The Twins opened play Thursday 8.5 games out of first place in the American League Central, with time winding down before the non-waiver trade deadline.
It’s a shame, from the perspective of the Twins, that they’ll never get their ‘A’ lineup on the field at the same time this season. But before Jorge Polanco even returns from his 80-game suspension, the Twins are forced to consider whether they should start selling parts from the ship to make it sail better in future seasons.
GM Thad Levine said in an interview recently the Twins intend to give some time to the buy/sell decision, to let the season play out as much as possible. At the same time, with so many clear-cut sellers in baseball, Levine said, if a club waits until the trade deadline to sell off there might not be any buyers left.
Jon Morosi wrote a column recently for MLB.com in which the national insider said that the Twins have yet to reach “sellersville.” But they’re only a couple exits away, Morosi wrote, and added that Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar and Lance Lynn would “have value as rental players” for a contending team.
Let’s have a look.
The Twins’ second baseman is in the final season of a team-friendly 4-year contract that bought out his remaining team control. The contract won’t delay his hitting free agency for the first time. And apparently his stated interest in a contract extension with Minnesota this winter wasn’t enough to get a deal done.
Dozier is hitting .221/.300/.396 with 11 home runs as of this writing. That’s down from his usual standard. He’s tied for the team lead with 76 games played this season, he won a Gold Glove last season, and he’s no stranger to trade rumors. Two winters ago the talk of baseball was how Dozier was probably headed to Southern California if the Twins and Dodgers could work out a deal to move Dozier to a contender in exchange for prospect(s). Instead, he stayed and the Twins made a run to the Wild Card game in New York, thanks in large part to the slugging second baseman.
Now, with 3 months remaining on his contract, Dozier is set to become a free agent and get a chance to choose where he wants to play for the first time in his professional career. If there are any contenders needy for power-hitting second baseman notorious for second-half surges, Dozier could be a good fit.
Still, with only 3 months remaining and not many world-class teams in need of a second baseman, the Twins likely would have to temper expectations for any prospect return.
Where would the Twins be without Escobar this season?
When Jorge Polanco was suspended, Escobar was going to be asked to step in as the starting shortstop. Then when the season went sideways for Miguel Sano, the Twins’ utility man was asked to slide over and play third base. He hasn’t backed down from the challenge.
In his final year before he hits free agency, Escobar is hitting .288/.340/.550 with 12 home runs, and he’s leading the world in doubles with 33.
After years of having to prove he belonged in the starting lineup, Escobar has left little doubt this season. But there’s still the open question of whether the Twins want to commit for multiple years to a 29-year-old breakout player who doesn’t excel at any position defensively.
I’ve wondered if Escobar would be open to a contract extension with the Twins. I’m guessing that he would. But as free agency draws nearer, if I was in Escobar’s shoes I’d be tempted to see what my options are out on the open market.
Lynn is pitching this season for his next contract. In that sense, he’s already a “rental” pitcher in Minnesota. So what’s one more stop on the journey as a trade-deadline “rental.”
The longtime Cardinals starter got burned this winter by the Qualifying Offer process. He turned down a one-year deal in St. Louis that would have paid him about $17.4 million. Instead, he chased the possibility of a rich deal in free agency and finally settled for the $12 million deal for this season during spring training.
Lynn got off to a slow start to the season when he walked a lot of hitters and had his conditioning questioned.
But if you wipe from the stats page his rotten month of April, the past 10 starts Lynn has posted a 3.27 ERA with a 23% strikeout rate and a 10% walk rate. That certainly would have value on even the best pitching staffs — think Houston and Cleveland.
Unlike Dozier and Escobar, Lynn can’t help the Twins beyond this season without a new contract. The Twins could extend the Qualifying Offer to Dozier or Escobar, which would allow the team to either sign the player in question for a season or recoup a draft pick if that player rejected the offer and left in free agency. Lynn has already been offered the QO, so he’s not eligible to get another one.
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