Willingham, perhaps Twins' most valuable chip, likely won't be dealt
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Prior to the All-Star break, one high-ranking American League front office executive said Josh Willingham is "definitely" the Minnesota Twins' most valuable trade chip should they choose to move him.
Willingham entered Sunday hitting .268/.382/.567 with a team-leading 22 home runs and 64 RBIs. Only four hitters across the majors have more RBIs than Willingham. Only eight hitters have more home runs, and only 11 hitters have a higher weighted on-base average (wOBA) than Willingham's .404 mark.
In "late and close" situations, Willingham is hitting .386/.491/.750.
But as of Sunday evening -- with just over two weeks remaining until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline hits -- indications are Willingham will not be going anywhere.
According to league sources, the Twins have not made Willingham "off-limits" to potential suitors, but they are not actively shopping him either.
Sources say the combination of Willingham's exceptional production and team-friendly contract makes him one of the most valuable assets in the organization, which is why it would take a lopsided offer to move the Twins off their current stance. The Twins also don't want the reputation of signing players to long-term contracts and trading them away shortly after the ink dries.
The 33-year-old slugger will earn $7 million per year through 2014, and sources say he is interested in playing in Minnesota beyond the length of his current contract, perhaps even finishing his career with the Twins. Of course, it's highly unlikely the Twins -- on pace for another 90-loss season -- would entertain such a notion until Willingham is closer to the end of his deal.
The Willingham family, which has quickly taken a liking to living in the Twin Cities, is currently renting Jim Thome's old house, but they have considered buying something more permanent in the near future.
It's also worth noting that after years of dealing with nagging discomfort, Willingham's back is healthier now than at any point since 2006, sources say. Willingham's career high for games played prior to 2012 was 144 with the Marlins in 2007. So far he has played in 83 of the Twins' 87 games this season.
Among Twins players on the trading block, Francisco Liriano has seemingly drawn the most interest from opposing teams. Scouts from the Yankees, Blue Jays, Braves, Mets, Reds, Padres and Nationals have all been in attendance at Target Field in recent weeks on days Liriano has pitched.
ESPN's Buster Olney reported Saturday that Cincinnati is looking for leadoff hitters, so it's possible they were taking a close look at Denard Span, who entered Sunday hitting .278/.340/.380 with 25 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases.
The Nationals had interest in Span last season.
It's also believed Matt Capps, who is coming back from shoulder discomfort, is available to teams needing bullpen help.
Carl Pavano, also a free agent at the end of the season, won't pitch until August. The Twins could still trade him before the August 31 waiver deadline, but his value would likely be limited due to the shoulder issues.