A crushing sweep against one of the worst teams in baseball sealed Minnesota's fate for 2018, adding yet another low point to a failure-filled campaign. Now, all that's left is to pick up the pieces and look ahead.
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/16 through Sun, 7/22
Record Last Week: 0-3 (Overall: 44-53)
Run Differential Last Week: -5 (Overall: -28)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (9.5 GB)HIGHLIGHTS
Kauffman Stadium. That's almost it, really. I traveled down to Kansas City with my fiancée for the weekend and we enjoyed the hell out of that ballpark with its terrific views, monster Jumbotron and all-around high-caliber fan experience. Not so much the baseball.
The Twins played in a legendary yard under beautiful weather over the weekend, but that's where the positive vibes ended.
Okay, I shouldn't go quite that far. Jake Odorizzi turned in an excellent outing on Sunday afternoon, firing six innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts while allowing only two hits and one walk. Since punctuating a rough midseason stretch with his worst outing on June 23rd (6 ER in 1 2/3 innings), Odorizzi has rebounded in a big way, turning in a 2.96 ERA with 33 strikeouts over 27 innings in five starts.
Crucially, the right-hander has finally started keeping the ball in the park. After coughing up 14 home runs in 12 starts between April and May, Odorizzi has surrendered only two long balls in nine turns since the start of June.
By remedying his biggest weakness while maintaining a career-high strikeout rate, the 28-year-old may be building himself some legitimate trade value as the deadline approaches.
Joe Mauer tallied two hits on Friday and three more on Saturday, including his 415th career double, which made him the franchise's all-time leader. Another awesome accomplishment in a widely underrated career.
In spite of Mauer's efforts, the offense couldn't muster much of anything against the American League's worst pitching staff. Heading into the break, it seemed as though the lineup was finally turning a corner – they'd managed double-digit run totals in seven of their last 16 games after doing so just once in their first 77 – but Twins hitters came out completely flat in KC.
This sweep basically punched Brian Dozier's ticket out of town, but his punchless performance won't do anything to help Minnesota drum up a decent return. Entering the series, Dozier had an OPS over 1.000 for the month of July, and he was riding high after ending the first half with a walk-off grand slam, but the second baseman's momentum came to a screeching halt as he went 1-for-12.
Jake Cave's luster is quickly wearing off. After sitting against left-hander Danny Duffy on Friday, Cave started on Saturday and went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. On Sunday he went 0-for-2 at the plate and, in center field, misplayed a Drew Butera single into an inside-the-park three-run homer.
Following a strong start to his MLB career, Cave's inexperience and poor plate discipline (31% K vs. 6% BB) are coming home to roost. All the more reason to give him plenty of playing time the rest of the way.
Conversely, I think we'd all be cool with Lance Lynn seeing zero playing time as a Twin for the remainder of eternity. His laborious start on Saturday – 118 pitches needed to get through five innings as six walks pushed his league-leading total to 61 – solidified Lynn's standing as the most inefficient pitcher in Twins history.
There's been a lot of chatter this summer about the declining watchability of Major League Baseball, and Lynn feels like a microcosm of the loudening complaints. Saturday's outing wasn't terrible where the scoresheet is concerned, as he allowed three runs on three hits with six strikeouts over five frames and kept things within reach, but he made the game a complete chore to spectate – for the fielders as much as the fans, I'd suspect.
It'd be great if the Twins did us all the favor of removing that chore from our August and September agendas. But with the way he's pitched, finding a taker for Lynn's ~$5 million in remaining salary won't be easy. Hard to imagine many legit contenders viewing him as an upgrade.
With just over a week left until the trade deadline, the rumor mill is sure to get popping over these next seven days.
Now that the dream of having him lead another improbable late-season surge has died, the Twins really have no reason to keep Dozier around. The quiet series in Kansas City threw a bit of cold water on his ascending stock, but Dozier still has six home runs and 20 RBIs over 25 games in the last calendar month, to go along with an outstanding rep.
The Twins will find a willing trade partner on Dozier, I have little doubt. Milwaukee looks like a solid bet. But will Thad Levine be able to reel in any assets of value, or simply achieve salary relief? If it comes down to it, I'm guessing he'd settle merely for the latter.
Ownership green-lighted a record payroll this year only to watch the team go down in flames, so recouping whatever they can will be a deadline priority for the front office – albeit an unexciting one.
