Saturday, June 19, 2010

What do the Twins need?

The Twins, at present, find themselves but a half game in front of the Tigers in the American League Central. This can be attributed to many things: bad pitching, bad managing, a lack of depth and most importantly, injuries and the hot streak put together by the Tigers. Seeing as the Twins can't do anything about those two key factors, the injuries and the Tigers, we can only look at the first three options. Many, including the Twins front office don't share the "bad managing" opinion, so we are left with these two problem areas to address: bad pitching and a lack of depth.
The pitching, for the most part, isn't AS bad as everyone thinks. They are 8th in the majors in ERA, and Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn are the two starters with ERAs above 4. Baker, if his last start is an indication, is coming around. Blackburn signed a contract extension, and it's unlikely any moves involving him will be made. The strange hing about all of this is that there haven't been any major injuries on the rotation freeing up a spot. The only way a move gets made is if there is an injury, or if Blackburn goes down with an "injury".
Even if that happens, what do they do? The case has been made that the Twins need a legitimate ace, and not another third starter. The best two on the market are going to be Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Lee would be here for three months. Would you want to give up Wilson Ramos for three months of Cliff Lee? Furthermore, there was a proposal on local radio today positing a Slowey/Ramos swap for Lee, which is the most absurd piece of garbage I have heard. Essentially, you are swapping one of the better pitchers in the rotation and the most valuable trading trip for 1 or 2 extra wins. Lee would replace Slowey in the rotation, a net gain of maybe a win or two as I mentioned, and the glaring Blackburn shaped hole would still be there. Add to that the fact that we would be left without Ramos, Slowey and probably Lee for next season. Roy Oswalt would like a contract extension if he gets traded. That in itself is prohibitive. It would all but ensure Carl Pavano and Michael Cuddyer's departure, due to a lack of funds. Great, now Kubel is playing the field, and we're STILL short a man in the bull pen.And that's without discussing who the Astros might want.
The best fit for the Twins might be the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie, a good young pitcher with a couple of years left. That would certainly entice the Twins to part with some of their top prospects... but the O's have Matt Wieters, and Ramos would be blocked there too. I think that yes, the Twins should try to bolster their rotation, however I think they have their hands tied.
The bullpen is another issue. They will be getting Clay Condrey back eventually, and there are always arms available to pick up an inning or two at the end of games around this time of year. Last year, the Twins picked up Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay, with season saving results. I would be surprised if the Twins didn't manage to add an arm from a team falling apart down the stretch again this year. The Star Tribune has mentioned Michael Wuertz of Oakland as a potential fit. Relatively speaking, bullpen trades are easy.
So too is infield depth. With the injuries to Hudson and Hardy, the stream of crap coming into the lineup from Alexi Casilla to Matt Tolbert to Nick Punto to the not yet ready Trevor Plouffe has been unbearable. It's compounded, of course, by the fact that Gardenhire will always put one of them in the 2 spot when Hudson isn't in the lineup. There are a lot of candidates to take over in the middle infield, and a handful of them are pushed around every summer. With the Cubs looking ready to blow things up, how would Ryan Theriot look in a Twins uniform? I think he would make a good addition, especially if we assume that Danny Valencia will take over at third.
Expect a few trades from the Twins this offseason, as there are some holes that are more easily fixed in the middle of the season. I bet they will make a move for a third baseman, despite the lack of a true need, especially if Mike Lowell is the only option there. Just don't expect a blockbuster this year.

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