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Targeting the Trade Market - Wheelin' and Dealin'

Posted by John Olson , 20 October 2017 · 1,434 views

twins matt kemp khris davis maikel franco
Wheelin' and Dealin' - Off season trade targets


Despite the undeniable successful season the Twins had in 2017, as tends to happen in the playoffs, deficiencies and holes in the lineup, rotation and bullpen become less transparent and more of a glaring, vacuous hole - clearly seen. For instance, Robbie Grossman started the American League Wild Card game for the Minnesota Twins, not as an injury replacement for a banged up regular - no, he was the starting Designated Hitter - a position he had manned for the majority of the year. In fact, Grossman was the DH twice as much as any other Twin in 2017, with 63 appearances - 33 more than Kennys Vargas, and 38 more than the starting 3B Miguel Sano. A lot can be said for Robbie Grossman; he is a serviceable fourth Outfielder, and this year he provided value primarily in the form of getting on base - he walked 67 times in 2017 - but a primary Designated Hitter is not one of those things.

This isn't to rag on Robbie Grossman. It is, however, to point out a glaring need in the Twins lineup - a power bat - preferable right handed, for balance sake, which is soaked with left handed and switch hitters. Again, poor Robbie Grossman isn't the problem, per se, he's the result of a team that is band-aiding a fundamental piece, and that's not (obviously) the only one. The relief pitching, as I wrote in a previous post, was bottom 1/3rd in the league and desperately lacking in strikeouts. Starting pitching, though seemingly every team in the league shares this need, was especially true for the Twins who - until the reemergence of an energized Kyle Gibson - had a lack of consistency behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. The Twins aren't exactly known for loosening the purse strings to hand out massive contracts to solve these problems, though that is an option, they are more than capable with the current farm (Keith Law ranked them at number 11 in the MLB) of swinging trades that could solve some of these woes.

As the right handed bat was my first example, lets break down a few scenarios (all hypothetical, obviously) that may make sense for the Twins to pursue as we begin the transition into the Hot Stove season.

​Right Handed Power Bat
  • The "Salary Dump Veteran" - Matt Kemp, Atlanta Braves
Matt Kemp has had an interesting, and fairly disappointing, career arch. Once a highly touted young outfielder, and second place finisher (who probably should have won) in the National League MVP award in 2011, has seen a series of mediocre seasons diminish his value to the point where not only does his albatross contract (8 years, $160 Million) signed after the 2011 season look terrible - hes also seen himself traded twice since 2015, the last trade to the Atlanta Braves is widely viewed as a "bad contract swap."

That being said, its not all doom and gloom with Kemp. Since leaving the Dodgers in 2015, Kemp has put up decent numbers, offensively anyway, for the Padres and Braves. He had 23 Home Runs for the Padres in 2015, 35 combined between the Padres and Braves in 2016 and 19 big flies for the Braves in 2017. While his OPS in those seasons is less impressive than the home run tallies (.755, .803, .781) they are hardly what most would consider poor.

Kemps value is diminishing for the Braves, mostly due to the lack of a DH position in the National League. Kemps UZR is not just bad - its really, really bad - to the tune of -22, -17, -14 and -9 - in the last 4 seasons. Which makes him a prime candidate for the American League.

The benefit Kemp would bring to the Twins could come in his ability to hit left handed pitching. His career batting average split v. LHP is .319, and would bring some balance and protection to a lineup that has struggled in that department.

The Braves are seen as "more willing" to trade Kemp this off season, as opposed to fellow Outfielder Nick Markakis, because of the contract situation between the two. Markakis is more affordable, and on the last year of his current contract, Kemp however still has 3 years remaining at 21.5 Million dollars annually. That said, the Dodgers are relieving the Braves of 3.5 Million annually and if they would trade him they would have to, likely, eat much of the remaining deal to get anything back in return. This could make a deal with the Twins possible, as the Twins would surely not take on the bulk of Kemps contract in any trade.

The Twins, on the other hand could make a good trade partner if they chose to pursue Kemp. While the Braves would prefer to win sooner rather than later in their new ballpark, the team is loaded with young talent with prospects Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna primed to take the next step. Versatility could be of value to the Braves, which could give a trade centered around Eduardo Escobar some legs. He is arbitration eligible for the last time this off season, and with Miguel Sano projected to be healthy for the 2018 season, would not have a regular full time position. While giving up Escobar is probably not a popular idea, a trade of versatility for a regular, full time Designated Hitter (who could spell in a corner outfield position in a pinch) might be worth it.
  • The "Risky, High Upside" option - Maikel Franco
Rumblings out of the Philadelphia Phillies rumor mill is they may be looking to move on from Maikel Franco. The once highly touted prospect in the Phillies organization has had less than impressive results through his first three Major League seasons, hitting just .230 for the Phils last season.

