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  • Week in Review: Deadline Frenzy


    Nick Nelson

    The Twins traded away three pitchers on deadline day, including their best starter. Now, the team moves ahead with the directive of establishing a new identity, minus a franchise fixture. 

    Read on for our recap of a week that saw big roster shakeups, along with encouraging showings from young pitchers and key hitters.

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/26 through Sun, 8/1
    ***
    Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 44-62)
    Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -75)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (18.0 GB)

    Last Week's Game Recaps:

    Game 101 | MIN 6, DET 5: Twins Lose Rogers, Win Roller-Coaster Game
    Game 102 | DET 6, MIN 5: Late Lapse from Robles Leads to Loss
    Game 103 | DET 17, MIN 14: Twins Fall Short in Offensive Slugfest
    Game 104 | STL 5, MIN 1: Offense, Bullpen Can't Back Up Jax's Strong Outing
    Game 105 | MIN 8, STL 1: Pitching and Power Propel Twins to Victory
    Game 106 | STL 7, MIN 3: Sloppy, Sleepy Play Sinks Minnesota

    NEWS & NOTES

    The Twins made one of their most significant deadline "sell" moves in franchise history on Friday, trading José Berríos to the Blue Jays for a pair of Top 100 prospects in Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson. It's a tough loss but a major haul, as Martin and Woods Richardson arguably now become two of the top three prospects Minnesota's system.

    Berríos made his Jays debut on Sunday, pitching six shutout innings. Getting used to the sight of him in a Toronto jersey will take some time.

    The front office made a couple other smaller-scale moves on Friday, dealing J.A. Happ to St. Louis for MLB reliever John Gant and minor-league lefty Evan Sisk, as well as Hansel Robles to Boston for pitching prospect Alex Scherff. Surprisingly, that was the extent of their movement on deadline day. Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Byron Buxton, and – most inexplicably – Michael Pineda all stayed put. 

    Taylor Rogers would likely have been among the departing players if not for a finger injury suffered earlier in the week that landed him on IL. The issue was described as a sprain and it's not clear how long Rogers will be sidelined – very possibly the rest of the year. Beau Burrows replaced him on the active roster.  

    Another new arm joined the organization, beyond the many acquired in trades: Edgar Garcia, who was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati. He was optioned to St. Paul but should presumably get a look in the big-league bullpen later this season. 

    Finally, Luis Arraez was activated and Gilberto Celestino sent to Triple-A.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    The Twins seem fully committed to giving Brent Rooker a very real look here in the second half of the season, and so far he's taking advantage.

    Recalled the day after Nelson Cruz was traded, Rooker has since started every game, and has been the No. 2 hitter in eight straight. The past week saw him doing damage from the damage spot, collecting eight hits in 24 at-bats including a double and a pair of homers. 

    Perhaps most importantly, he struck out only three times against three walks. Previously he had a 22-to-1 K/BB ratio as a big-leaguer. We know the power is going to be there for Rooker, who leads the organization in home runs with 23 between Triple-A and the majors. But his overall impact at the plate, and ultimately his value as a player, will be dictated by an ability to draw walks and hit for a decent average. We've seen promising signs on that front since his return.

    Some other noteworthy batting performances in a big week for the offense:

    • With Cruz gone and Donaldson dealing with another leg injury, Jorge Polanco has become the clear focal point of the lineup. He batted leadoff or third in every game last week and was a consistent threat, finishing 11-for-28 with seven runs scored. In a season full of disappointment, Polanco's rebound has been a much-needed positive development.
    • Miguel Sanó also finds himself breaking free of a prolonged slump that stretched back to last year. He had an absolute monster week, going 9-for-23 with two homers, two doubles, and nearly as many walks (6) as strikeouts (7). He posted a .253/.349/.480 line in July after slashing .254/.280/.507 in June. Much like Rooker, the key for Sanó is not so much the home runs as what he does in between, so it's very nice to see his average hanging in the .250 range and the patience coming back.
    • Twins catchers collectively drove in 14 runs in the six games, with Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers chipping in grand slams on consecutive days. Garver just continues to do his thing, boosting his OPS up into the vicinity of .900 which seemed unthinkable early in the year. Jeffers getting on track offensively is very nice to see; with two walks and three homers in his two starts, he lifted his OPS by 73 points last week alone.

