There are three players that would bring in significant returns, and make headlines, if the Minnesota Twins traded them before the July 31 deadline: first baseman Justin Morneau, closer Glen Perkins and outfielder Josh Willingham.
Moving Morneau would mean putting a franchise player that has sold myriad No. 33 jerseys (and some No. 27s for the hipsters) in a different team’s colors—something that would be a poor public relations move.
Believe it or not, dealing Perkins might be worse. He is from Stillwater, went to the University of Minnesota and could easily be the long-awaited heir to Joe Nathan in the ninth (sorry Matt Capps…).
Finally, the fact that Willingham is still in a Twins uniform irks many fans. The 34-year-old slugger hit a career-high 35 home runs last season and could have brought plenty in return. Now he is injured and unlikely to bring much in return.
There are other players that could be dealt, and they will be addressed in the article, but for the most part the Twins are a young team and there is not much here that will bring much in return, so the team is better off holding on to the rest of their guys for right now.
Justin Morneau, the franchise player
Here is why this is a bad public relations move:
In the early 2000’s—in between the time that people thought the Twins were going to be contracted (2002) and built Target Field (2010)—there was a feeling that Minnesota would be a perennial contender in their new park.
It wasn’t far-fetched. After that drought from 1993-2000, the team had dominated the AL Central, could spend more money with the new ballpark instead of having to always do more with less and, most importantly, the team had two superstars: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
The M&M Boys.
Mauer and Morneau were going to turn the Twins into Cardinals North—a small market team that, against all odds, beats all the big market teams in Major League Baseball.
(Quick aside: I always tell my friend, who is St. Louis native and a die-hard Cards fan, that Missouri is the south, not the Midwest. BAD IDEA. People from St. Louis are adamant that it is NOT the south.)
By trading Morneau, the team is admitting defeat.
People will remember how the 94-win team that opened up Target Field in 2010 became a 60-win team the next year.
They will remember that Minnesota got Carlos Gomez, jetsam and flotsam for Johan Santana.
They will remember that Gomez was traded for J.J. Hardy and then Hardy was subsequently traded to the Baltimore Orioles for magic beans.
They will remember that Hardy went on to be a hard-hitting shortstop while the man that replaced him, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, became one of the biggest busts in Japanese import history right behind your 2011 Toyota Camry that had an electrical failure.
Most of all, they will remember that the Twins traded Wilson Ramos, a potential backup for Mauer and his aching knees, for Matt Capps who served up more meatballs than Chef Boyardee.
Holding on to Morneau is the right call.
It is not just the fact that he is a fan favorite or that he is the second half of the M&M Boys or that he’s also from the Great White North. It’s that the Twins probably won’t get much in return for him.
Morneau has hit a few bombs this year, but Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee and even Joe Mauer have more home runs than him. He could get that home run swing back, but at this point Morneau looks like a guy that will hit .300, drive in a few runs while playing first base.
He’s still valuable to the Twins, make no mistake about that, but general manager Terry Ryan and his men will not get enough in return to it to be worth trading him.
The baseball nerds will go nuts about this, saying Morneau isn’t worth what the team will have to pay to keep him in town, that some crazy statistic like xFIP, BABIP, UNICEF or CONCACAF says they should trade him for a second-tier pitching prospect, a couple maple bats and Ty Wigginton’s jock strap before he has less value than the Canadian dollar.
The only team that might overpay for Morneau is the Toronto Blue Jays. Although British Columbia and Ontario are completely different geographically, the Jays might want to bring the Canadian across the border. If the Twins can go international and get a solid return, then they should pull the trigger.
Otherwise, they should hang on to Morneau. I’m not trying to knock knowledgeable baseball people or advance statistics here, but No. 33 is closer to people’s hearts than any other number can measure.
Odds of moving: 15 percent
Glen Perkins, the hometown kid
Here is why the Twins should keep Perkins:
This is his home!
As a Shoreview native, I’m a little biased towards Minnesotans, but it isn’t like I’m begging the Twins to call up Cole De Vries. I’m asking them to hold on to one of the best closers in the game.
That’s not to say that I’ve ignored that Perkins is from Stillwater, played for the Gophers or is childhood friends with Mauer. But that is important! There are only four players from the Land of 10,000 Lakes playing in the bigs and three of them—Mauer, Perkins and Caleb Thielbar—are playing in Minneapolis. (Jack Hannahan is the Prodigal Son. He will eventually return.) Localization is huge in a small market! He’s ours!
Perkins has dominated hitters in the ninth by pumping 95 MPH fastballs at them and keeping them honest with the slider. He has a sub-2.00 ERA with 20 saves. His WHIP, which essentially measures a player’s heart rate, is 0.765. That’s good. (See baseball nerds, I don’t hate you and your fancy stats!).
Best yet, Perkins is under team control until 2016.
Unless the Twins get Miguel Cabrera for him, they should keep Perkins right where he belongs: In Minnesota!
Odds of moving: 10 percent
Josh Willingham, the late bloomer
Here are a few interesting facts about Willingham:
He went to the University of North Alabama, in his hometown of Florence, which had a Division II baseball program.
Oh yeah, and at age 33 he hit a career high 35 home runs.
People are absolutely tweaking out that Minnesota didn’t trade him last year when he had good value. It seemed like a win-win: Willingham was signed for a bargain at three years, $21 million and could potentially bring them a few good pitching prospects in return. Plus, the outfield was getting crowed with Oswaldo Arcia, Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks.
Here’s the problem with dealing Willingham one year into a three-year deal: They will never get another bargain like him. While it happens, it is a bit dishonest for a team to ask a player to commit to them for three years and trade them after one.
Willingham also has a lot to offer as a veteran in a young clubhouse. He has also been a mentor for Trevor Plouffe, who exploded for 24 home runs last year.
On the other hand, he is not worth much on the open market right now. His left knee has given him trouble and after a cortisone shot and some time off, Willingham went under the knife.
The surgery was deemed a success, but the now 34-year-old outfielder will be on the disabled list for four-to-six weeks—meaning he won’t play again until long after the trade deadline.
For right now, it looks like the Twins will keep Willingham.
It’s not all bad, he still leads the team with 10 home runs and, hey, they can always deal him next year!
Odds of moving: 10 percent
Minnesota could also deal Kevin Correia and Trevor Plouffe, but it doesn’t make much sense.
Correia has shown an ability to go deep into games and has thrived in the Junior Circuit after spending the first 10 years of his career in the National League. Because he has played well and isn’t worth too much on the open market, Minnesota would be wise to take the good pitching for another year and deal him next season.
Plouffe hit 24 home runs last year and is under team control until 2017. Yes, everyone knows that super-prospect Miguel Sano is a third baseman and the crack of his bat can be heard around the world, but there is no need to rush him to the majors and ruin his development.
Even if Sano comes up next season, Plouffe can always play a hybrid outfield-DH role with the team. It’s worth doing for a cheap player that possesses the power Plouffe does.
I know, I know, this article is kind of boring because I’m not putting anyone on the trading block, but consistency is key in baseball—especially with a young team. It’s better to allow everyone to grow and keep the producing players around than to scramble everything just for the sake of doing so.
That’s just rearranging the deck chairs in the Titanic and while this team may have hit an iceberg three years ago, there is a lot of young talent in Minneapolis and it doesn’t hurt for them to have some old guys talk to in the clubhouse during a slump.
Sometimes the best move is not to make a dumb one.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.