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Article: Week in Review: Losing Ground

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 07:50 PM

The Minnesota Twins are playing their worst ball of the season, while the Cleveland Indians continue to steamroll inferior teams, and suddenly the AL Central race is very much alive.

Brace yourselves, and let's take a look back at the season's toughest week, which saw Cleveland draw within three (and very nearly two) games of the division lead with the trade deadline bearing down.

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/15 through Sun, 7/21

***

Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 60-38)

Run Differential Last Week: -10 (Overall: +111)

Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA)

Willians Watch: Out Indefinitely

There's been an exodus in the Twins bullpen. Adalberto Mejia, designated for assignment a week ago, was claimed on Saturday by the Angels. Mike Morin, designated a few days later, was traded to Philadelphia on the same day for cash considerations. And Matt Magill, the most recent cut after getting bombed by the Mets on Wednesday, found himself dealt to Seattle for cash on Sunday. That's the bottom three pieces of Minnesota's shaky bullpen, all cleared out in a matter of days. So, they're halfway to getting better.

But meanwhile, everyone's wondering: When are they going to add some upgrades to replace these departed relievers? So far the only reinforcement called in to fill the void is Kohl Stewart, who has pitched one inning since being recalled on Thursday. The Twins curiously have four spots sitting open on their 40-man roster.

With the trade deadline less than 10 days away, Minnesota is all but assured to make at least one deal, but in the meantime they are grinding out games and leaning hard on a stretched, shorthanded relief corps. On Sunday this meant leaving Trevor May on the hill for a grueling 49-pitch outing, and also sending Zack Littell (a full-time starter prior to this year) out to pitch for a third straight day.

With an even more daunting offense coming to town, and no off days on the schedule in the coming week, the Twins are desperately in need of bullpen help. They announced on Sunday they've optioned Littell (who has a 1.50 ERA in 12 appearances since the start of June), and will have another arm coming up on Monday. Who will it be? Cody Allen is a possibility, though he's looked quite poor in Triple-A (5 BB and 3 K in 4 IP). Cody Stashak, who has a 1.61 ERA and 31-to-4 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings at Rochester, would be the better option on merit. Either addition would require a 40-man move, but that's no problem.

[UPDATE: Sounds like it'll be Stashak (per our own Jeremy Nygaard), pushing Minnesota's 40-man roster to 37.]

Of course, neither of those two will do much to solve the team's need for credible late-inning support. And so the trade market will (rightfully) be an ongoing focal point of discussion in the days ahead. Urgency continues to build...

HIGHLIGHTS

The reemergence of Miguel Sano continues to be tremendously invigorating. He had a tough go in the Mets series, striking out five times in eight trips while collecting just one single, but rebounded in a big way over the weekend. Even with his 0-for-5 on Sunday, Sano reached eight times in 17 plate appearances against Oakland. Even more impressive to me than his mammoth third-deck homer, which put the Twins ahead (briefly) on Saturday, was the fact that he drew five walks with only three strikeouts in the four games. He is absolutely locked in at the plate, and the contrast from one month ago – when he was mired in a staggeringly hideous slump – is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Since breaking out with a two-homer game in Chicago on June 28th, Sano is hitting .316/.426/.684 with five bombs, four doubles, and 11 walks in 18 games. During that span, he's struck out at just a 28% rate. The big third baseman has quietly reverted to All-Star form; unfortunately, it happens to be occurring at a time where most of the offense has fallen into a collective funk.

Not everyone though. Despite his prodigious pop, Sano still isn't the most dangerous right-handed power bat on the Twins. That'd be Mitch Garver, who added three more home runs last week to go along with a pair of singles and three walks. Garver has now surpassed his rookie homer total by 10, in half the number of games. He continues to show incredible plate discipline combined with an ability to crush drives to all fields. Just an amazing transformation, and that's not even mentioning his enormous defensive advancements.



It was a lefty slugger who provided the biggest highlight of the week. With the Twins trailing on Thursday night, Eddie Rosario came off the bench to deliver perhaps his most dramatic hit in a career that's featured plenty:



His clutch three-run blast in the seventh put Minnesota ahead for good and snapped a three-game losing streak. Sadly, those moments of capitalization have been far and few between for this once-potent lineup, which has had to scratch and claw for everything lately.

LOWLIGHTS

The Twins offense, clicking pretty much nonstop over the first 10 weeks of the season, has fallen into a prolonged stretch of mediocrity. From the start of the year through June 15th, they were baseball's best offense by any measure, leading MLB in runs, homers, OPS, wOBA, wRC+, and WAR.

