So, who is the most frustrated team in the majors right now? What about the Twins who have just finished an audacious streak of 21-2 over 23 games, but the leader of the division, the Tigers, have had as nearly a remarkable run, and the Twins remained 9 games out. Or how about the White Sox, who went on a simlar run, but have a much closer view of the Tigers' backside? It's neither. The most frustrated team right now has to be the Cincinatti Reds who have watched the first place St. Louis Cardinals stumble of late, including an 8 game losing streak but still can't find their way atop the division because the Reds can't seem to get their act together either, and Cincinatti remains in second place.
The fact is, however, that I'm a homer and I'm going to talk Twins. They've been pretty hot lately and Terry Ryan's plans may have changed from selling to not buying at the trade deadline. If I were GM, however, I would be looking at my teams strengths and weaknesses to figure out what to do, if not for this year, then for next year. With the emerging production from young players, it's clear that the Twins will be competitive next year as well, so dealing off Torii Hunter or Shannon Stewart isn't a great idea, as they can still produce. Lew Ford, on the other hand, may be a different story. More on that later. Let's look at the squads strengths and weaknesses. and figure out what the team needs to do.STRENGTHS:
Outfield - The Twins have five solid players in the outfield right now, in Hunter, Stewart, Ford, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. It's clear that one of them should be a DH, with the other three playing every day. You get the best range with Stewart, Hunter, and Ford, the best arms by adding Kubel or Cuddyer and replacing Stewart and the best bats right now are Stewart's, Kubel's and Cuddyer's. Well, Hunter is a franchise player, whether or not anyone in Minnesota believes it. Since Kirby Puckett retired, he's the only player voted into the All-Star Game from this squad. Dealing him sacrafices the casual fan (whom the Twins hope to attract with the new stadium) as well as any reputation for loyalty. Besides, he's not bad in the field. That makes Ford the odd man out here.
The middle of the lineup - Starting with Joe Mauer batting third, who leads the majors in average, then followed by any combination of Justin Morneau, Cuddyer, Hunter and Stewart has been productive, although I would rather see Stewart batting second behind Luis Castillo to give Mauer a few more shots at some RBI. Nevertheless, the Twins shouldn't be in the market for a feature bat.
Pitching - There are some brilliant pitchers on this team, including All-Star Johan Santana, potential All-Star Phenom Francisco Liriano and closer Joe Nathan. Juan Rincon is serving well in the set up role and Brad Radke, Carlos Silva and Jesse Crain appear to be coming around. The Twins are almost assured 3 wins for every 5 games for the rest of the season.WEAKNESSES:
Consistency - With as much youth on this team, its tough to get any consistency out of this squad. The biggest problems stem from young pitchers in the 5th rotation spot as well as a continuing issue at third base.
The top of the order - Again, this is an easy fix, as I've already mentioned. Simply replacing Nick Punto in the two slot with Stewart. But then, the end of the lineup would be weak, which is another problem.
Pitching - After Santana, Liriano is yet to face the challenges of an entire season, I don't yet trust Radke after his auspicous start and there is still that pesky problem of establishing a fifth starter. There aren't any inspiring middle relievers, unless you fully trust Kyle Lohse or Crain, which I don't think the Twins organization does.
So what does that leave the Twins with, in terms of deadline moves? There is only one to be made, and to whom for what depends on the course of the season. The Twins haven't been good at trading assets in there prime for help at present or down the road, but I think this is the season to do it. Lew Ford is only two years removed from his breakout year and has several good years left, although at nearly thirty years old, he doesn't stand to improve dramatically. Also, if the Twins falter, Ford would make an excellent fourth outfielder for a team in contention, (Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Rockies come to mind) and if the Twins do stay hot and get in the race, he would make a good chip to trade to, say, the Devil Rays for Aubrey Huff, a great second half player who conveniently plays third base.
There will be some grumbling that "we love Lew Ford" and, "Lew ford is a good player, why trade him?" But, here's the problem. If we want good players, unless we're trading with the Knicks, we have to give up some assets. So in short, trading Kyle Lohse or Rondell White doesn't sound likely, as there aren't many teams in the market for an inconsistent head case or someone whos's just plain broken. So don't look for those guys to be traded, but more likely released or placed on waivers some time this season.
And from my end, I would appreciate it if we acquire a third baseman who could stay with the team for a while. I am of the opinion that an established player is better than a prospect, going back to that old cliche a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But again, I'm not the GM. We'll have to see what Terry Ryan does in the next month. - Ryan