It's OK To Get Excited Again, Twins Fans!
Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson, USA TodayThere are a number of ways to look at the 2017 Minnesota Twins to try to figure out what they should do here in August. It’s clear that the team, at least not right now, should not sell off any additional players. At least not this week. But should they be buyers?
Well, the Twins are now 4.5 games back of Cleveland in the AL Central Division and one game behind the Royals for second place.
However, in the wild card race, they find themselves just 1.5 games behind the Seattle Mariners, who would be the second wild card team if the season was to end today.
Sure, the Twins still have to pass three teams to get into that second wild card slot, but with 50 games to play, it’s not insurmountable by any means. The Mariners have played three more games and have three more wins already in the bank. The Rays already have two more wins in the bank. But 50 games is a lot of time.
The Effect Of The Trade Deadline
Brian Dozier spoke out with his thoughts on the decision of the front office to trade lefty Jaime Garcia before the deadline. While the team’s downward slide meant that the voices were a bit quieter when the team traded closer Brandon Kintzler on the deadline day, there’s no doubt that there was some disappointment in the clubhouse.
We know that Paul Molitor had a rare team meeting. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that meeting. I would guess that the message from the manager to his team was clear. Yes, the front office made some decisions, and they traded a couple of players that we could use. I’m guessing that he spoke about how much talent there still was in that locker room. I would assume he mentioned that he was not going to give up on anything, that he believed in the players and he would manage with the goal to win. I’m certain that he challenged the team to prove people wrong. That’s the same thing Brian Dozier has said in a few interviews since the trades. Proving people wrong. That can be a motivator.
Where Falvey and Levine Wrong to Trade Garcia and Kintzler?
The answer to that question is certainly a matter of opinion, but I still don’t think it was. For the front office, they need to continue thinking big picture. They need to look at things like the team’s run differential and realize that there was a likelihood of a slide. When Cleveland and Kansas City both went on extended winning streaks before the trade deadline and it coincided with the Twins worst stretch of the season, the moves were right.
The organization took on payroll. They took the contract of Garcia so that they “only” had to send rookie ball pitcher Huascar Ynoa to Atlanta. But Garcia will be a free agent at the end of the season. They will continue paying Garcia throughout the season, and in doing so, they were able to pick up quality pitching prospects Zack Littell (AA) and Dietrich Enns, who will start for the Twins on Thursday.
Trading Kintzler, who also will be a free agent at the end of the year, for a young, left-handed, projectable starting pitcher also made sense. The Twins have a history in the last decade of selling low rather than selling high. I think that the front office did a good job of selling high.
Youth Movement Delayed?
The team is in contention again, and they need to act accordingly. That means, in my opinion, that they should not call up young players just to give them experience, just to get them big league time. Decisions should again be made with the primary thought being what will help the 2017 Twins.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that young players shouldn’t be called up. If there are young players at AAA, or even AA, that they feel will give them a better chance to win now, call them up.
With the injury to Adalberto Mejia, someone will have to take his place in the rotation. For Thursday, that will be Dietrich Enns. But Dillon Gee could be an option this year. So could Tim Melville, or Aaron Slegers, or Stephen Gonsalves, or Fernando Romero. Whoever the Twins brass believes will give them the best chance to win.
Talk of getting rid of Bartolo Colon, or DFAing him, really needs to stop. I hope that's clear to everyone. After Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, Colon has given the Twins a reliable third starter option. Kyle Gibson has been OK of late. Losing Mejia hurts, but it all goes back to someone else stepping up. Maybe that’s Enns. Maybe that’s needing Dillon Gee to eat three to five innings sometimes.
And if in a week or so, they feel that Stephen Gonsalves is ready to help them win games, call him up.
Should They Be Buyers?
I’m curious what you all think. Leave your comments below. But my general thought would be that they can again be looking for pitching.
Cleveland added outfielder Jay Bruce, who has 29 homers and 75 RBI this season for the Mets. And they only had to send 22 year old, right-handed relief pitcher Ryder Ryan in return. He was Cleveland’s 30th-round draft pick in 2016 out of North Carolina. In Low-A Lake County, he’s got a 4.79 ERA.
In other words, if Jay Bruce could be available for a non-prospect relief pitcher, the cost for the Twins to acquire some relief pitcher help, or even a mid-rotation starter, should not be too high. In my opinion, if the price is right, Falvey and Levine should consider any options to make the team better.
Is It OK for Twins fans to get their hopes up?
