Fixing the Twins Rotation: Why Mauer, Morneau, Willingham and Span Aren't Safe

Amanda LucasContributor IIIJuly 18, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 1: Starting pitcher Carl Pavano #48 of the Minnesota Twins scratches his head as he leaves the game after giving up seven runs in four innings against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on June 1, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins starting rotation.

Did anyone else just cringe?

It is hard to think about this merry-go-round, motley crew of a rotation without rolling your eyes, shuddering, and maybe even feeling a little ill. I know I do!

There has been much speculation flying around about what to do with the rotation, i.e. who the Twins could trade in order to get some better starting pitchers, who needs to stay and who just needs to go away.

With most games being a reminder of how large the scope of reconstruction is going to be for the Twins rotation, it is inevitable that Minnesota is going to have to give up some good players to get the quality pitching this team so desperately needs. I am reminded of a quote from the movie 300 that describes the process ahead for rebuilding the rotation:

"This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this."

It is the plain and simple truth. If the Twins are serious about putting together a better starting rotation, Twins fans will end up saying goodbye to at least one of their favorite players.

Denard Span's name has been on the trade wire it seems almost every day. Most mornings I hear his name mentioned on ESPN's SportCenter as a possible player to go to a contender. This morning I heard his name mentioned with the Yankees—I hope not! The fact of the matter is that Span would be good trade bait. He is a good leadoff hitter with solid defensive skills. The Twins would be able to ease this blow by sliding Ben Revere over to centerfield and into the leadoff spot.

Of course Twins fans have heard rumors of trades involving Justin Morneau since late spring. As disappointed as I would be to see him go, the Twins may be able to get something in return for him. His injury history could make things complicated for obvious reasons. While 2012 has been a better season thus far for Morneau than 2011, there are still some hiccups visible when he is at the plate. I hope I am wrong when I say this next statement, but I do believe his best playing days for the Twins are behind him.

This may be the time to get something in return for the former AL MVP. It is important to point out that Morneau's contract does have a limited trade clause so he would have to waive this if he wanted to go. Baltimore would be a nice fit as they are in need of an everyday first baseman.

I have seen more than one Twins fan (and other teams' fans for that matter) calling for the trade of Josh Willingham. Willingham is having a monster season for the Twins, and he would be a nice trading piece. However, I don't see the Twins parting ways with Willingham so soon. His trade value would be very high but it is difficult to see Twins Nation taking that laying down. If the Twins were to trade Willingham, it would have to be an incredible deal that landed a pitcher of Zack Greinke's or Cole Hamels' talent level.

Then there is Joe Mauer, Minnsota's native son and face of the organization. The Twins couldn't possibly trade him...right? 

Wrong. Well, I should clarify that the Twins should be willing to trade him. Mauer would be worth at least two pitching prospects, and probably more. But will the Twins do it? 

Probably not. As storybook-esque as it is to have a native Minnesotan on the team, Joe Mauer would be able to give the Twins a lot more in a trade than Morneau or Span. With the team's history (or rather Gardenhire's history) of latching on to players and not letting go, I don't see Mauer being dangled as bait anytime soon. However I am reminded of when the Twins parted ways Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, both faces of our organization in their time. Even they weren't permanent. 

It would be sad to see any of these players depart Minnesota, but desperate times call for desperate measures. This rotation is definitely stuck in desperate times.

The revolving door rotation is the single biggest issue for the Twins. Honestly, I'd love to start over from scratch with just Scott Diamond at this point.

Carl Pavano, when he finally returns from his injury, could be traded to a team as a back-of-the-rotation pitcher. Francisco Liriano put up career numbers last week but teams view him as such a risk because of his high walk totals. Scott Baker is gone no matter what, and Nick Blackburn can just walk out right now, I'd be fine with that.

The sad truth is that even if the Twins attempted to trade any of their starting pitchers, their stock has fallen so low that they'll likely get peanuts for them. 

If the Twins are serious about rebuilding this rotation and serious about wanting to get back to winning, they are going to have to make a deal involving our better players. Brace yourselves, Twins fans. Either we will be saying goodbye to a favorite player or we are going to have suffer through another season of terrible pitching and stagnant minor league pitching call-ups.

"This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this."