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Article: Prioritizing Trade Candidates for the Deadline

brian dozier fernando rodney lance lynn kyle gibson
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 11:20 PM

Few expected this 2018 Minnesota Twins team would be putting up the 'For Sale' sign in early July, but here we are. With a nightmarish road trip pushing them hopelessly out of contention, the Twins now have no choice but to unload assets and make whatever upgrades they can to move forward.

Let's take stock and assess what they've got.As is the nature of this miserable season, the Twins haven't seen trade candidates do much to build value, so the front office won't exactly be working from a position of great strength as the deadline approaches and buyers inquire.

With that said, here's how I'd rank players on the "sell" board – not strictly in terms of what they'll bring back, but how eager I'd be to deal them all things considered.

1. Brian Dozier, 2B

The hope was that, even if Minnesota slid out of contention during the first four months, Dozier would at least position himself as a coveted trade target.

Imagine if he put up the same kind of numbers that earned him an All-Star nod in the first half of 2015: .849 OPS, 19 home runs, 67 runs scored.

Coming off back-to-back campaigns that bordered on MVP-caliber, and entering a contract year, this sort of production seemed possible – if not probable – for the 31-year-old. Alas, much like everything else this year, it hasn't gone to plan.

Dozier entered play on Thursday with a .220/.308/.394 slash line. That batting average would rank as the worst of his career, and he hasn't posted a lower OPS since his tumultuous rookie season in 2012.

Despite the hugely disappointing output, Dozier will still be attractive as a trade candidate.

His clubhouse presence is reputed throughout the league. He has a recent history of catching fire down the stretch. And he'll only be owed about $3 million over the final two months of the season.

Those two months (plus postseason) are all that a theoretical trade partner will be getting, since Dozier becomes a free agent after the season, but he does have the potential to make a significant impact for a contender.

So I do think it's possible he yields a reasonably decent haul, especially if he gets rolling a little here in July. The front office will take any salary relief it can get after the 2018 fizzled out with an all-time high payroll.

One club to look out for on the Dozier front: Seattle. Yes, the Mariners will be getting Robinson Cano back from his suspension in mid-August, but he'll be coming off finger surgery and is ineligible for the playoffs.

Projected Return: 2 to 3 solid mid-level prospects

2. Fernando Rodney, RP

Out of all the moves Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made over the winter, signing Rodney may have drawn the most skepticism. He was, after all, a 41-year-old with a reputation for putting runners aboard and making things interesting. It was all too easy to see this acquisition backfiring.

Instead, it's actually proven to be their savviest move. The grizzled vet has looked as strong as ever, pumping fastballs in the mid-90s, and his control has actually been considerably improved from recent years – Rodney's 3.5 BB/9 is lower than any mark he's finished with in that category since 2012, when he was an All-Star and Cy Young candidate.

The righty holds a 3.18 ERA, 9.8 K/9 rate, and .626 opponents' OPS. He recently ended a streak of 15 straight converted saves.

It's true that relief pitchers don't tend to bring back a ton in deadline trades, owing to the fact they'll only pitch a couple dozen innings thereafter, but Rodney has a couple of factors adding to his appeal:

1) He is as experienced a relief arm as you're going to find on the market, with 16 seasons and 317 saves (tied with Craig Kimbrel for most among active players) under his belt.

2) He's not just a rental, necessarily. His contract includes a team option for $4.25 million next year, so he can easily be brought back on the cheap.

Whereas the market for Dozier will be narrowly defined (most contenders have players locked in at second base), most teams will be looking for bullpen help, so Rodney ought to draw more askers.

Projected Return: 1-to-2 decent prospects

3. Lance Lynn, SP

No one seemed to want Lynn much during the offseason, where he went unsigned before joining the Twins three weeks into spring training, and it's unlikely that has changed during the past few months. In 16 starts, Lynn has posted a 5.49 ERA and 1.68 WHIP while issuing more walks (50) than all but two other big-league starters.

On top of the poor numbers, there's the poor attitude; his perpetually visible grumpiness was passed off as competitiveness when he was pitching well for good Cardinals teams, but seems more sulky when he's struggling for a terrible Twins team. Lynn's failure to cover first base during a disastrous second inning in his latest start – subject of a frustrated Paul Molitor's venting after the game – is the kind of thing that is noticed and frowned upon.

