Wednesday, for the first time all season, the Minnesota Twins ascended to two games over the .500 mark. It is hard to believe that, given this situation and the fact that there are only nine more games before the All-Star break, the team would be looking to buy at the deadline.
Usually, if a team has stumbled around the .500 mark for the entire first half of the season, they are looking to sell and rebuild for next year. However, with the rest of the AL Central playing below expectations as well, the Twins are right in the thick of the fight.
With just one month left before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins will have to decide sooner rather than later if their current crop of players has what it takes to make the push they'll need to get into the playoffs.
Given that they've demoted or DFA'd three relievers already this year, and with Sean Henn hanging on by the skin of his teeth, the Twins will probably be connected with basically every relief pitcher who becomes available between now and 11:59 p.m. on July 31.
One of the first names to hit the market: San Diego Padres reliever, Cla Meredith.
Between the Dodger's white-hot start and the Rockies and Giants consistent progress toward the top, its pretty clear that the NL West has already broken down into haves and have-nots. The Padres may not be in last place, but at 14.5 games behind the Dodgers, they aren't exactly breathing down their neck.
The Fathers have already tried to deal one of their players, Jake Peavy, and Meredith is widely regarded as the next man to go.
Meredith is best known for his herky-jerky delivery as well as his unbelievable 2006 season, which ought to remind Twins fans of someone. Much like the aforementioned sidewinder, Meredith has struggled since his breakout season. Though unlike Neshek, he has remained fairly healthy.
Meredith relies on a nearly 2:1 GB/FB rate to get hitters out, mixing an 85 MPH fastball with a change up (79 MPH), slider (79 MPH) and curve (84 MPH). He isn't overpowering by any stretch of the imagination, but he is deceptive and that's what helps him get hitters out.
Moving from the NL to the AL should add at least .70 on to his ERA, as well as whatever the loss of PetCo's ample space will add. The Metrodome has traditionally been more of a pitchers park, but this season it is the fourth best hitters park in baseball.
What this really ought to indicate is that the park is near neutral and that the yearly fluctuations have more to do with the quality of the team's hitters and pitchers than any actual fluctuation in how the park functions.
Meredith has posted a better line this year than he did last year, but his WHIP has climbed to a career high, fueled by a career high walk rate, both of which are very bad signs for a reliever.
His BABIP has ballooned to .341, which will likely regress over the rest of the season. Opponents are hitting .303 against him, and if his BABIP falls, so will that BAA. There is a point at which, however, teams will just have to accept the fact that he gives up more base runners than average, but that they seldom turn that into runs.
Because of his penchant for allowing base runners, Meredith is not the type of guy who can come in in the middle of an inning and get one hitter to stem a threat, but he could be effective if allowed to start innings.
One thing working in Meredith's favor is that his type of motion is one that can really fool hitters when they aren't familiar with it. Given all the tape on Meredith, his delivery won't be a complete surprise, but AL hitters will still have less familiarity with it than those in the NL West who see it with relative frequency, and that will yield a few extra outs.
Meredith isn't the ideal reliever to add for the stretch run, but teams aren't exactly lining up to part with their high leverage guys for nothing. Trading for relievers is always a crap shoot. I mean, who'd have thought David Aardsma would be among the best relievers in baseball.
So this caveat should be applied to every reliever who hits the market: don't overpay.
If the Padres were willing to part with Meredith for salary relief and a low level prospect, Meredith could be a valuable addition to the team. If they want anything higher than a mid-level prospect, the Twins should tell them, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Ultimately, I'm not sold on Meredith as the answer to the Twins' problems.
If he can be had cheaply, he's certainly better than Sean Henn. However, Bill Smith and the rest of the staff shouldn't lose too much sleep trying to obtain a pitcher desperately trying to regain his 2006 form.