Since June 16th, here are their rankings in those categories (entering Sunday)

Runs: 22nd
HR: 8th
OPS: 17th
wOBA: 16th
wRC+: 17th
WAR: 16th

They've still been hitting the ball out of the yard at a decent clip, but in all other regards, the Twins have regressed hard into below-average territory offensively. Saturday's loss to Oakland perfectly encapsulates the frustrating trend plaguing this lineup: Three solo home runs, surrounded by inning after inning of lifeless out-making. When they would manage to mount a fledgling rally, it was always squandered – including the bottom of the ninth, where they loaded the bases with one out and came up empty.

This freefalling regression starts at the top. Max Kepler was 4-for-19 on the week, and slashing .227/.257/.392 in the past month, before breaking out on Sunday with a 3-for-6 effort that included a double, a three-run homer, and a walk-off single. Jorge Polanco, who opened the scoring Sunday with an RBI double and added two walks, was 3-for-17 on the week and 13-for-59 (.220) in July coming into the game.

These two hitters were the primary catalysts in Minnesota's offense for much of the first half, but of late, they've become much easier assignments for opposing pitchers. That's reflected by their K/BB ratios – Kepler has drawn three walks with 21 strikeouts over his past 25 games, while Polanco is at 10 BBs and 29 Ks since the start of June. Both players posted K/BB ratios that were close to even in the first two months.

Other hitters continue to show pop, but are embodying the all-or-nothing (and more often the latter) nature of this offense right now. C.J. Cron chipped in a homer and two doubles last week, but otherwise went 1-for-16 with no walks. The RBI and run scored on his solo blast were the lone ones he tallied in five games. Nelson Cruz hit two solo homers, but finished with only those two RBIs in a week where he went 5-for-23 (.217).

Yeah, the bullpen had a rough run, and is taking plenty of flack for it. But what we saw with May, Littell, Ryne Harper, and even Taylor Rogers blowing leads in eventual losses was a collection of pitchers who've been generally reliable, showing they're human against an extremely good and hot offense. It happens. That's not the problem. The problem is that the staff is undermanned (as we discussed earlier) and they are constantly pitching with razor-thin margins because the offense has been unable to build leads and breathing room.

Relievers have also been asked to pitch more, with starters failing to last deep into games. Jose Berrios, who completed six-plus innings in all but one of his 17 starts through the end of June, has failed to do so in any of his three July outings. Jake Odorizzi hasn't gotten through six in any of his past five turns. Michael Pineda has pitched past the sixth only twice all year.

The Twins need to add arms, and I'm certain they will. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking that even the addition of multiple high-caliber relievers is going to cure what's ailing this team, because it runs much deeper than a volatile bullpen – one which has, all things considered, actually performed reasonably well.

In order to get back on track and rebuild some buffer in the AL Central, the Twins need their lineup to get rolling again, above all. Fortunately, there are numerous reasons to believe this will happen. Strong showings from Polanco and (especially) Kepler on Sunday were promising, as is the schedule, which eases up considerably following the impending Yankees series.

But much will also hinge on the development we'll discuss next.

TRENDING STORYLINE

This team needs Byron Buxton back ASAP. The difference in their record with (48-23) and without (12-15) him in the lineup makes that abundantly clear. Not only is his defensive impact a regular game-changer, but Buxton also has the potential to get hot offensively and alter the dynamic for this lineup.

At the same time, the Twins know all too well about the troublesome nature of concussions, especially when they begin to add up. (Buxton was knocked unconscious in a scary outfield collision in 2014, and has had plenty of scary run-ins with the wall and ground since.) This front office is conservative by nature when it comes to managing injuries, and in this case that approach is warranted more than ever.

But... they need him back. When will he return? It could be as soon as Monday – which would be big, with a crucial series against the Yankees set to get underway – and seems to be trending that way, as he was able to participate in all baseball activities before Sunday's game. But all will depend on how he feels Monday morning. Any signs of trouble will surely prompt the Twins to back off. I wouldn't be surprised if he's in center field for Game 1 against New York, nor would I be surprised if he isn't activated in the coming week at all.

DOWN ON THE FARM

What Jaylin Davis is doing at Rochester cannot be ignored.

In past years, Davis has never really been on the Twins prospect radar, at least beyond its fringes. A 24th-round draft pick out of college in 2015, he has risen steadily through the system – advancing about one level per season – while posting solid yet unspectacular numbers as mostly a right fielder.

He opened the 2019 campaign at Pensacola, where he got off to an unusually strong start, slashing .274/.382/.458 with 10 home runs in 58 games. This earned him his first promotion to Triple-A, and since arriving in the International League, Davis has experienced a power surge of epic proportions.