Having said all that, Lynn is a vet with a lengthy track record of success, and his performance has generally been better of late; he posted a 3.27 ERA in May and June. There are also some promising underlying signs in his performance: a four-seamer averaging nearly 93 MPH, a career-high 10.6% swinging strike rate, and metrics like a .341 BABIP and sub-70% strand rate that suggest he's been victimized by unsustainably bad luck.

I've got to think someone will take a shot on him. He's a better bet than the fifth starters on several contenders and could be a real difference-maker if he gets invigorated and throws strikes. But the Twins will be lucky to get someone to eat all of his remaining ~$5 million in salary, and are very unlikely to get back on anything of consequence.

The real value here is in opening up a 40-man roster spot, and some innings for younger pitchers.

Projected Return: 1 non-prospect

4. Kyle Gibson, SP

Without question, Gibson would yield much more than Lynn in a trade. He has legitimately turned a corner in his career and is controllable through 2019, his final year of arbitration eligibility. But those very same factors should make Minnesota reluctant to move him.

Gibson is making $4.2 million this season (about one-third of Lynn's salary) after losing his arbitration case against the Twins. Presuming he stays healthy and on track the rest of the way, he'll get a healthy raise next year but still shouldn't make more than $10 million or so, a bargain for someone of his caliber.

As the Twins eye a quick return to contention, they'll certainly want to maintain their improvements in the rotation. Gibson's been such a big part of that, and figures to be a key depth piece next year with Lynn, Jake Odorizzi and Ervin Santana all potentially moving on.

For what it's worth, the Yankees reportedly had scouts on hand to watch Gibson's latest start.

Projected Return: 1 prospect that ranks in the 6-to-15 range on Twins top prospect list, and maybe another low-level guy

5. Zach Duke, RP

He has quietly been everything the Twins could've hoped for, turning in a 2.90 ERA, 2.49 FIP and 9.3 K/9 rate while allowing zero home runs in 38 appearances. His 0.7 WAR leads all Minnesota relievers.

Yet despite his fine work, Duke hasn't had a huge overall impact, evidenced by -0.40 WPA and only 31 innings pitchers through the team's first 82 games. It's the nature of his role, a limited one by convention, and that will limit his trade value. The Twins won't likely get much more substance in return for Duke than they did for Fernando Abad (remember Pat Light?), so they may be just as well holding on and letting him eat innings the rest of the way.

Projected Return: One prospect who ranks toward the back of Minnesota's Top 40

6. Eduardo Escobar, IF

He is Minnesota's most valuable trade chip among realistic candidates, to be sure. Escobar is having a career year at age 29, hitting .277/.335/.531 with a league-leading 34 doubles through the first half. He's a versatile and solid defender, beloved by all who spend time around him.

Similar attributes fueled Eduardo Nunez's value two years ago, when the Twins flipped him to San Francisco for Adalberto Mejia, now a long-term rotation candidate. Escobar's a better and more desirable player now than Nunez was then, so it's easy to see the appeal of floating him out there. Any quality prospect is worth more than two months of Esco in a lost season.

But there's a bit more to the equation than that. Once the season ends, Minnesota will be able to extend Escobar a qualifying offer. If accepted, he'll come back on a one-year deal worth around $18 million. If rejected, the Twins will net a high draft pick when he signs elsewhere.

That sure seems like a good plan. He probably takes the QO, but that would put the Twins in a good position. A one-year commitment to Escobar carries little risk – they'll be overpaying but shouldn't have any trouble affording it – and might be really handy as the club faces an uncertain outlook in the infield.

Obviously the conversation changes if the right offer comes along, but I lean toward holding onto Escobar.

Projected Return: Roughly the same as Gibson's

7. Jake Odorizzi, SP

This is really a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Like Gibson, Odorizzi has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, so the Twins will have an option to bring him back on the cheap(ish). But the trajectories of these two careers have moved in opposite directions – Gibson sharply ascending and Odorizzi in stark decline.

Inefficient, homer-prone and unable to work deep into games (he hasn't recorded an out in the seventh all year), Odorizzi is pitching as poorly as he has at any point in his career. The Twins got him from Tampa in exchange for Jermaine Palacios, who ranked outside their Top 20 prospects when they dealt him, and they'd get less for him now.

