The Twins ought to be clear sellers at this year’s MLB trade deadline, considering how things have gone for the club over the past 10 days.
There are two problems with that, aside from the obvious disappointment experienced during a summer in which the team expected to contend. One is that there aren’t a lot of players on Minnesota’s 25-man roster that would fetch a haul in prospects. The second problem I wrote about recently is that the number of “tanking” teams means that the Twins can’t afford to sit around and wait until the non-waiver deadline at the end of July to see if something will materialize. They sort of have to be moving right now.
And in reading Buster Olney’s column over at ESPN, we stumbled into another problematic item for the Twins. Olney reports that contenders this summer could be tempted to wait it out and “buy low” at the non-waiver trade deadline – or even hang on until August to further reduce the asking price in prospects.
Here’s an excerpt from the column:
Well, some executives increasingly believe the summer trade market will mirror what happened with free agency — that if you remain patient, there will be such a high volume of players available that contenders will get really good deals, particularly as sellers increasingly become desperate to dump salary.
“I don’t know if we have the best collection of prospects to deal,” said one evaluator, “but I don’t think we’ll have to have those, either. I think that as we get closer to the deadline, we’ll have a lot to choose from.”
And as we’ve discussed before, the more sellers in a marketplace – and conversely the fewer big buyers – that’s bad news for a team like the Twins. Ever tried selling your house at the same time as every one of your neighbors with only a handful of buyers looking to move?
The Twins have five types of players that they could choose to trade – or six, if you include younger players that could be part of the future, like Eddie Rosario, for example. I’m not counting that final group, since I think 2019 ought to be a competitive year for Minnesota.
One group of trade chips is the pair of pending free agents who could be Qualifying Offer candidates (Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar). The Twins will have to choose if the prospect(s) in any trade are worth more than the hypothetical compensatory draft pick, or the one additional year under contract. The Twins don’t need to “dump salary” on good and affordable players like Dozier and Escobar. The problem is just that if there is another seller that does need to move salary — and that club can meet a buyer’s needs for much cheaper in terms of prospects — well then that takes away one potential landing spot for, say, Dozier. And at this stage of the game, it’s fair to ask how many landing spots there would be to begin with.
Then there are the pending free agents who could not or should not be offered the QO (Lance Lynn and Zach Duke).
Then there’s the pair of players with options in their contract for 2019 (Fernando Rodney, Ervin Santana and Logan Morrison).
Joe Mauer has a full no-trade clause and is in the final year of his mega contract with the Twins.
Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi are mid-rotation starters with another season of team control. Those guys could in theory bring back more than Lynn, due to the extra team control in 2019. But I think you’ve got to ask the question on those hypothetical trade fronts: How many contenders would ask any of those three pitchers to start Game 3 in an October series?
If you’re trying to maximize return for these players are reload for another run next year, the possibility of another slow play from contenders could be bad news for the Twins.