Hey, there are a lot of real positives on this Twins roster. There’s The Core Four. Byron Buxton equals tremendous center field defense, and he’s been improved at the plate. Miguel Sano is in a rough stretch offensively right now, but we know the power he can provide. His defense has also been better than advertised. Max Kepler had slumped, but in recent games, he appears to be figuring some things out at the plate. Defensively, he plays well in right field. Jose Berrios is the pitcher in the group, and he’s been as good as hoped, maybe even a little better. He got off to a great start for the Twins this year, struggled for a few starts and then he’s been better again lately. These four will be a big part of the charge toward a wild card spot.
Eddie Rosario and Jorge Polanco are outside of my Twins Core Four, but they are vital to Twins playoff hopes. Rosario has been among the best Twins hitters the last two months. It’d be great if that could continue for a couple more months. Jorge Polanco just had the worst two-month stretch of his career. In the last week, he is coming out of that and hitting like we thought he could. His defense has also slumped, but if he can be an average defender down the stretch, it will be huge for the Twins.
The veterans also need to step up. Joe Mauer’s been better this year than in recent years. Fans need to accept what he is now offensively and stop worrying about his contract and such. What he needs to do is continue getting on base (same with Robbie Grossman), and continue to come up big with runners in scoring position as he has his whole career, even in the down years. His ability to play first base so well has saved several errors already, and he should continue to keep extra base runners from getting on.
Brian Dozier isn’t having the same season success as he did in 2016, but the last week, he has taken off. Really, since the All-Star Game, he has been very good again. We’ve seen what he can do when he’s hot, so what if he’s got another two-months of being on fire left in him? What would that mean for the Twins?
If all of that, or even several of those things, can happen in the final 50 games, then Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez can focus on their defense and working with the pitchers. Any offense will be a bonus from them, so hopefully they can at least work counts and take a lot of pitches.
The offense has a chance to come up big through the final two months. But it will obviously be the pitching that needs to step it up for the Twins to have a chance at a playoff berth.
We need to hope that Ervin Santana pitches like he did in April and May and not like he did in June. We need to hope the Bartolo Colon has seven or eight more good starts left in his 44-year-old arm. We need to hope that Kyle Gibson can pitch like he did in 2015 for the rest of the season. We need to hope that Adalberto Mejia can come back healthy. And if not, someone will need to step it up, whether that’s Dietrich Enns or Dillon Gee or Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero or some combination of them.
And the bullpen will need to find its way to success. There were a lot of struggles early in the season, but Taylor Rogers and Brandon Kintzler were fantastic. Well, with the one-week exception right before the trade deadline.
Rogers will need to get back to his dominant self in the eighth innings. Matt Belisle will need to continue “pulling a Kintzler” in the ninth innings. And after that, guys will just have to step it up in their roles. Maybe that means more Trevor Hildenberger in the seventh and eighth innings. Maybe it’s trusting Alan Busenitz. Having a Dillon Gee-like long-relief option could be important, at least until rosters expand in September. Being able to use Buddy Boshers only against left-handers will also be helpful, though when he does face right-handers, he’ll need to find a way to get them out.
Listen. A lot of things would have to go right for the Twins to just get that second wild card spot. Is that worth getting excited about? Would you be excited about a one-game playoff game against the New York Yankees? I would be. I am.
I just wrote about 2,100 words, trying to show that there are many reasons, and admittedly many What Ifs, to be excited about the Twins. I’m thrilled that we have a team to watch that is competitive. I’m thrilled and excited to see what happens in the final 50 games. If I were a Twins fan (and I have been for at least 36 of my years - I don’t remember the first six years too well), I’d be excited about what could be.
But as we’ve seen a couple of times in the last month, in another week, the situation could change completely again. Then they could be sellers again.
I look at it like this. The Twins didn’t have Garcia when they put themselves in a position to be buyers. So, trading him is a loss, and yet it put them right where they were a week earlier, roster-wise. Losing Kintzler takes a really good pitcher out of the bullpen rotation. It may hurt. It might. But, had he (or any other key piece of the team) got hurt and went on the DL, it would be similar. Someone would have had to step into those roles. And the phrase “Step it up” applies again.
And maybe it took a trade to push some players. They’re major leaguers. They shouldn’t need extra motivation, but if that’s what it was, I’m fine with that.
Right now the Twins are a .500 team, but they’re on a four-game winning streak. It’s OK to be excited again.
- pbrezeasap, Mike Frasier Law, rcfarmer and 11 others like this