This week, there has been mounting speculation that Max Kepler could be a popular target at the trade deadline.
While Twins fans may have become a little jaded on Kepler after the promise of his incredible 2019 season, there’s an awful lot to like. Kepler slugged his 13th home run of the season in a losing effort against the Angels on Sunday and is slugging .538 in his last 15 games.
While he had a slow start to the season, Kepler’s wRC+ is up to 108, ahead of his 2020 numbers. Kepler also boasts strong defensive play, positional versatility, and excellent baserunning skills. Does this look like the Baseball Savant profile of an underrated player?
Kepler is also signed to an extremely affordable contract which has him under team control for an additional two seasons beyond 2021, with a club option for 2024. Kepler will be paid a little over $15 million in his age 30 and age 31 seasons. He’s on track to be worth about $20 million in 2021 alone. While this is only one rough metric, Kepler’s performance has been very steady year over year, with the exception of his outstanding 2019 season.
Who is Interested?
Plenty of teams should be interested in a solid, affordable outfielder, but there are two more obvious fits. The Atlanta Braves could use an outfield upgrade, specifically in left field. While they are a logical candidate, Atlanta already added Joc Pederson to their outfield and may not be buyers with another bad week.
The real Kepler steam has come from the possibility of the New York Yankees as a trade partner. The Yankees are known to seek a left-handed bat at the deadline. Despite being nine games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, the Yankees are only 3.5 games back in a competitive wild card race.
What Could the Twins Get Back?
Cody Christie wrote up a more detailed overview of the Yankees as a prospective Twins trade partner. The Yankees do not have the same depth to their farm system that the Padres or Dodgers do. In spite of this, they have plenty of intriguing names which fit the Twins’ needs. Top prospect Jasson Dominguez is an unrealistic expectation, but there are several names Kepler could fetch in a return.
The Yankees signed Peraza in the international free agent class of 2016. Peraza is an outstanding prospect, ranked #98 overall by MLB. He has excellent bat-to-ball skills, controls the strike zone well, and should be good for 15-20 home runs as he gets stronger and fills out. Peraza is fast and a capable base stealer. Additionally, he offers a 60-grade arm and is 60 grade in the field, offering everything but outstanding power. He is slugging .498 with 25 stolen bases in 2021 and is currently at AA.
A name who haunts the dreams of Twins fans who are in the weeds with prospects. The Twins signed Gil for just $90,000 before trading him for Jake Cave in 2018. Gil has a 75-grade fastball which sits 95-98 which he uses up in the zone. Gil also offers a slider and a hard changeup which sits around 90 mph. Gil has to refine his control and command but has made his way to AAA, where he has struck out a whopping 86 batter in 59 2021 innings.
Medina is another high-octane right-handed pitcher out of the Dominican Republic. Originally signed as a 16-year old, Medina was already throwing 100mph. Medina can now top out at 102 mph with cut and offers a plus curveball. There’s a massive variance in outcomes for Medina, which runs the gamete from front-line ace to late-inning reliever (if he doesn’t develop the consistency to throw enough strikes). Still, the potential is staggering.
Yankees acquire: OF Max Kepler
Twins acquire: SS Oswald Peraza, RHP Luis Medina
What do you think the chances are Max Kepler gets traded? What do you think is a fair return?
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