After launching three more home runs last week for the Red Wings, Davis is now up to 13 in just 33 games. That equates to a .729 slugging percentage to go along with his .331 average since moving up. The 25-year-old has already gone deep 23 times in 91 games this year between the top two levels of the minors; to put this in context, he homered 11 times in 120 games last year, and 15 times in 125 games the year before that.

What to make of this? It's hard to say for sure. We might just be seeing a torrid and temporary hot streak, fueled partially by the hitter-friendly nature of Triple-A (which now uses MLB baseballs). But it's definitely a promising development, and one that puts Davis squarely on the radar as a potential late-bloomer.

LOOKING AHEAD

Just what the Twins need at a time where they've got fans bordering on panic mode: a date with their eternal tormenters. The Yankees are coming in red-hot, having won six of their last eight games and 23 of their last 30 to build a hulking 10-game lead in the AL East.

These are two teams moving in very different directions. Can Minnesota shift the momentum while also vanquishing ghosts of the past? It's gonna be an interesting series. Unfortunately it coincides with Cleveland heading to Toronto for a three-game set against the 38-63 Blue Jays, before traveling to Kansas City to take on the 37-64 Royals.

On the bright side, things ease up considerably at that point for the Twins, who get 10 games against the White Sox, Marlins and Royals starting next weekend. Let's just hope they still own sole possession of first place when that favorable stretch gets underway.

MONDAY, 7/22: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP CC Sabathia v. LHP Martin Perez
TUESDAY, 7/23: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Domingo German v. RHP Kyle Gibson
WEDNESDAY, 7/24: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
THURSDAY, 7/25: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Lucas Giolito
FRIDAY, 7/26: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Dylan Cease
SATURDAY, 7/27: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Ivan Nova
SUNDAY, 7/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Dylan Covey

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#2 yarnivek1972

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 08:09 PM

I don’t consider 7 relievers to be “undermanned”. Especially when 2-3 can be easily swapped out for a fresh arm from AAA.

What the bullpen lacks is guys that can consistently get hitters out in high leverage situations.
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#3 Nick Nelson

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 08:14 PM

 

I don’t consider 7 relievers to be “undermanned”. Especially when 2-3 can be easily swapped out for a fresh arm from AAA.

What the bullpen lacks is guys that can consistently get hitters out in high leverage situations.

Well, that's what we're talking about here. Having bodies in the bullpen doesn't mean much if you have no desire to use them. They held off on putting Stewart in a game until they essentially had no other choice, and that meant pushing both May and Littell into questionable usage.

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#4 Vanimal46

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 08:20 PM



Ny-Bomb.

#5 MMMordabito

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 08:41 PM



Ny-Bomb.


Very interested, if that is the case.

#6 USAFChief

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:02 PM

The main problem is not the lineup. It has cooled, as it had to, but is still scoring runs at a reasonable clip, and is likely to be better than it has been the past week.

The biggest weakness on this team is the bullpen. It has been since April.

The lineup didn't cough up multiple games in a week and a half. There's one arm out there Baldelli trusts, and with good reason. Let's just hope he isnt forced to run that one arm into the ground.

Get. Some. Help.
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#7 yarnivek1972

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:04 PM

The main problem is not the lineup. It has cooled, as it had to, but is still scoring runs at a reasonable clue, and is likely to be better than it has been the past week.

The biggest weakness on this team is the bullpen. It has been since April.

Get. Some. Help.


Or February.
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#8 D.C Twins

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:30 PM

The rotating through AAAA players in the bullpen may work for a little bit but not through 162 games, and MOST CERTAINLY not through a playoff series against an elite team.

 

The simple question is:Does the FO care?

 

There is still a lot of money to be made with a tight division race with a decisive first round playoff loss......

 

Crunch time boys.... the next 10 games before the deadline matter....no need to wait....Overpay and get some help (a trade should sting a little bit on both sides)


#9 D.C Twins

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:32 PM

and if there is not decisive enough moves to upgrade, I suggest that the MN folks enjoy the rest of the season from the comfort of their house on the radio or TV to send the owners a message that more is expected....

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#10 D.C Twins

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:42 PM

Oh and the problem with waiting even this long is that we now will appear desperate (because we are) and teams will leverage this in negotiations. Would have been better to act earlier from a position of less apparent desperation.


#11 D.C Twins

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:45 PM

Anybody else feel like there is a Twins reliever telethon going on right now with proceeds (cash considerations) going to the Pohlad's net worth....

 

....MLB teams...call now....it's a worthy cause!


