Souhan: At deadline, Twins should fear Improving a little by giving up a lot

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·4 min read
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The Twins will try to acquire a pitcher by the trading deadline Tuesday afternoon. Odds are against them making a major deal, because …

Most of the players who would bring value in the trade market are injured or helping the big league team. It would be foolish to trade Royce Lewis or Jose Miranda. Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano are injured, and a few of their top prospects — including Austin Martin and Jordan Balazovic — are having horrid seasons in the minors.The Twins are more than one arm away from being a formidable postseason team. They would have to dramatically improve their pitching staff to give themselves a realistic chance to beat the best teams in the American League — the Yankees and Astros — in a playoff series. They don't have enough trade capital to dramatically upgrade their pitching without devastating their farm system.The price for top pitching is high. To get Cincinnati starter Luis Castillo, the Mariners traded three of their top five prospects.

The most instructive story you'll hear about the true nature of the trade deadline was provided, years ago, by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

From 2002 through 2010, Gardenhire managed contenders every year, and virtually every year, at the trade deadline, he would complain about General Manager Terry Ryan's unwillingness to make deadline deals.

One July, Ryan invited Gardenhire to spend the last day before the trade deadline in his office. Gardenhire returned to his Metrodome office that night and said — this is a paraphrase — "I wouldn't have done any of those deals. Every team you talk to is trying to steal you blind.''

One of the most important questions facing the Twins' front office this year is philosophical: How much do you invest in a team that is slightly above .500 on Aug. 1, that has holes in the middle of the lineup and throughout the pitching staff, and that has the sixth-best record in the American League?

How much is a division title in the age of the 12-team playoff field worth?

American League Central standings

Is it rational to trade for the three or four pitchers the Twins might need if those pitchers won't give you a realistic chance of beating the Yankees or Astros?

To put it in real-world terms: Would you trade Lewis, Miranda and Simeon Woods Richardson for a pitcher who might help you win the division but might make you only the third or fourth best team in the league?

What Falvey should be looking for is a version of one of the best trades in Twins history. In midsummer of 2003, their young lineup needed a true leadoff hitter and a dose of professionalism for their disappointing team.

Twins GM Terry Ryan traded analytics darling Bobby Kielty, a classic power-and-patience hitter, for Shannon Stewart, a singles-hitting corner outfielder. Most analysts panned the deal, but the Twins were convinced that Kielty was in decline and that Stewart's hitting and leadership would elevate their lineup.

Ryan was right. Kielty became a below-average part-time player. Stewart finished fourth in the AL MVP voting in 2003 and performed well in 2004.

Is there a top prospect the Twins wouldn't mind trading? Can they trade that player for a pitcher?

Those are the realistic questions Twins fans should be asking today.

Other than the signing of shortstop Carlos Correa, everything the Twins have done this year points to them fielding a deep, quality team next year.

They will have Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, Bailey Ober and perhaps one of their better pitching prospects available for the rotation. Jhoan Duran will have a year of experience at the back of the big-league bullpen.

They will be able to plan on a full season of Miranda and can hope Lewis returns early in the summer. They'll also have more avenues to strengthen the pitching staff over the winter than they do this week.

The biggest mistake the Twins could make would be trading away an excellent young player like Miranda to slightly upgrade a pretty good 2022 team.