We’re only two months into the baseball season, and the Minnesota Twins are contending for the American League Central Division. You read that correctly.
The Twins are at a crossroads this year, thanks to a faster start than anyone predicted. We’re 48 games into the season, and the Twins are 26-22. They didn’t win 26 games last year until late July.
Sure, there’s a ton of baseball left and many things will change the rest of the summer. But in some respect, the Twins control their own destiny if their goal is to play in the postseason.
It’s an interesting time of the year in baseball. The non-waiver trade deadline looms on July 31, and front offices across the country are deciding whether it’s worth giving up their top prospects for a pitcher or player late in their current contract that could help them make a run. Here are four reasons why the Twins should be buyers at the MLB trade deadline.
Fast Start Has Twins Contending
The Twins are off to a start that nobody could have predicted. That said, they couldn’t have gotten much worse after losing 103 games last year. They never had a chance after starting 0-9. But after winning division titles in 2009 and 2010, the Twins went into a tailspin, having four straight seasons with at least 90 losses. They flirted with the playoffs in 2015, and then there was last year’s debacle.
The Twins got off to a fast start this year, largely with effective starting pitching and solid defense. They’ve had the lead in the division for most of the season, and appear to at least be in contention for it the rest of the season. That should have team executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine pondering what needs to be done to take it to the next level. Is it worth giving up minor league prospects to go after a player that can help you make a playoff run? That’s a decision they’ll be faced with, and sooner rather than later.
They Owe It To The Fans
The Twins were relevant in the playoff picture two years ago heading into the final weekend of the regular season. It left fans wanting more, despite ultimately not getting there. Fans then largely checked out last year, which is easy to do when you start 7-17 and have no chance at the playoffs after four weeks. That, coupled with four straight seasons of 90-plus losses, and the honeymoon period at Target Field was over. Sure, some fans will come out for a nice night at the ballpark.
But a majority want to go home at night with a victory, feeling good about their team’s potential. The Twins don’t have much of a history of making big moves before the trade deadline, but they also have new leadership in Falvey and Levine who aren’t afraid to shake things up. Yes, there’s a long-term plan in place and you don’t want to ignore that. But you can make changes now, get your fan base excited for this season and not abandon the future.
Molitor Still Managing For His Job
It sounds weird to say after a promising start, but there is no guarantee that Paul Molitor will return as manager next season. He’s in the final year of his contract, and didn’t receive an extension when Falvey and Levine arrived as the new leadership. The odd part to begin with is that team ownership said Molitor was their guy, when typically you let the new executives in charge make that call.
The better the Twins play this year and the longer they stay in playoff contention, the more the odds increase that Molitor will be back next year with a new contract. Among the most important things for any team to remain successful? Stability. Make a move or two before the trade deadline, and show your manager you want to invest in his playoff changes and his long-term future. Give the manager a chance to do his job successfully, and he’ll show you he’s worth it.
Offense Good Enough To Make Playoff Run
Here is a weird stat when it comes to the Twins: Before Wednesday’s game against the Astros, Minnesota was 19th in baseball in run differential at minus-12. They lead the AL Central Division, but they’ve allowed 12 more runs than they’ve scored. That said, the Twins have shown this year that if they miss the playoffs, it won’t be because of their offense. They need more starting pitching and more bullpen help.
Miguel Sano has emerged as one of the team’s top hitters and is dangerous any time he’s at the plate. Joe Mauer has been on fire as of late. Byron Buxton is picking things up after a horrible start. The Twins have hit 54 home runs in two months, led by Sano’s 12. The bottom line is the Twins’ offense is good enough to win a lot of games, if their pitching can hold up its end of the bargain.
The Twins are known historically for doing little to nothing at the trade deadline. They have prospects they don’t want to part with, and it’s typically not in their character to mortgage the future for success now. But you’re in contention when few thought you would be, so why not take a chance at a starter or reliever to energize your fan base?