#12 Nick Nelson

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:51 PM

 

The main problem is not the lineup. It has cooled, as it had to, but is still scoring runs at a reasonable clip, and is likely to be better than it has been the past week.

The biggest weakness on this team is the bullpen. It has been since April.

The lineup didn't cough up multiple games in a week and a half. There's one arm out there Baldelli trusts, and with good reason. Let's just hope he isnt forced to run that one arm into the ground.

Get. Some. Help.

The lineup coughed up endless scoring opportunities. Their bullpen shouldn't be in position to blow so many leads. It's unfortunate the unit is going through a collective slump while constantly being placed in so many precarious spots, but all of the guys mentioned in the article have generally been throwing very well lately.

 

These columns have detailed the strong work from the bullpen in each of the past two weeks. The Twins weren't performing very well in spite of it. Classic case of a unit getting no credit when things are good and all the blame when things are bad.

 

The Twins' bullpen ranks 8th in ERA, 6th in xFIP, and 6th in WAR over the past month, compared to the numbers listed above for the offense. The pitching staff held Oakland to 4.75 R/G in this series which is below their average, and held the Mets to 4 runs in a loss on Tuesday. You wanna win these games, your bats need to step up. Period.

 

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#13 yarnivek1972

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:54 PM

The rotating through AAAA players in the bullpen may work for a little bit but not through 162 games, and MOST CERTAINLY not through a playoff series against an elite team.

The simple question is: Does the FO care?

There is still a lot of money to be made with a tight division race with a decisive first round playoff loss......

Crunch time boys.... the next 10 games before the deadline matter....no need to wait....Overpay and get some help (a trade should sting a little bit on both sides)


There aren’t 162 games left. And no one is talking about using that strategy in the playoffs. You can use almost everyone every game in the playoffs if you have to because there are never more than 3 games without an off day.

#14 D.C Twins

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:58 PM

 

The lineup coughed up endless scoring opportunities. Their bullpen shouldn't be in position to blow so many leads. It's unfortunate the unit is going through a collective slump while constantly being placed in so many precarious spots, but all of the guys mentioned in the article have generally been throwing very well lately.

 

These columns have detailed the strong work from the bullpen in each of the past two weeks. The Twins weren't performing very well in spite of it. Classic case of a unit getting no credit when things are good and all the blame when things are bad.

 

The Twins' bullpen ranks 8th in ERA, 6th in xFIP, and 6th in WAR over the past month, compared to the numbers listed above for the offense. The pitching staff held Oakland to 4.75 R/G in this series which is below their average, and held the Mets to 4 runs in a loss on Tuesday. You wanna win these games, your bats need to step up. Period.

This bullpen is running on fumes.....It is highly unlikely that Rogers is going to make it through the season as the only high leverage guy.... If the bullpen was solid, presumably the FO would not have just sold two relievers to the highest bidder over the last 3 days. Unfortunately the timing is curious because now we go into trade negotiations looking even more desperate (which we are) which is obviously not the way to go into negotiations in any business.

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#15 jz7233

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 10:02 PM

Twins needs as many clutch hitters and reliable bullpen arms as possible. For example: Arraez and Rogers.

 

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#16 D.C Twins

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 10:07 PM

Dear Twins Front Office,

 

Some of these TD posters are crazy!!!

 

Your bullpen is GREAT!If anything, it is your lineup's fault.

 

You keep doing you....Don't change a thing....We are ALL in agreement (and how often does THAT happen) so how could we be wrong?!

 

Love,

 

The Yankees, Astros, Red Sox and Indians Front Offices

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#17 Nick Nelson

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 10:08 PM

 

This bullpen is running on fumes.....It is highly unlikely that Rogers is going to make it through the season as the only high leverage guy.... If the bullpen was solid, presumably the FO would not have just sold two relievers to the highest bidder over the last 3 days. Unfortunately the timing is curious because now we go into trade negotiations looking even more desperate (which we are) which is obviously not the way to go into negotiations in any business.

If you think the Twins are unique in feeling urgency and pressure to shore up their bullpen, you are mistaken. As Exhibit A I will point you to the Boston Red Sox. 

 

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#18 USAFChief

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 10:31 PM

The lineup coughed up endless scoring opportunities. Their bullpen shouldn't be in position to blow so many leads. It's unfortunate the unit is going through a collective slump while constantly being placed in so many precarious spots, but all of the guys mentioned in the article have generally been throwing very well lately.

These columns have detailed the strong work from the bullpen in each of the past two weeks. The Twins weren't performing very well in spite of it. Classic case of a unit getting no credit when things are good and all the blame when things are bad.