    While it's nice to see the offense clicking again, what we'll really be looking for in these final two months is positive signs on the pitching staff – particularly from those who can play a role next year and help offset the critical loss of Berríos. 

    Griffin Jax took the ball in JB's place on Friday night, and delivered an impressive performance with five innings of one-run ball against the Cards. The following night, Bailey Ober delivered four stellar innings, allowing one run on four hits and one walk while striking out six. Charlie Barnes, recalled to fill Happ's vacated roster spot, will likely take his turn in the rotation on Wednesday.

    These aren't top prospects, but they're MLB-ready arms with good minor-league track records. What kinds of roles could they play on a reshaped 2022 staff? These three and others should have plenty of chances to make their cases the rest of the way, although Rocco Baldelli must balance the need to carefully manage workloads (as we saw with Ober, who was pulled after just 64 pitches on Saturday). 

    LOWLIGHTS

    Things did not go well for the Twins bullpen last week.

    On Monday night, the team took a two-run lead into the ninth and turned to its All-Star closer. Unfortunately, Rogers had to exit during the first plate appearance, and in came Alex Colomé, who promptly gave up a single and a home run to tie the game. The Twins did end up winning in 10.

    They weren't so lucky the following night, when Robles amazingly managed to blow a four-run lead in the ninth by serving up a grand slam to Detroit's Eric Haase

    Wednesday was the lowlight of the season for Minnesota's staff, which coughed up 17 runs against a mediocre Tigers offense. Burrows and Juan Minaya combined to give up eight of those runs in six innings of relief, after Happ surrendered nine in his three-inning start.

    The final appearances from Happ and Robles as Twins could hardly have gone worse, making it all the more surprising that takers for either (let alone both) stepped up on the trade market. Alas, they're gone, and soon enough Colomé, Burrows and Minaya will follow them. It's tough to get too worked up about struggles from guys who have no future here. 

    Trevor Larnach, conversely, does have a future here, and hopefully a very long and successful one. For now, he continues to deal with growing pains as a rookie facing the league's adjustments. Baldelli remains committed to playing him almost everyday, but has bumped Larnach down to the lower part of the lineup as his skid persists. The last week saw him go 3-for-22 with nine strikeouts and one walk. In the month of July he slashed .191/.252/.266 with 43 strikeouts and just seven walks.

    Reputed as a disciplined hitter with a knack for putting bat to ball, Larnach is clearly out of sorts. It's jarring to see him striking out 40% of the time. One wonders if the slumping will reach a point where the Twins feel a return to Triple-A might be in order, but it doesn't feel like we're quite there yet.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    The Twins need to start getting a grasp on what they're going to do with the bullpen going forward. There will be no shortage of innings to go around with Robles shipped out and Rogers out indefinitely. 

    How long before Triple-A relievers with legitimate potential – such as Yennier Cano, Jovani Moran, and Ian Hamilton – are called up for a look-see? None are presently on the 40-man roster, but clearing up space shouldn't be too difficult. Garcia, acquired off waivers last week, also should be in line for an imminent call-up.

    With the game outcomes no longer mattering, one of the most productive things the Twins can do in the remainder of this lost season is gain any kind of clarity around what they have going forward in their embattled relief corps. Presently the outlook for that unit is bleakly uncertain, especially with Tyler Duffey's dramatic drop-off this year.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Their longest road trip of the season rolls into next week as the Twins travel to Cincinnati and then Houston. Maeda will have an opportunity to hit and run the bases on Tuesday, which he's surely excited about. Official starters have not yet been announced for Wednesday and Thursday, but I'm assuming Barnes and Jax fill the rotation spots of Berríos and Happ.

