GM For A Deadline, Part One
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsThe idea of supplementing last year’s playoff roster with new additions to the rotation (Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn), adding three proven players to the back of the bullpen (Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke) and plugging the potential of 30+ home runs (Logan Morrison) to an already potent offense raised expectations through the roof.
But instead - with the last eleven games being an exception - it has been a disaster. Even with the great end to the first half, the Twins are still on pace to lose the division by 13 games. Though the front office will have two more weeks to make their final decision, they should have the answer already. You can’t give a superior team a head start over a half season and then expect to catch them over the second half.
All of that is long for simply saying: LET’S MAKE SOME TRADES!
The two big names to move, Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, are going to get the ink in this part of of the rundown. We’ll look at the rest of the players soon thereafter.
First, let’s look at Brian Dozier. Dozier ended the first half with a walk-off grand slam and gives hope that maybe he’s warming up for one of his (mostly) annual second-half power runs. He will be owed just shy of $3 million for August and September. There are a handful of teams competing for playoff spots that have big needs at second base: Milwaukee, Boston and Washington come at the top of the list.
Washington might have to wait until closer to the deadline before determining if they are buyers or sellers. That leaves the Brewers and Red Sox, in my opinion, as the two teams with the biggest need at second base.
The Brewers are unique. They have a big hole at shortstop and have Jonathan Villar, a serviceable player, at second base. But Villar has had a rough year and is now on the disabled list with a thumb injury that will sideline him until the end of the month.
I’ve liked what the Brewers have done in terms of adding to their farm system via the draft and trades and I also like their move for Christian Yelich, which took some of those players I liked out of their system.
But potentially dealing Dozier to the Brewers starts with prized pitching prospect Corbin Burnes. Burnes is a 23 year old right-handed pitcher who is a Top 100 prospect in baseball and projects as a mid-rotation starter. He’s only in his second full season and projects to help the Brewers in the bullpen during the stretch run. I’d expect the Brewers to balk at that asking price. Beyond him, the Brewers lack the high-end pitcher I’d be targeting.
Brewers fans would suggest Luis Ortiz, but he has always struggled to stay healthy, missing time this season with a hamstring strain and failing to ever eclipse the 100 inning mark in a season. When you take that next step down in the prospect category, you’re looking at a number of outfielders, which is a position I’d try to avoid. (While it’s true you can never have too much depth at any position, I’m more than comfortable with the depth the Twins have in the outfield and would prefer to look elsewhere.)
In addition to focusing on pitching, I’m also looking for middle infielders and Mauricio Dubon is a good one… who is missing the rest of the year with a torn ACL. It would take more than an injured infielder to give up Dozier.
I also know the Twins liked burly RHP Cody Ponce coming out of college. Currently pitching at AA, Ponce projects as a back-end starter. Taking either of them plus a lower level prospect isn’t exciting as Burnes, but it’s possible that it could be enough.
The preferred destination for me - and it’s a perfect fit with Dustin Pedroia likely missing the rest of the season - is Boston. The Red Sox always have ammo. Some of it is very appealing.
I don’t see the Red Sox shopping Michael Chavis or Jay Groome for a rental. Bryan Mata, though, might be a fair ask. Mata played in the Futures Game, but has struggled with his command, walking 57 in 71 innings. The tall righty has a high-ceiling though, playing high A ball at only 19. A step below Mata is big lefty Darwinzon Hernandez, a 21 a year old who is still pretty raw but also is a high-ceiling prospect.
In addition to one of those pitchers, I’d also ask about MLBer Blake Swihart. A former top catching prospect, Swihart would benefit from a change of scenery and the switch-hitter does better from the left-side of the plate, which would pair well with Mitch Garver. Despite his lack on innings behind the plate this season, a catching-starved organization (seriously, who’s the next catcher that gets the call if Wilson or Garver get hurt?) could do worse than to see if he can help fill a hole moving forward. Plus, he offers position flexibility and I’m a sucker for that.
If the Red Sox were willing to part with multiple pieces, I’d be willing to move Dozier as well as Zach Duke if that’s what it takes to get it done.
Do any of these potential trades appeal to you?
Dozier to the Brewers for Ortiz or Dubon or Ponce plus?
Dozier and Duke to the Red Sox for Mata and a lottery ticket or Hernandez and possibly Swihart?
Eduardo Escobar is another appealing trade piece/pending free agent that the Twins should look to move. Owed $1.6 million in July and August, Escobar has played primarily third base on the season, but can move over to shortstop and second base as needed. In fact, with Machado off the board, Escobar might be the best option for teams looking for a shortstop.
Philadelphia was in the Machado sweepstakes until the end, losing out when the Dodgers were willing to part with five prospects in a combination of quality and quantity.
The Phillies remain in the infield market. By position and bWAR, the Phillies rank 28th at third base and 27th at shortstop. Though Maikel Franco has improved as of late, Escobar would be an upgrade for a team desperate to battle with the Braves and hold off the Nationals.
My ask would be for short-season pitcher Francisco Morales. A tall, hard-throwing, high-ceiling 18-year-old righty who is having a good (albeit very early) season. There are other intriguing prospects in the Philadelphia system as well. Cole Irvin, a big lefty, is 24 and having a very good season in AAA. He projects as a back-half starter, without huge stuff, but throws a variety of pitches and has good control, striking out 93 while only walking 20 in 112 innings so far this season. Franklyn Kilome is another high-ceiling prospect, but his stuff has backed up a little as a 23-year-old in AA, walking over 4.5 batter per nine innings.
How would you feel about dealing Escobar to Philadelphia?
Escobar to the Phillies for Morales or Irvin or Kilome plus?
The difference between Dozier and Escobar and the rest of the Twins potential trade chips is that there is a very good chance that if they don’t find a deal to their liking, they can make the qualifying offer to either or both and get draft pick compensation. Dishing out potentially $19 million to either player seems excessive and is, but one-year deals rarely hamstring a team because of the immediate cost certainty. And in the Twins case, who have very little committed to next year and many players still pre-arbitration, there will be plenty of money to spend, especially on productive offensive bats.
There are many other players who fall into a different category - whether that’s impending free agency with no chance to get the qualifying offer or guys who will still spend a year or two or more under team control. We’ll take a look at some of those guys soon.
Weigh in below. If you were GM, what would you do with Dozier and Escobar?
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