At this point it's a little hard to envision Odorizzi figuring into the team's 2019 plans, but you never know what'll happen, and that optional control is nice to have.

Projected Return: Roughly the same as Duke's

8. Everyone Else

To me, those are the names worth discussing. Other impending free agents either have too little value to merit mentioning (Logan Morrison) or a no-trade clause (Joe Mauer).

Some might suggest a name like Addison Reed but it's hard to see the wisdom in trading him with his stock at perhaps an all-time low.

There are, of course, more ambitious and outside-the-box ideas, like selling high on Eddie Rosario, or giving up on Max Kepler, or shipping Ryan Pressly – despite his controllability – to a team that looks at his stuff and whiffs more than his lack of results. But those options don't interest me all that much.

What interests you in terms of a deadline approach? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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#2 old nurse

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 04:31 AM

If the return is a non prospect there is not much point in trading the player.A prospect that is low level but has a tool or two is not a non prospect. Balazovic and Moya may be in the same range as prospect ratings go but their ceilings are far different

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#3 wsnydes

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 05:26 AM

 

If the return is a non prospect there is not much point in trading the player.A prospect that is low level but has a tool or two is not a non prospect. Balazovic and Moya may be in the same range as prospect ratings go but their ceilings are far different

I don't really disagree with you (though don't really agree either :)), but the benefit is that you free up a spot for a younger player to come up and play nearly every day and get his feet wet for next season.I think that experience is very valuable to a player.

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#4 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 05:55 AM

I think this overvalues Dozier and probably undervalues Lynn a bit. I figured those two would get similar returns, and I don't see Dozier bring in several mid-level prospects. Someone might send a decent prospect our way on a flier that he gets hot, but they aren't sending a bunch... now if he suddenly starts hitting, that would be different.

 

I think Levi mentioned trading Pressley as he has only a year of control left. He might net a decent prospect.

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#5 mikelink45

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 06:00 AM

When I read this list and the write-ups it reinforces why this has been a really frustrating season.Our players have no value on the open market.The market has no home town bias, no history with these players and thus they tend to be interested in worth - and that is not much.You list is not longer because others like Pressly and Kepler have been so bad they have zero value. Of course we do have a 38 year old relief pitcher.


#6 Tomj14

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 06:11 AM

"Instead, it's actually proven to be their savviest move."

 

Really? does it surprise anybody he leads the majors in blown saves?

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#7 jorgenswest

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 06:45 AM

Set the bar high for a Gibson trade. Get a good return for Odorizzi or keep him. Same for Reed.

Take any offer better than a comp pick for Escobar and approaching a comp pick for Dozier.

Take the best offer for Rodney, Duke, Lynn, Morrison. DFA Grossman. Release Belisle.

Fill those spots with young players either acquired in trade or in the system. Prioritize catcher. DFA Wilson upon acquisition.
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#8 srmcginnity

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 06:52 AM

So, I tend to not overvalue our prospects but some things to call out:

 

1.) Odorizzi: he has more left than just this year. He's a youngish SP. I imagine he'd go for a good amount more than Duke. 

2.) Dozier: I struggle to see him going for much. His numbers and his expiring contract being the major reasons.

 

Anyways, good list overall. Thanks for posting this!

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#9 peterb18

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 06:58 AM

What bothers me most is, “Where is this strong farm system that we are supposed to have”? We’ve had top picks for quite a few years as a result of poor teams....when will they start appearing? Why not bring up a guy like Gonvalas(sp).

#10 mazeville

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 07:06 AM

Some of these guys should be traded to at least open up spots for young players to see what you have. So I would trade at least one starter, for instance, to give Slegers, Gonsalves, etc., more time in the majors. And I would trade a reliever or two to get some of the young guys in AAA more time up here and let someone like Pressly get a shot at closer.

 

Depressing. I'd rather be competing for the playoffs. 

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#11 gman

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 07:15 AM

Following the Felix Jorge release(sans some unknown issue), I don't see the purpose of making a trade for players that have less upside then him.

 

I am not trying to make Felix Jorge the standard for a trade, but it would seem like there should be a minimum trade standard we can identify with. Now who can we trade to get more than a Felix Jorge and who is available. Possibly the best we can do is recent draft picks or international money.

