reload For 2012

It took 20 runs on 27 hits, with three errors on defense and four walks allowed to beat into The Common Man that it’s time for the Twins to write off 2011. This is a Twins team that has a core of players that could, potentially, go on a run and become a factor in a very poor AL Central. But the fact remains that the Twins are seven games back and looking up at three teams, at least two of which are probably actually better than they are in terms of true talent.

It’s nice to get Jason Kubel back. And Denard Span will be a nice addition to the lineup when he’s fully recovered from his concussion. And even Justin Morneau might be able to come back before the year is done. But the fact remains that none of them are going to be able to pitch out of the bullpen and none of them are going to be able to stabilize a starting rotation that has proven to be a huge disappointment. Baseball Prospectus gives Minnesota a 3.2% chance to make the postseason, while CoolStandings gives them just a 1.1% shot. It’s time to face the fact that this Twins team probably is not good enough, as it’s currently constructed, to come back this year.

In light of that sad reality, it’s important for the Twins to maximize the value they can still get out of this season by engaging in a limited firesale. Not everybody has to go, but the following players absolutely should.

Must Go:

Michael Cuddyer

Cuddy is the Twins most tradable asset at this point. He’s at .296/.371/.466 for the year with 14 homers. He’s a gen-u-ine, certified All Star. He also at least appears to be flexible enough on defense to make him a possibility for a number of teams. He’s also a free agent at the end of 2011, making him an ideal rental player for teams with long-term payroll concerns. With the glut of outfielders the Twins currently have on their roster and coming up through the minors, Cuddyer is very expendable. He also might be the second best bat available on the market, behind Carlos Beltran. The trouble, of course, is that the Twins have publically said they’re not interested in dealing him, and that they actually would like to re-sign him this offseason (undoubtedly to a huge contract that Cuddyer won’t be worth). Trading him now might interfere with those plans (yes, please).

The Giants have shown a lot of interest, though they could be using that as leverage to drop the price on Carlos Beltran. The Phillies or the Pirates may also want an outfield bat who they can use for their stretch runs. Or, and here’s a crazy thought, perhaps the Brewers might want to use him at 3B.

Jason Kubel

Kubel is a better pure hitter than Cuddyer is, and as a lefty may be more in demand in, say, Pittsburgh, which has an invitingly short RF power alley. Like Cuddyer, he’s also a free agent at the end of 2011, but unlike Cuddyer, the club is much less attached to him as a person due to his numerous injuries and disappointing performances over the years. He’s also a poor defender, who could ideally be a left-handed DH for, say, the Angels. He won’t bring as much in return as Cuddyer, but the team that gets Jason Kubel will probably be happier with his performance, provided he’s healthy.

Matt Capps

The 2011 meltdown of Matt Capps has simultaneously guaranteed the Twins will not pursue him this offseason and destroyed his current value. That said, he’s owed another $3 million or so this season, and anything the Twins can get from him, and as much of his contract as they can get out from under, they should. This is especially important since Capps currently, according to MLB Trade Rumors, projects as a Type A free agent. There’s almost no chance the Twins will risk Capps accepting arbitration by offering it to him, especially given how the free agent compensation system tends to destroy relievers’ value. That said, there are much better relievers on the market, and it’s not likely the Twins will be getting any calls about Capps.

Kevin Slowey

Slowey is under team control for at least two more seasons and is a good 3-4 quality MLB starting pitcher. That said, the Twins have soured on him significantly, and there is almost no chance, barring a regime change at Target Field, that he will contribute wins to the club in that time. He’s angry, the Twins are angry, the press is angry, and the Twins have effectively destroyed his value by bouncing him to the bullpen and publically questioning his attitude. It’s simply time for the Twins to move on, and to get whatever they can for him.

Jose Mijares

Relievers simply aren’t that valuable, and if you can get a real piece back in a deal for them, you take it, especially when they’ve been as erratic as Mijares has.  At least he’s left-handed, which increases his value somewhat.

If the right deal comes along:

Jim Thome

Thome could be another good fit in Anaheim, or perhaps for the Yankees, but the Twins will undoubtedly be reluctant to move the 40 year old before he hits his 600th homer. It’s a nice marketing opportunity for the club, and Thome is extremely popular. He’s also not likely to bring back anything of real value given his age and limitations.

Carl Pavano

Pavano’s disappointing 2011 hasn’t been too fundamentally different from his 2010, even though his velocity is down. Instead of being a league-average workhorse, he’s a slightly-below-average workhorse. There are worse pitchers available on the current trade market. However, Pavano is owed another $8.5 million next year, and is a potential collapse risk given his diminished speed. Clubs may rightfully be wary of taking that on. That said, if the Twins can get a real prospect from a Pavano trade, they’d be smart to move the 35 year old. Otherwise, keeping him around to try and solidify the 2012 rotation wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Alexi Casilla

Casilla is not a great player. He’s streaky and was very stretched at shortstop earlier this year. But there is a dearth of good middle infielders available this deadline, and the Twins might actually get something useful back for a player of limited value who is a fallback option, not a building block. With no obvious successor (unless Plouffe counts), and with Casilla under team control at a reasonable rate for the next couple seasons, the Twins shouldn’t move him unless they’re able to get real value out of the deal

Take this, please!

Delmon Young

Young is the player that The Common Man simply cannot be rational about. Everything about watching Delmon Young play baseball hurts TCM down to his core. He’s unathletic and slow. He plays defense like a 12 year old in the outfield during the Home Run Derby. And, when he hits, it often seems like he decides even before the pitch, whether he’s going to swing or not. He also has terrible instincts and has not progressed as a player past where he was when the Twins got him four years ago. No one is likely to be interested in Delmon, but if anybody wants to take him off the Twins’ hands, it would be fine with TCM. Send us a bucket of balls. Anything. Getting rid of Young provides the Twins with salary relief, and removes the temptation to re-sign Delmon if he even shows a flicker of promise next year, at least.

Nick Blackburn

Blackburn was wildly overrated and given a contract extension going into 2010 that will last through 2013 at least. No one is going to take on another $10 million over the next two years for Blackburn. But if they would, the Twins should jump at it, no matter who is offering and what they’re offering to send them.

Drew Butera

Call Mike Scioscia and tell him he can have Drew Butera for Hank Conger. Then Scioscia can have two Jeff Mathises, just like he always wanted.

Do not move:

Denard Span

There are reports that the Nationals have inquired about Denard Span. While it’s fine to discuss any player in the abstract, Span is under team control for the next four seasons at very reasonable prices. The Twins should have to be bowled over to make any deal involving Span, even with a glut of young outfielders on the horizon. Having two young, cheap centerfielders in Span and Revere is not a problem. It’s a chance to improve your outfield defense, and it’s insurance in case someone like Aaron Hicks or Joe Benson takes a step back in their development.

Anyone who is currently in the minor leagues and not named “Kevin Slowey.” Also, Morneau, Mauer, and Baker.

Seriously, you’re building for the future. Save your bullets.

What do you target?

Obviously, any player who could have MLB value is a possibility and a good guy to get. But if they have a chance to be choosey, the Twins would do well to look into any middle infield help that is close to MLB-ready. Casilla is replaceable or movable, and Nishioka has been a complete disappointment. Starting pitchers would also be good pieces to acquire.

What do you steer away from?

Minor league relievers. Most relievers are failed starters anyway, as Glen Perkins reminds us. Build up a surplus of potential starters and move the excess to the pen, don’t take on guys who never were considered even candidates for the rotation. That’s how you end of up with Jim Hoey and Brent Jacobson.