The Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline is two weeks away, and the Minnesota Twins remain playoff contenders.
Despite losing two of three games out of the All-Star break at Houston, the Twins remain on the heels of the Cleveland Indians, 1.5 games back in the American League Central Division. Even if they don’t win the division, the Twins will likely spend the rest of the summer at least in contention for a Wild Card playoff spot.
It would mean a one-game playoff to move on in the postseason. It’s a nice turnaround to see competitive baseball after the Twins lost 103 games last year, and lost 90-plus in four of the last five seasons. That said, the Twins aren’t without flaws. Those flaws are mostly on the mound.
Here are four possibilities that the Twins could target before the MLB trade deadline.
After Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, the Twins need starting pitching and they need it badly. Adalberto Mejia pitched into the sixth inning Monday night in a win over the Yankees. Newly-acquired Bartolo Colon, at 44 years old, makes his Twins debut Tuesday. The rest of the Twins’ starters includes Kyle Gibson, and they keep trotting him out there despite Gibson giving them every reason to get rid of him. He’s 5-8 on the season with a 6.39 earned run average, though he did pitch well enough in his last outing to give the Twins a chance to win.
But can you rely on Gibson and Mejia the rest of the season? That’s a tough sell. One of the few starters the Twins could pursue is Sonny Gray from Oakland. He’s currently 5-4 in 14 starts with a 3.73 ERA in 84 2/3 innings. He’s only allowed eight home runs, and has 79 strikeouts with 26 walks. He can certainly make an impact on the back half of the starting rotation. But what would the Twins have to give up to get him?
There is as much uncertainty with the Twins bullpen as there is the starting rotation. One night, they throw strikes and shut down opposing hitters. The next night, they’re a disaster. The Twins need some stability in the bullpen, and it could come with some trades. One name to watch is Twin Cities native Pat Neshek, currently with the Philadelphia Phillies. Neshek spent four seasons with the Twins.
He was an All-Star this year and is 2-2 with the Phillies with a 1.21 ERA. He has 40 strikeouts and just five walks. His awkward and fidgety delivery makes it difficult for hitters to pick up the baseball. He could be the late inning reliever the Twins need to hold a lead.
Keeping with the “one of us” theme, San Diego Padres reliever Brad Hand should one of the top trade options on the Twins radar. He’s a Chaska native, and is a left-handed pitcher in his seventh major league season. He spent his first five seasons with the Marlins, originally as a starting pitcher.
Hand has made 43 appearances with the Padres this year and has a 2.25 ERA in 48 innings. He has 61 strikeouts and 13 walks. It might take a lot to trade for him, but he’s a left-handed pitcher, and good relief pitching is something the Twins need badly right now. And when you can trade for a left-handed reliever, you do it.
Another reliever that might be available, though probably unlikely for the Twins, is Justin Wilson of the Detroit Tigers. While not impossible, it is unusual for teams within their own division to make trades with each other. The Twins did it not so long ago, when they sent Francisco Liriano to the White Sox.
Wilson is in his sixth MLB season and second with the Tigers. He’s another left-handed reliever and is 3-3 on the season in 37 appearances with a 2.29 ERA. He has 50 strikeouts and 13 walks. You can never have enough left-handed pitching, and it depends on what the Tigers would want in return.
The Twins, like many teams, are in a holding pattern for the moment with two weeks to go until the trade deadline. The longer they stay in contention, the more they’ll be forced to make moves that will give them a chance at the postseason. But they’ve also made it clear if they are going to make trades, they want to do it for players who will stay with the organization after this season. They are known historically for either selling or staying pat at the deadline, so with new management, it might be time to shake things up and make moves to excite the fan base.