Lynn is owed more than Dozier, and as mentioned above, the Twins would undoubtedly love to unload his remaining commitment. They'd most assuredly get nothing else of consequence in a deal, but that's okay. Same goes for Logan Morrison; he's owed only $2 million or so after August 1st, but has a $1 million buyout on his 2019 option.
Both Lynn and Morrison have obviously been quite bad this year, but they are veterans with track records, and in each case there are underlying signs to suggest the ugly numbers aren't an entirely accurate reflection of their play.
Maybe other generals managers are open to taking such leaps of faith, given the meager return that'll be required. If the Twins can trade Dozier, Lynn and Morrison without having to cover any salary, they'd shave around $10 million, which would theoretically go toward the 2019 cap. Recent evidence suggests $10 mil can stretch pretty far on the free agent market, so it's not for nothing.
If they want to get back any young talent worthy of excitement, the Twins will probably have to move players with a bit more allure. The most interesting name in that camp, from my view, is Eduardo Escobar. Although his power has dissipated a bit here in July, he still ranks seventh among big-leaguers in extra-base hits. His versatility, and ability to play shortstop especially, will make him a commodity even though he's due for free agency in November.
Some might disagree, but I see Escobar as Minnesota's only valid candidate for a qualifying offer. If he accepts, he'll make around $18 million next year, which is clearly an overpay but probably one the Twins can live with, given their scarce commitments elsewhere and the convenience of keeping Esco on a one-year deal while we see how things shake out with the rest of the young infielders.
I also don't think it's entirely a given that Escobar accepts a QO. No, he won't make $18 million annually on a long-term contract anywhere, but is it unrealistic to think someone bids, say, three years and $45 million? Coming off a probable career year at age 29, Escobar may well be eyeing security and stability. Should he sign elsewhere, the Twins would receive a high draft pick, helping negate what they lost this season by signing Lynn.
Two pitchers, Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson, will be the other names to keep an eye on. Each is throwing well and controllable for 2019 at a reasonable cost, so they are only moving if another club is really prepared to pony up.
DOWN ON THE FARM
The legend of Royce Lewis just continues to grow. The 19-year-old is making himself right at home against advanced competition in the Florida State League, where he is sporting a .313 average and .840 OPS through eight games. This week saw him notch a pair of multi-hit games and his first home run with the Miracle. Most expected the power would come along gradually for Lewis, who isn't all that physically developed yet, but he already has 10 home runs and a .483 slugging percentage in 83 games between the two levels of A-ball.
His teammate Alex Kirilloff returned from a successful showing in the Futures Game last Sunday, and got right back to work by posting a leisurely 12-for-22 (.545) with three doubles, a triple and a homer. My goodness can this man hit.
Brusdar Graterol, who rounds out the trio of top prospects on display in Fort Myers, picked up his first FSL win on Friday, and while it wasn't a spectacular outing (4 ER in 6 IP), it was definitely a step forward as he struck out seven and limited Lakeland to five hits.
Upon returning from a short leave of absence, Miguel Sano received a bump to Rochester, pushing him closer to a big-league return. Looking noticeably slimmer in a Red Wings uniform, Sano has opened up his time in Triple-A by going 0-for-8 in two games.
The Twins are 1-12 in their last 13 road games, and the going gets no easier. First they travel to Toronto, where they've historically had a very tough time, for three against the Jays. Then it's off to Boston for a four-gamer against the best team in baseball.
Minnesota is reeling, and traveling to a couple of road destinations that have proven vexing over the years. Adalberto Mejia, who was lit up in his last Triple-A start, is scheduled to face two high-powered offenses in very hitter-friendly yards.
Don't bother uncovering your eyes, Twins fans, because things are likely to get even uglier this week.
MONDAY, 7/23: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – LHP Adalberto Mejia v. RHP Marco Estrada
TUESDAY, 7/24: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Jose Berrios vs LHP Ryan Borucki
WEDNESDAY, 7/25: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Sam Gaviglio
THURSDAY, 7/26: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP Brian Johnson
FRIDAY, 7/27: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Chris Sale
SATURDAY, 7/28: TWINS @ RED SOX – LHP Adalberto Mejia v. RHP Rick Porcello
SUNDAY, 7/29: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Drew Pomeranz
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 95 | KC 6, MIN 5: Maybe It’s Better Off This Way?
- Game 97 | KC 5, MIN 3: Royals Sweep Twins, Butera Hits Inside-the-Park Homer (Seriously)
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