However, Franco is incredibly dependable as an everyday player and has played 152 and 154 games in the last 2 seasons. With the uncertainty of Miguel Sano at 3B - considering the possibility of a titanium rod in his leg still looming - Franco would be able to provide some option for playing time at the hot corner with a carousel of Sano, Franco and (probably) Mauer circulating to keep fresh and healthy.

Franco has the potential to be a bopper. Hes hit 25 and 24 Home Runs in successive seasons with the Phils, and would likely strike some fear into opposing pitcher if he can get things going. With Franco's trade value fairly low, it may be possible to get him for a song this offseason, especially if the Phillies decide to switch gears and pursue Mike Moustakis in free agency. Franco, in that scenario, would be displaced from 3B and has no secondary position with both Tommy Joseph and the arrival of phenom Rhys Hoskins logjamming 1B.

But - there is a problem for the Twins. He doesn't hit left handed pitching. Like, at all. His career mark of .232 with 20 career Home Runs is a little more forgiving than the .209 and 7 HR mark he displayed in 2017. The Twins would have to believe there is more versatility in a Franco trade than purely a right handed bat, and hope to cure some of the woes against lefties. For context, though, for anyone who thinks a trade for Franco is that silly - Kennys Vargas line against left handed pitching in 2017 - .185 BA with 1 HR. Franco would still constitute an upgrade with positional flexibility at 1B/3B.

The selling point for the Twins would be the fact that Franco's trade value being as low as it appears, they may not have to give any top prospects in exchange for the struggling 3rd Baseman's services.
  • The "Pie in the Sky" Option - Khris Davis
OK, before you completely dismiss this out of hand, here me out. Khris Davis has done nothing but mash for several years, hitting 27, 42 and 43 Home Runs - respectively - the last 3 years between Milwaukee and Oakland. Though there isn't much trade talk surrounding Davis, per se, it certainly wouldn't be beyond the Athletics to part with a premier player for the right package of prospects. In fact, Davis himself said in an interview that he considers his time with the A's as a "year to year" proposition. He is set, in arbitration this off season, to make an estimated 11.1 Million. Billy Beane has discussed in interviews the possibility of locking up "core pieces", though he did not mention Davis specifically. Conjecture, but with emerging stars in Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton - Davis may be the piece that goes.

All thing considered, a trade for Davis would not come cheap and you could expect heavy counter-bidding by other teams for his services. It would likely mean parting with at least one of the Twins top prospects plus a few other mid-tier prospects - minimum - to land Davis.

The benefit for the Twins would not only be the slugging First Basemans bat, however. He is 29 years old, and if the Twins believe they could get a "sign and trade"-type deal done with the Athletics for Davis, they could have a built in replacement for the inevitable departure of Joe Mauer in the next year or two. Those are, admittedly, MONSTER "if's". This is the "Pie in the Sky" option, after all.

I'd like to continue this series with relief pitching and a starting pitching segment. If you enjoyed this piece, please read my prior blog article on free agent relievers - which I will also be adding to in series.


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Tom Froemming
Oct 20 2017 11:37 AM

Good stuff, but if I'm the Twins I think I'm approaching the 2018 season under the assumption that Miguel Sano is going to be DHing more often than not. The whole fact that he might need a titanium rod in his leg is freaking me out. Maybe everything will be fine and he'll be able to return to 3B without issue, but I'd rather not bank on that.

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Winston Smith
Oct 20 2017 11:47 AM

I could see making a trade for Julio Teheran (his value is down) and taking Kemp as a salary dump from the Braves. Kemp is only owed about 15m hard to find a power type bat DH for that. Taking Kemp would likely mean Teheran would cost less in prospects. The hope, of course, would be getting Teheran out of the bandbox in Atl. would get him back to being a decent starter.

Getting out of Atl might also mean Kemp stinks not sure it's worth the chance but if you make a trade for Kemp try to get some pitching with him. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan and Tom Froemming like this
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Cory Engelhardt
Oct 20 2017 12:26 PM

I LOVE the idea of Kris Davis. And I agree that I don't think Oakland wants to start paying him big bucks through arbitration. May at least ask what it would take to make a deal happen.

And, hopefully, Miguel Sano is back and healthy and playing a league average 3rd base for years.

I saw that Ryan Braun may be available...