(Contest update: With Joe Nathan’s save Tuesday night, he needs just one more save to pass Rick Aguilera and become the Twins’ career saves leader… and that means you’re running out of time to submit your entry for a chance to win a set of Twins 1991 World Series DVDs!)
As has been written and said by many a professional baseball “expert” the last week or so, “This is when GMs earn their money.”
July 31, the non-waiver trade deadline, is just four days away. Some teams are clearly shopping for players that can help them in their push for the playoffs over the final two months of the season and some teams have absolutely no shot, so they’re looking to sell off veterans in return for prospects and/or payroll relief.
And then there are the Twins.
A few games ago, the Twins were only five games behind the AL Central Division leaders and all media reports indicated GM Bill Smith was shopping for players to help manager Ron Gardenhire make his team’s traditional late-season surge.
Since then, the Twins have not only been losing ground to all three teams ahead of them in the standings, but, despite Tuesday’s win over the Rangers, have looked pretty bad in doing so. I wasn’t sure they could play any worse than they did in April, but the evidence is shaping up to indicate I was wrong.
So I pose the question… if you were Bill Smith, what would YOU do?
To help you sort through the question, let me try to lay out the arguments on both sides. Let’s start with…
REASONS TO BUY
- This is still the AL Central Division and as bad as the Twins look lately, nobody else is really, really good.
- Seven games simply isn’t all that much to make up, even in just two months. The Twins have overcome bigger deficits in the past and all three of their Division competitors have histories of late season fades. In fact, reports are that the Sox GM is already waiving the white flag and is looking to sell players.
- Two of the Twins most productive offensive players, Denard Span and Justin Morneau, should be rejoining the team over the course of the next month. Not many other teams will add two players with the potential to add comparable offensive stats.
- The Twins’ rotation has been inconsistent, but that means they won’t continue to be as bad as they have been for the past week. Don’t overreact to one bad… very bad… very, very bad… week of starting pitching.
- There’s no need for the Twins to slash payroll. Unlike many “sellers”, the Twins don’t have to worry about ticket sales falling off if the team doesn’t catch fire to stay in the race. They’re already guaranteed over 3 million in paid attendance. Sure, some fans with tickets may not show up, but they’re likely to sell their tickets, even if it has to be at a discount, so there isn’t likely to even be a loss in concession sales. There’s no risk of income falling off to the point where it can’t support not only current payroll, but a couple of extra relief pitchers and bench bats.
- Even if you suspect the team won’t stay in contention, you don’t want to send the message to your clubhouse that this organization is going to establish a habit of giving up in July.
- The non-waiver deadline is largely a faux deadline. Often, the first thing teams do on August 1 is send their entire roster through revocable waivers. Almost the entire roster goes through unclaimed. Worst case scenario, you get an indication of which teams might be interested in those players that DO get claimed. If things continue to go downhill, there’s still a good chance you can trade most of the players with any value before the end of August.
- If you make a deal for a “rental” player that you like, you’ve got a couple of months to convince him that he should stick around and sign an extension with you.
- Hey… the team COULD catch fire again and give us all another pennant race to get excited about. Stranger things have happened!
On the other hand…
REASONS TO SELL
- It’s not just the seven games they need to make up, it’s that they have to pass THREE other teams. The chances of getting that hot again AND all three teams ahead of you faltering enough to pass all of them are simply not very good.
- The core of this team has so many flaws that (a) it is almost impossible to imagine they could pass three teams in the standings over the last two months; and (b) it will take more infusion of new (and better) talent to regain competitiveness next season than can be done simply by tweaking around the edges in the offseason.
- The top prospects in the Twins organization are either not good enough or not advanced enough (or both) to contribute at the MLB level by next season and now is the time to acquire some MLB-ready talent from other organizations.
- Throwing in the towel on this season would allow the Twins to get their younger players two months of MLB competition and allow the decision-makers in the organization to evaluate them at that level. This is pretty much what the Royals are doing (but then again, it’s what they do every season at this time).
- Even if the Twins catch lightning in a bottle again over the next two months and win the Division again, they’ve proven they would do nothing but embarrass themselves and their fans in the playoffs… again. It would be better to make some deals that could make the team a stronger contender in 2012 and beyond than to try desperately to pull one more miracle out of this core group of players.
- Trading pending free agents like Cuddyer, Nathan, and Kubel would not necessarily preclude the Twins from re-signing them next season if the price is right.
- A lower finish would give the Twins a higher position in the 2012 amateur draft than they have had in a while and would also likely mean they could sign other teams’ Type A free agents in the offseason without giving up their first round pick (the top 15 spots in the draft only lose their 2nd round pick when they sign a Type A FA).
- Whether by trading veterans for prospects or through higher draft picks, there’s a better chance that the Twins will end up with a pitching prospect with true “ace” potential… something the team doesn’t have now anywhere in their organization and a team must have to be considered a serious contender for a World Series Championship.
So there you have it. Have I missed anything? What factors would guide you to making a decision to buy or sell if you were the Twins GM for the rest of the month? Let us know in the comments.