July 19, 2008

Decisions, decisions

As I'm sure you know, the Twins are currently being investigated by the Players Union after Francisco Liriano and his agent decided to file a grievance against the organization to see if they are violating his rights in the collective bargaining agreement by keeping him in the minors to delay his arbitration eligibility.

Liriano's agent claims that there is "reasonable cause" to investigate and claims that since both he, his client, and the team is now "dominating" that he should be in the major leagues. While I don't disagree that he should, I believe that he has zero say on when this team should promote him and I actually believe that his agent could be delaying his re-arrival in the majors by making this into such a big issue.

Both Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire have made public statements, both claiming that it's not the agents place to tell the team what to do and that it's obviously not a financial motivation as he was already in the major leagues earlier in the season. I agree with both Smith and Gardenhire on this issue, and I don't agree with either a player or an agent trying to force the team's hand on promoting/trading/releasing a player, if the team is winning. I'd be fine with Liriano's agent calling out the organization if this team was in 4th place and out of contention. But the fact of the matter is is that this team is on a 23-7 streak and has had great starting pitching over the last month or so. To get Liriano in Minnesota, I believe a trade will be made, but it's just a matter of...when?

With the trade deadline approaching quickly, the Twins likely will make at least one or two moves and moving a pitcher (or two) is likely. Livan Hernandez's name seems to have been on the trading block since the signed him in the off-season. Heading into the season, everyone new he'd be a candidate to be traded before the July 31st trade deadline as he signed just a one-year contract and veteran starters are always of need come the second half. And as of right now, although there hasn't been a ton of rumblings about his departure, it seems likely that Liriano will be taking his place in the rotation before August 1st roles around. The Twins likely won't get a lot in return, but thats' never stopped them from moving a veteran before at the deadline (ala Luis Castillo).

The Philadelphia Phillies just acquired Joe Blanton, who although has a much brighter future than Hernandez, isn't having a much better season than the 33-year-old Cuban. But still, that didn't stop the Phillies from giving up a few good prospects for the 5-12 Blanton who's sporting a very poor 4.96 ERA, despite pitching for one of the best teams (when it comes to defense and pitching) in the American League in the Oakland Athletics.

I don't see the Twins getting nearly as much in return, but I think it could be enough for the Twins to make a move. Here are my proposed trades for the upcoming deadline (which will likely change numerous times over the next 12 days):

Twins trade Boof Bonser to the Texas Rangers for Engel Beltre & Steven Murphy

Reason: Bonser looks to have no future with the team and the Rangers are always struggling to add pitching. Bonser (at least to me) seems to have the "benefit from a change of scenery" label which could make him an attractive trade chip at a team that looks to make a second half push. The Twins have quite a few injuries at outfield in the lower minors and so both Beltre & Murphy could definitely fill holes well. Beltre has a lot of potential, and it'd be nice to see him in the organization. Another player that the Rangers may try to trade could be Nelson Cruz who is absolutely crushing the ball in AAA. I don't see the Twins trading for another outfielder, but that may (or may not) change if Michael Cuddyer is out for much longer. Although Denard Span has filled in very well, Nelson Cruz's bat would fit in nicely for the Twins as he has a very good line against left-handers. With the loss of Bonser, I propose that the Twins call up Matt Macri and hopefully at that time Matt Tolbert is almost ready to play and can finish off the season in Rochester before coming back to the Twins. If not calling up Macri, make room for this next guy:

Twins trade Anthony Swarzak and Anthony Slama to the Mariners for Adrian Beltre

Reason: The Twins know that adding Beltre would make them better both offensively and defensively, so I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to pull off this move. He mashes left-handers, something this team has struggled doing thus far this season, he makes amazing plays at third base, and is still in our price range for the next year and a half. With Danny Valencia improving and becoming the likely "3rd Baseman of the future", adding a for-sure producer like Beltre until Valencia is ready would be great. The only thing that may hold this trade back is the Mariner's unwillingness to trade him. Although they'd love to shed his salary in hopes of signing Yu Darvish this off-season, the organization feels that they owe something to their fans and losing Beltre would seemingly crush them. I disagree, and I believe that if they can do this and then trade Raul Ibanez this team is just making themselves better for the future and I'm sure most of their fans would agree. I don't see the Twins having to give up too much in return for Beltre, as they'd basically be taking on his full salary which is about $19 million from now through 2009. Baseball Prospectus agrees.

Twins trade Livan Hernandez to Marlins for Scott Cousins and Sean West

Reason: I know I may be having "pipe dreams" with my compensation for both Hernandez and Bonser, but I truly believe that a team looking to make a push in the 2nd half will go a little above and beyond to get a valuable starter. The Twins in return get a solid outfield prospect along with a good pitching prospect. I think this is a reasonable deal for both teams and it'd open up a spot in the rotation for Francisco Liriano.

Twins trade Tim Lahey for Chad Bradford

Reason: Ok, maybe I'm really stretching it here. Lahey was the first pick in the Rule V Draft but was reclaimed off of waivers by the Twins. Still, he holds a little value after a solid 2007 campaign. I see this more as the Orioles wanting to dump salary and the Twins just picking up a solid reliever who should be able to be a quality setup man for them. And his deliver should remind the Twins of another setup man who's currently on the shelf. And with this move, hopefully the Twins can find another place for Brian Bass, and I'm hoping that place is in Rochester, New York.

DFA both Mike Lamb & Adam Everett

Reason: Both of these guys have done absolutely nothing this season. Everett is injured, but when he gets back I expect him to see very little playing time and as of right now, Mike Lamb cannot crack the starting lineup. I see there being little to no chance that Lamb is on the roster, and I think Everett is gone as well. It's unfortunate because Twins fans expected a lot from both of these guys, but the two former Astros just couldn't get anything going.

So that leaves us with this lineup/bench heading into the "Dog Days" of summer.

CF - Carlos Gomez
2B - Alexi Casilla
C - Joe Mauer
1B - Justin Morneau
3B - Adrian Beltre
DH - Jason Kubel
LF - Delmon Young
RF - Michael Cuddyer
SS - Nick Punto

C - Mike Redmond
INF - Brendan Harris
1B/3B - Brian Buscher
OF - Craig Monroe
OF - Denard Span

And this rotation/bullpen:

1 - Scott Baker
2 - Nick Blackburn
3 - Kevin Slowey
4 - Glen Perkins
5 - Francisco Liriano

CL - Joe Nathan
SU - Chad Bradford
MR - Matt Guerrier
MR - Jesse Crain
MR - Craig Breslow
LG - Dennys Reyes

I can also see there being a change in the lineup, such as Gomez going to #9 and everyone else moving up, but at this time it seems like Ron Gardenhire is set on Go-Go being numero uno in his lineup.

Although if the Twins want to contend, I doubt they trade away pitching for prospects (besides Hernandez) and I also believe that it's more likely to see the Twins stay quite at the deadline, although I do think at least one or two moves will happen. Only I see one of them being a release of some sort and the other being to make room (somehow, someway) for Francisco Liriano. In other words, at this time I doubt we acquire Adrian Beltre. But things can certainly change. And although he does seem like he would, I think the injury to Michael Cuddyer will play a part in the teams decision to add a bat.