Nick Nelson of Twins Daily wrote on Tuesday night about the potential paths the Twins can take to improve their bullpen, one of those paths included making an early-season trade. While trades typically aren’t made until closer to the trade deadline when teams have a better idea as to whether or not they are sellers, time is not on the Twins’ side, and there are already some teams that figure to be in a sell-now mindset who have quality arms to offer.
Richard Rodríguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rodríguez was a popular name in the offseason as a potential trade target for the Minnesota Twins after he posted a 2.70 ERA in 23 1/3 innings for the Pirates in 2020. Now 12 games into the 2021 season, Rodríguez has been even better. Through 12 1/3 innings this season, the right hander has yet to allow a run, and has only allowed one hit and one walk thus far. While Rodríguez relies heavily on only one pitch (Throws his fastball 89% of the time), players have yet to prove that they can hit it, and coming from the National League he would face a new batch of hitters who have little exposure to the pitch at all. Because of his elite performance and his younger age of just 31-years-old, acquiring Rodríguez might require some additional prospect capital, but the value that the right-hander would bring the Twins figures to be worth the cost. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the second worst run differential and baseball and figure to be active this trade season.
César Valdez, Baltimore Orioles
After he was outrighted to the minor leagues by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017, Valdez opted to leave Major League Baseball for the Mexican League where he spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In 2020, Valdez returned to the United States to pitch for the Baltimore Orioles and he has been outstanding ever since. In the 28 innings since coming back to Major League Baseball in 2020, Valdez owns a 1.29 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP. The right-handed reliever relies primarily on his changeup and fastball which allows him to have success against batters from both sides of the plate. At 36-years-old, Valdez certainly won’t require much prospect capital to acquire, but his strikeout ability and whiff rates would be welcomed additions to this struggling Minnesota Twins bullpen. The Baltimore Orioles already find themselves in last place in the American League East and shouldn’t be hesitant to begin trading away their assets.
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
The southpaw closer for the Detroit Tigers has shown that he has the stuff to shut down batters late in games as his fastball velocity is up to 98 MPH this season with a K/9 in double digits. The flamethrower owns a 3.89 ERA in 34 2/3 innings since the start of 2020 and at the young age of 26, could be acquired with multiple years of control still remaining. The Minnesota Twins could certainly use a left-handed reliever as Caleb Thielbar has looked shaky to this point in the season and Brandon Waddell has looked...did you watch last night’s game? The Detroit Tigers have been the worst team in baseball up to this point and have no reason to push for success in the present. Intra-division trades are never common, but given how far off the Tigers appear to be, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them send their lefty to Minnesota in the right trade package.
Ian Kennedy, Texas Rangers
The final player who could make sense for the Minnesota Twins as a reliever trade target is Ian Kennedy, from the Texas Rangers team that the Minnesota Twins just lost to on Tuesday night. A long-time AL Central starter with Kansas City, Kennedy has found success since moving to the bullpen in 2019 where he owns a 4.08 ERA (3.83 FIP) and a K/9 of 10.5. Thus far in 2021 in his first season with the Rangers, Kennedy owns a 2.08 ERA and is striking out more batters than he ever has in his career, thanks to increased usage and velocity on his four-seam fastball. At 36-years-old, Kennedy should be cheap to acquire, and the Texas Rangers figure to not be going anywhere in 2021. Maybe after the 4-game stand against the Rangers, Kennedy can just stay back with the Twins rather than leave with his current teammates?
Which of these four reliever options do you think would be the best for the Minnesota Twins to trade for? Is there another name you think who could be better? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
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