Today is the annual Major League Baseball amateur draft—an event which gives struggling franchises a glimmer of hope for the future.
Unfortunately for teams on the cusp of contention, like the Minnesota Twins, the players taken today won’t have an impact on this season’s playoff races. That’s what the trading deadline is for.
With that thought in mind, here are five players the Twins could logically look to add before the July 31 deadline.
Uggla, a two-time All-Star, has struggled out of the gates this season. One look at his resume, however, shows a consistent power bat from the keystone corner. Uggla has hit at least 27 homers and 88 RBI in each of his three full seasons in the majors. Despite his early struggles, he is on pace for similar numbers yet again in 2009.
Although Uggla’s batting average is nothing to write home about, the right-handed power he provides more than makes up for it. Slotting Uggla between Mauer and Morneau could provide a wealth of opportunity for the diminutive slugger. He may not be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman, but he definitely isn’t a butcher in the field. He could prove to be a long-term solution for the Twins, especially if the club still believes Alexi Casilla can be an everyday shortstop.
Uggla is entering his second year of arbitration after winning a case against the Marlins last year. The Marlins are notorious for trading arbitration-eligible players and Uggla fits the mold perfectly. He is earning a reasonable $5.5 million this year and one would think the Twins could lock him up through the remainder of his arbitration years with a three-year deal of similar value.
Chris Young, not Jake Peavy, may be the most tradeable of the starters in San Diego. Young, doesn’t have the same no-trade protection that Peavy does and has proven to be a reliable starter in the past. Much of last season was ruined after he took an Albert Pujols liner off the face and hurt his arm shortly after returning, making for a lost season.
This season he has struggled with some ups and downs, but seems to have righted the ship as of late. He has a career 3.79 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 7.9 K/9. Some may argue that he is a product of PETCO Park and although his career numbers are significantly better when pitching in sunny San Diego, the bulk of his road efforts are very solid as well. Few teams would turn down the opportunity to add a starter of Young’s caliber to their rotation.
Young is currently signed through 2010, with a club option for 2011. The salaries are all quite reasonable at $6.25 million for 2010 and $8.5 million for 2011. In trading Young and letting the contracts of Brian Giles and many of the other aging veterans expire, the Padres can logically afford to keep Jake Peavy in 2010 and work to trade him on their terms.
Figgins has proven himself to be a valuable asset no matter where he is slotted in the field. In the past few years, Figgins has been entrenched mostly at third base, but has proven his glove capable of playing at second base, shortstop, and in the outfield as well. His super-utility role has proven extremely important to the success of the Angels in recent years.
Figgins has finished in the top three in stolen bases four times and led the league in 2005 when he swiped 62 bags. He is an adept as a lead-off hitter, but would also play very well in the two-hole behind incumbent speedster, Denard Span. Figgins has a career line of .291/.358/.387, numbers that would look very nice sandwiched between Span and Mauer down the stretch, no matter what position he’d be playing.
Figgins will be a free agent at the end of this season and the Angels don’t figure to retain the speedster. So, one would think he will definitely be available. At 32 years old, he probably doesn’t fit into the Twins' plans long-term, but depending on what happens with Joe Crede at season’s end, Figgins could be a cheaper, more versatile alternative at the hot corner.
Huston Street, the 2005 AL Rookie of the Year, has had plenty of ups and downs in the past few seasons as injuries and inconsistency cost him the closer’s job on numerous occasions. This season, he appears to be right back in form. He already has nine saves on a last-place club and is averaging better than a strikeout per inning.
The Twins bullpen has proven to be shaky on more than one occasion. The entire series against the Yankees earlier this season was riddled with late-inning disasters. If the Twins could add a power arm like Street to help bridge the gap to stud closer Joe Nathan, the Twins starters would certainly rest easier at night.
Street is signed through 2010 and is making a reasonable $4.5 million this season. Whether or not he would sign long term is debatable, but the opportunity to add a guy with a career 2.89 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 doesn’t come along too often; and in a division as wide open as the AL Central, teams need all the arms they can get.
Although the Brewers—currently leading the NL Central—are by no means “sellers” at this point, they have a proactive general manager in Doug Melvin who did not hesitate to pull the trigger to improve his team last season when he traded off top prospect Matt LaPorta for CC Sabathia. In addition, the Brewers also have a major league-ready shortstop at Triple-A in 22-year-old Alcides Escobar.
The Brewers could bring up Escobar as a second-baseman to replace the injured Rickie Weeks, but Melvin seems reluctant to change Escobar’s position. This would point to Hardy being available for the right return and the Twins are deep enough in pitching to make it work. Hardy, an above-average defender, brings 20-plus homer power and a respectable average along with the leather.
Hardy is currently under contract through 2010 when he’ll be entering his prime power years at age 27. This season he is making a very reasonable $4.65 million and, again, the Twins have the coffers to lock him up long term. Adding Hardy would allow Nick Punto to return to the role that suits him best: super utility player.
The Brewers' biggest need appears to be pitching. The Twins have some depth in the minors in Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak. It is also possible that the Twins could move underutilized--and underperforming--outfielder Carlos Gomez to serve as the Brewers' replacement for center fielder Mike Cameron who is eligible for free agency after 2009.
Rumors have the Red Sox, Mets, and Orioles interested in Hardy as well.
As mentioned before, the Twins historically do not get hot and heavy in trade deadline moves, but Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can't carry the load themselves. Some outside assistance will be necessary.
The last significant midseason trade the Twins made was to add Shannon Stewart back in 2003. Stewart hit .322 the rest of the way and provided the spark the Twins needed to reach the postseason.
Whether the Twins will make a similar move this season has yet to be seen. But as evidenced by this list, the options are out there and the Twins have more than a few areas of need, some of which could be filled via free agency as well.
Check back tomorrow when I post the five free agent options the Twins should be considering for a late-season playoff push.