The Twins' bullpen ranks 8th in ERA, 6th in xFIP, and 6th in WAR over the past month, compared to the numbers listed above for the offense. The pitching staff held Oakland to 4.75 R/G in this series which is below their average, and held the Mets to 4 runs in a loss on Tuesday. You wanna win these games, your bats need to step up. Period.

"constantly placed in so many precarious spots??"

Nick, c'mon. You sound like the guy who spent all spring telling us the pen was fine, because three relievers would pitch all the "high leverage" innings, and it didn't matter who pitched the rest. One of those three was Hildenberger, by the way.

Every reliever, in every pen, pitches in important spots. Precarious spots. Its the nature of MLB. Every game this in this set was decided by the pen. Every reliever had a chance to massively impact the game. And that's not unusual. Get some friggin help succeeding in those precarious spots, because there will be lots more of them.

The Twins simply dont have the horses in the pen to compete.

As for the lineup, what do you propose, other than "drive in some runs, for Pete sakes." Are you asking for trades for offensive help? Or just complaining?
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#19 Nick Nelson

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 11:00 PM

 

Nick, c'mon. You sound like the guy who spent all spring telling us the pen was fine, because three relievers would pitch all the "high leverage" innings, and it didn't matter who pitched the rest.

 

I don't think I sound like that guy, since I said throughout spring training I was concerned about the bullpen (and especially bullpen depth), and said multiple times in this here article that they need to get bullpen help. It's possible for that to be true, and for it also to be true that this bullpen has been better than expected, and frankly better than the rotation and offense in recent weeks while the team has struggled.

 

"Every game in this set was decided by the pen."

 

That's just such a weird, myopic way of looking at things. I would say Saturday's game was decided by the offense, which scored four runs and went 0-for-5 with RISP. Rogers is going to give up a run or two here and there, he's not superhuman. Littell had gone 11 straight appearances without allowing a run. I don't get this "THE BULLPEN LOST THE GAME" attitude because relievers gave up a few runs against the league's hottest offense. On Friday if Odorizzi gives them a better start, or the offense doesn't put up 3 runs on 0-for-4 RISP, we're not talking about the bullpen at all. Seriously, the Twins went 0-for-9 in scoring opportunities in those two narrow losses, and you're telling me the bullpen lost the games.

 

You said it yourself Chief: "Every reliever, in every pen, pitches in important spots." The guys that gave up leads this week are (mostly) going to be here, and they're going to be pitching in big spots. Mostly they'll deliver, as they have throughout the season. Sometimes they won't, especially against really damn good offenses like Oakland, and in those cases they need some help. This is also true, btw, of any relievers they pick up on the market.

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#20 Reider

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 12:10 AM

I don't put much stock into this whole "the Twins are looking desperate" argument and I don't think anyone else should either, for the following reasons:

 

- It is no secret to any team in the league that the Twins are likely going to be buyers at the deadline. They've already been in contact with various teams about possibly acquiring their pitchers.

 

- The Twins cleared some space on the roster, so what? If everyone knows that the Twins are in the race and are going to be buyers at the deadline, how does clearing space make them look desperate? Pretty much every team that acquires players at the deadline will have to make room for those players, one way or another. Please see point number 1. Everyone already knows that the Twins need and are looking for pitching help. Guess what? So is every other team that's looking to win the World Series this year. What team wouldn't want to upgrade their pitchers?

 

- The open market (supply and demand) will determine the price for players, regardless of how desperate some people think the Twins look. The Twins have plenty of prospects at their disposal, whom other teams covet. They also have a lot of options, which will only increase over the next 10 days as more teams decide to sell, which brings me to my next point.

 

- As we get closer to the trade deadline and more teams decide to be sellers, who's going to "look desperate" as we get close to the trade deadline and teams still haven't sold their high end players, who's contracts are going to expire at the end of the season? Motivated sellers will more often than not move players to the highest bidder. Of course there may be some inter divisional considerations etc.. but for the most part, supply and demand will determine the price for players over the next 10 days.

 

- The Twins are not bankrupt and the shelves are not empty. At the end of the day, it won't matter who "looks" more or less desperate, what sellers will ultimately care about is who will give them the best return for their players.

 

My message to those people who are concerned or are panicking right now because they are worried that the Twins look desperate, is that you shouldn't even worry about it. There will be buyers and sellers, which may change daily over the next 10 days. the Twins have a lot of trade chips and will be able to compete with other teams at the trade deadline, in order to acquire pitching help, if they want to.

 

If the Twins decide to sit on their hands and do not acquire any players, that's a separate issue and I have no control over that.

Edited by Reider, 22 July 2019 - 12:26 AM.

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