    TUESDAY, 8/3: TWINS @ REDS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Tyler Mahle
    WEDNESDAY, 8/4: TWINS @ REDS – LHP Charlie Barnes v. RHP Luis Castillo
    THURSDAY, 8/5: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Griffin Jax v. LHP Framber Valdez
    FRIDAY, 8/6: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Zack Greinke
    SATURDAY, 8/7: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Luis Garcia
    SUNDAY, 8/8: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. Lance McCullers Jr.

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    FO deserves a fair amount of credit:

    1. Great return and perfect trade timing for Berrios. He was not coming back to us.

    2. Good return for Cruz... exceeded expectations

    3. They are damn magicians for getting anything in return for Robles and Happ (Happ?!? I'm mean whaaaat?!)

    Buuuuuuuuut,

    Only excuse for not trading Pineda is if the only return offered was a B or C prospect that had to be added the 40 man at the end of the season (we already have a glut there).

    I have a hard time believing that was the case.

    Stop with the leader/mentor nonsense. We could sign him for next year during the off season if he is that great of a mentor.

    Stop with the 'staying respectable for the rest of the season'... for what... to get a worse draft pick?!

    Huge miss on that one

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    The last thing I want to see is Colome pitch.  I do not want to see anyone who does not have a future with the Twins on the field or the bench or the mound.  The only reason to watch, listen, read is the future.  Anything else and the FO is robbing us of a chance to actually stay interested in the team. 

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    7 hours ago, rghrbek said:

    Larnach's strike out rate the last month is the highest in MLB.  Makes Sano blush, hope he figures it out

    Yeah here I thought he was a patient hitter and was able to get good contact.  MLB is hard I guess.

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    Toronto view of Berrios  I always like to look at the other side in trades.  What do they think?  

     

    "Nevertheless, Berrios is now a Blue Jay and after clearing the necessary protocols and arriving in Toronto Saturday evening, manager Charlie Montoyo scheduled him to pitch yesterday in front of a home crowd that was not only happy to have baseball back at the Rogers Centre but was now able to witness the star deadline acquisition pitch against the Kansas City Royals."

    "Overall, Jose Berrios had a great debut with the Blue Jays and showed fans across the country why it took two top prospects to get him into a blue uniform. Not only does the club have him for the rest of the season, but he will also be with the Jays next year as well, helping the team push for the playoffs over the next two years with a young core that can hit the ball a very long way."

    In the Toronto paper - https://www.thestar.com/sports/bluejays/opinion/2021/08/01/blue-jays-takeways-the-holiday-debut-of-a-starter-acquired-at-the-trade-deadline-its-been-the-start-of-something-good-before.html

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    Does Rooker look like the same hitter we saw last August before breaking his arm?  Sure does to me, and that was a very good hitter.  Lets see if he can keep it up for two months, rather than the two weeks he had last year.  Did see my first game of the year Saturday night (thank you FS1) and then a few innings over lunch at Champps on Sunday.  Must say he looked more comfortable in left field than I expected.

    Ober, Jax and Barnes.  Let them pitch every fifth day for the next two months and hope like heck that one of this trio will pitch so well that he can be inked into next year's rotation as their #4 starter.  It can happen, please let it be so.

    Was all set to hit the like to D.C. Twins comment above until reading about Pineda.  Would I have liked to see them move him for a Cruz like return, you betcha.  But that probably wasn't in the cards.  It also wouldn't surprise me if we hear that they sign him to a two year extension before the year ends.

     

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    Was in Tampa Bay yesterday (Sunday) and so my son, dad and I decided to catch the Rays’ game with Boston.

    Have to say, that while nothing can fix the exterior, they’ve done a lot to make the inside at least a little bit better than it used to look. 
     

