Best record in baseball at 48-24 with an American League leading +115 run differential. A 10-game lead in the AL Central and leading the MLB in practically every offensive category (HR, Runs, OPS, Total Bases, SLG). Needless to say, the Twins are the surprise team in the first half of the season.
FansGraphs currently gives the Twins a 98.4% chance to make the playoffs, but they should not rest on their laurels. With the playoffs essentially a certainty, the Twins have to gear up to face the murderer’s row that is the AL Playoff opponents. You know the Yankees, Astros and Red Sox will make impact moves to bolster their already-stacked rosters in the coming month.
The Twins can’t afford to sit on their hands. They need to make a splash before the trade deadline. Now is the time to go all in for their first championship in 28 years.
Luckily for the Twins, there is a recent case study of a surprise team putting all the chips on the table and having it pay off. The 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals. Returning the majority of their nucleus from the 2014 AL Pennant team, the 2015 squad found themselves comfortably in first place at the trade deadline. They went on to shock the league, trading for ace Johnny Cueto and super utility man Ben Zobrist. Those two pieces proved especially valuable in October as Cueto threw a complete game gem in game two of the World Series while Zobrist hit .303 throughout the playoffs.
Minnesota finds themselves in a similar position and has the pieces to pull some moves off. They have a deep, top-ten rated farm system that they can tap into for impact deals to be made. In my opinion, the only prospects who aren’t for sale are SS Royce Lewis (7th ranked prospect in all baseball) and OF Alex Kirilloff (13th ranked prospect overall).
I’d advise Minnesota to add the following pieces:
- Madison Bumgarner. San Francisco is in full sell mode and Bumgarner will surely be the belle of the ball at the trade deadline. The Twins are fortunately not one of the teams on Bumgarner’s no trade list. In Bumgarner, the Twins will have their big game pitcher. He has regained his velocity since his 2017 dirt bike accident and his 2.11 ERA in 102.1 playoff innings is impossible not to drool at. I think the return for Bumgarner could be the pitcher Brusdar Graterol (Twins #3 prospect / #55 overall) and a 10-15th ranked prospect in the Twins system. The Giants’ farm system is depleted and with MadBum being a free agent at the end of the year, I believe this trade is a win-win. The only question is if the Twins can outbid the other suitors.
- A bullpen arm. Shortening games is critical and nothing does that better than a loaded bullpen. Currently, their bullpen is their weak spot so I think they will need to be particularly active on this front. Possibilities include Will Smith from SF (2.12 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 13.35 K/9), Greg Holland from ARZ (1.99 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 11.51 K/9) and Jake Diekman from KC (4.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 13.50 K/9). Virtually every contender will be adding a bullpen guy at the deadline, but the Twins need to prioritize strengthening their Achilles’ heel.
- A veteran bat. Much of the Twins success this year can be attributed to the off-season moves made to the offense (Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop, and C.J. Cron). To reinforce the team’s biggest strength, I think they need to look to add a bat to come off the bench. Obvious, lower cost options include Melky Cabrera or Corey Dickerson from the Pirates, who will be looking to clear their outfield logjam. Another option would be utility man Eric Sograd from the Blue Jays who is currently having a career year slashing (.287 AVG / .353 OBP / .473 SLG).
The Twins aren’t like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Astros, or Cubs. As a smaller market team, their window is much more narrow. I hope they completely go for it.
*Statistics as of Wednesday, 6/19*