 

 

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#12 JaleelWhite FanClub

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 07:45 AM

With players seemingly not having much value on the market, the Twins have to consider more moving people to free up roster spots for their top young prospects as oppose for the return in a trade.

 

The top 3 players in the article should be gone. Dozier goes, up comes Gordon. Rodney goes, up comes Curtiss. Lynn goes, up comes Romero/Gonsalves/Littell.

 

I'd keep Gibson and Odorizzi simply for pitching depth. The former has evolved into a strong mid-rotation guy and the latter, you have to figure, can only pitch better in 2019 and will be arbitrated for a reasonable price.

 

Escobar, to me, is an influential clubhouse guy. Mix in his career year, and you have to make an attempt to resign him. Like the article says, if he chooses to leave, make the qualifying offer and get a nice draft pick for him.

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#13 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 07:46 AM

Too bad about Dozier.... remember all the hand-wringing over the potential Dodgers' trade a couple years ago?

 

But, Twins' fans need to recognize that Dozier over-achieved relative to his draft position and Minor League numbers: i.e., he was a rare success story for the Twins minor league system.

 

So, we take that with gratitude and turn him loose on the plains of MLB and feel good about his career.

 

And, then move on. Find the next Dozier in our system.

 

No qualifying offer, no extension, no crying over spilt milk.

 

Good luck to him.

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#14 Vanimal46

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 07:56 AM

From the other teams' point of view, I would imagine their priority list to target is:

Escobar
Gibson
Duke/Rodney

Dozier
Odorizzi
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#15 ChrisKnutson

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 08:26 AM

Probably could add Reed and Pressly to this list because I know playoff teams always have a need for high leverage bullpen arms.

#16 birddog

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 08:33 AM

No way we get anyone close enough to help us in 2019 for any of those players except maybe Escobar who I would prefer to keep and re-sign. So I would recommend getting young A or AA players with upside that we peddle in the off season to get players who would help us next year. We fans are finding most prospects are just suspects who pique our interest for 6 years and then are released.

 

Trading or releasing these players, if we can't get anything of value, allows us to finally see what we have in young players like Gonsalves, Gordon and Wade. As well as freeing up 40-man roster spots for players we don't want to lose in the Rule 5 draft. Falvine definitely has to prove their worth in the next 6 weeks. Some of these players with no value now may have to be kept until after the deadline when we may get a little more out of them. But we have to see if our top prospects on the 40-man roster can play.

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#17 Doctor Wu

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 08:34 AM

Well, I think it's obvious that we're sellers as opposed to buyers at this point. Even more so than last year, before our nearly miraculous turnaround. I don't have much hope that this raggedy group of available players will get much in return, but I'm all on board for getting rid of those that have no immediate future with the club. Call up this new wave of players and let 'em play!

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#18 TheLeviathan

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 08:52 AM

The Twins should be willing to take just about anything for Pressley and Grossman if, for some reason, there is interest in them.

 

You don't have to deal anyone on this list, but they should all be shopped.And if you get an offer at or above what you'd hope - deal them all.You can figure the 25 man roster out later.

 

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#19 PDX Twin

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 09:33 AM

 

Following the Felix Jorge release(sans some unknown issue), I don't see the purpose of making a trade for players that have less upside then him.

 

I am not trying to make Felix Jorge the standard for a trade, but it would seem like there should be a minimum trade standard we can identify with. Now who can we trade to get more than a Felix Jorge and who is available. Possibly the best we can do is recent draft picks or international money.

 

I couldn't agree more. Our trading strategy seems to consist of acquiring young, future replacement-level players in exchange for old replacement-level players or players with expiring contracts. It's hard to get very excited about that, although I guess Escobar fit that label at the time we obtained him for Liriano.

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It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#20 Mike Sixel

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 09:51 AM

This greatly undervalues Gibson. He's healthy, and made an adjustment that worked last year. He would net at least one top 75 player and a high variance flyer. That first player would be in the Twins top three prospects.

It also over values Dozier. They couldn't get that for him when he was good, and had years of control left. They'll be lucky to get one guy in their top ten, as many here and nationally predicted would happen when they didn't trade him before. Rightly or wrongly.

I also think Lynn would net a top 200 player, around tenth in the Twins'list.
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There's always next year, or the next, or maybe by the time I'm Chief's age, I guess....




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