    Pretty cool to see Nellie play and it was too bad that he got thrown out by Hunter Renfroe trying to stretch a double (I knew he had a good arm, but that throw was pretty amazing 😊). 
     

    Robles pitched an inning for Beantown, and looked like… well Robles 🤷🏻‍♂️.  
     

    Old friend Wisler pitched the 9th for the save for Tampa and looked fairly good against the heart of the order despite Boston making a last ditch to tie the game. 
     

    Just FYI, the empty stadium shot was immediately at opening, it was actually a pretty packed house last night. 

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    D0B549A0-AB5C-44A9-8FF9-2F58884CD8C1.jpeg

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    15 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    The last thing I want to see is Colome pitch.  I do not want to see anyone who does not have a future with the Twins on the field or the bench or the mound.  The only reason to watch, listen, read is the future.  Anything else and the FO is robbing us of a chance to actually stay interested in the team. 

    I basically agree. However, if the Twins DFA the dead weight and add someone to the 40 man, what happens this winter when they have to add the rule 5 players they want?

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    55 minutes ago, tim5189 said:

    I basically agree. However, if the Twins DFA the dead weight and add someone to the 40 man, what happens this winter when they have to add the rule 5 players they want?

    They’ll have to leave room open for Rule 5 guys and free agents. This means borderline guys will be DFA’d, including the likes of Refsnyder, Tortuga, and a chunk of the current pitching staff. They may wait on Cano until 2022, but Moran will be Rule 5 eligible so he should be added and pitching here by September.

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    1 hour ago, tim5189 said:

    I basically agree. However, if the Twins DFA the dead weight and add someone to the 40 man, what happens this winter when they have to add the rule 5 players they want?

    Any team with our record should be able to find room for someone we want. 

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    9 hours ago, roger said:

    Does Rooker look like the same hitter we saw last August before breaking his arm?  Sure does to me, and that was a very good hitter.  Lets see if he can keep it up for two months, rather than the two weeks he had last year.  Did see my first game of the year Saturday night (thank you FS1) and then a few innings over lunch at Champps on Sunday.  Must say he looked more comfortable in left field than I expected.

    Ober, Jax and Barnes.  Let them pitch every fifth day for the next two months and hope like heck that one of this trio will pitch so well that he can be inked into next year's rotation as their #4 starter.  It can happen, please let it be so.

    Was all set to hit the like to D.C. Twins comment above until reading about Pineda.  Would I have liked to see them move him for a Cruz like return, you betcha.  But that probably wasn't in the cards.  It also wouldn't surprise me if we hear that they sign him to a two year extension before the year ends.

     

     I am not sure if Rooker is going to be well above average or a bust.  That makes every AB right now fun to watch.  I am pulling hard for Rooker.

    I hope we see Ryan / Winder and maybe even Caterino and Sands.  I just have no faith in Barnes.  I have watched some of his AAA starts and I just don't see it.  Would love to be wrong.  I have a little more hope for Jax based on what we have seen so far but the other guys have higher ceilings so let's get them up here whenever it makes sense.

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    4 hours ago, Danchat said:

    They’ll have to leave room open for Rule 5 guys and free agents. This means borderline guys will be DFA’d, including the likes of Refsnyder, Tortuga, and a chunk of the current pitching staff. They may wait on Cano until 2022, but Moran will be Rule 5 eligible so he should be added and pitching here by September.

    Who are the rule 5 players that should or may be protected? Any of the new prospects in this group? Any place that I can find of a list of who is eligible? Thanks for the help.

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    Fangraphs' depth charts are the best place for it. Look under Options/Rule 5 Status - Dec '21 players will need to be added, plus already eligible ones who had strong seasons.

    Here is my list:

    846634214_Twins40man.png.912be9c048005a6cb30367e53d9c7014.png

    The top 6 are must-haves to me, and I'd also protect Moran. I'm not high on Vallimont, but he probably will get protected. They may risk losing one of the SSs... I just don't think Javier will ever hit, so I'd prefer Palacios.

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