Minnesota Twins Whatnot: July 9

Andrew KneelandSenior Writer IJuly 8, 2008

For this edition of Twin's Whatnot we bring in the starpower. We have some guests from the most popular Minnesota Twins blogs in the world who are making their inaugural appearance in this feature.

Sorry for the length, I will start a rotation for next week. Bring on the questions!

What is going to be more probable? Minnesota winning the Wild Card or the AL Central? What will happen?

Marty Andrade: With the Red Sox and the Rays playing so well, it's hard to believe the Twins have a legitimate shot at the Wild Card spot. For the Twins, the way to the playoffs is through the AL Central title. As for what will happen, it's hard to say.

A quick look at the numbers suggests the White Sox are the real deal, but the Twins have the ability to make the right moves and strengthen the team before the trading deadline.

Josh Johnson, of "Josh's Thoughts": I believe the Twins have a much better chance of winning the AL Central than the Wild Card, as I don't see them beating out any of the AL East teams (Red Sox, Rays, Yankees).

I want to say that I see us staying in it all season, but I have my doubts. I believe we lack a few pieces that's needed in a championship team, and I believe that although this team has already exceeded expectations, they are better suited at making a run for the playoffs next season. I see us staying in the race all year, but I don't see us making the playoffs.

Andrew Kneeland, of "Twins Fix": The AL Central will be easier for Minnesota to win than the Wild Card position, but it is still going to be hard. Ever since the loss of Pat Neshek, Minnesota has showed their need for an effective set-up man. I still believe that Craig Breslow can adequately fill this need, as Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier obviously cannot.

Minnesota would also need a great bat in order to contend with Chicago late in the season. I've read rumors of Barry Bonds coming to the Twins, and I wouldn't be totally opposed. The only disappointment would be watching Jason Kubel get less playing time. 

Nick Nelson, of "Nick and Nick's Twins Blog": I certainly think it's more likely that the Twins will win the AL Central. The Red Sox have the most talented team in the American League, in my opinion, so I expect them to have a strong second-half.

Meanwhile, I see no reason why the Rays can't continue to play at something close to their current rate. And, of course, the Yankees can never be discounted.

The Central seems more vulnerable because the Indians (who I felt were the division's best team prior to the season) have essentially bowed out, and the Tigers' pitching remains extremely questionable.

The White Sox are well built offensively, but I think we'll see some decline in their rotation and bullpen over the second half. 

Ravuth Thorng: With the way the AL East is going, it looks as if the Twins will need to win the division in order to make the playoffs. The Rays seem like the real deal this season, beating legitimate teams and holding the best record in baseball.

And, of course, the Red Sox and Yankees always have a fighting chance. With the Sox record being better than the Twins at the moment, the Wild Card seems just a bit further out of reach than the division, which is just one game away.

The White Sox seem to be a hard team to beat, but they are a slugging ballclub, with some decent pitching. Slugging ballclubs falter more often than a well-rounded small-ball team.

The Twins will make a late-season surge if they keep playing the way that they have been, with chemistry. The Piranhas might be back to bite Ozzie Guillen again.

Daniel Wade: I’d say winning the division is more probable, since the competition is much smaller. If the Sox falter at all, the Twins can step into the division lead, and then just need to fend off one or two challengers, but in the Wild Card race, it’s a matter of getting hot at the right time and then fending off the furious challenges of everyone else in the AL, which usually ends up being at least two or three serious teams and a couple of pretenders.

Realistically, I don’t see this team making the playoffs as they stand; they need one more bat and bullpen help. That said, if Delmon Young can start to hit for power, and Glen Perkins can transition to the bullpen when Liriano comes back up, maybe that is enough to make a real run.

I’d like to see a piece added between now and the deadline, but maybe internally shuffling will fill the Twins’ needs for once.  

Will Livan Hernandez be dealt before the trade deadline? How about any other Twin? Should they?

Marty Andrade: The Twins don't need Livan. There's one player in the bullpen they could use as a starter and three players in AAA they could use with the same or better effect. Livan has been pitching well enough to be an option on the trading block, and the Twins could get some value for him.

As for everyone else, I like to say, everything is for sale at the right price. You can never become too attached to any player. Brendan Harris, Mike Lamb (he really needs to go, the Twins should be willing to pay Lamb's salary if another team is willing to take him), Jason Pridie, and Darnell McDonald (in AAA), etc, etc.

Josh Johnson: To be completely honest, I don't see Livan Hernandez going anywhere. I think they are going to hope that he just gets them a compensatory pick in free agency, and they will keep him around the rest of the season.

I do, however, see the team getting rid of either Craig Monroe or Mike Lamb. One will be gone by the trade deadline, and it will open up a spot for Denard Span to stay with the team.

Most importantly, I think this team needs to acquire an eighth-inning set-up man. Matt Guerrier has done a decent job, but I liked him more as the seventh-inning guy (and occasional eighth-inning guy) like he was used when Pat Neshek was healthy.

I'd love to see us acquire a bat like Casey Blake, and I think we'd have a reasonable chance at retaining him after the season.

As much as I like Brian Buscher, it's unrealistic to expect him to continue hitting as well as he has. Although, he definitely deserves a chance to prove himself. And like every other team, I'd love to acquire a top-of-the-line starter, but that's not going to happen.

Really, I think this team really just needs to tinker with its own players, and I think they will be fine. I believe Carlos Gomez needs to be dropped to No. 9 in the order, moving Denard Span to leadoff, and I'd also like to see Michael Cuddyer get a few starts at third base, as I believe Span is here to stay and deserves to start.

It's unlikely that Cuddyer will be moved to third base during the middle of the season, but I think the Twins need to keep Span in the lineup at all costs. And since Gomez is unlikely going to be taken out, that may be the only way to get everyone enough playing time. 

Andrew Kneeland: I am a huge supporter of any trade involving Livan Hernandez, but I seriously doubt any trade will happen this year. I expect Minnesota to hang onto the veteran until the season closes, and then gather their supplementary draft pick. For some reason, though, I expect a trade of Boof Bonser might be imminent. To whom, though, I have no idea.

As usual, though, I expect no big moves or deadline crunches for the Twins. They are renowned for working with what they have, and I think that is the perfect solution this season. Brendan Harris is fitting in nicely in both the lineup and the infield, and Denard Span burst on the scene after Cuddyer was injured.

Some changes should be made internally to help this team, but some smart trades to gather players from outside the organization wouldn't hurt either. Casey Blake has been drawing my eyes for about a week now, and I think Minnesota should look into him. Will they convince Cleveland to trade him? Probably not.

Nick Nelson: I think the Twins will be mostly inactive at the trading deadline. They might trade Hernandez if he garners any interest, and Liriano forces the issue, but I really don't think there will be much of a market for Hernandez.

Ravuth Thorng: Livan has been the veteran presence that the Twins needed. Although he hasn't been pitching like the ace, he has been successful and has taught the staff through his experiences. If the Twins were looking for a spot to put Liriano back in, possibly after the break, he may be taking Livan's spot because of his recent ineffectiveness.

He is a valuable asset as a mentor, but not as much in the rotation. He is turning out to be the Ramon Ortiz of last season, the difference though. Livan makes adjustments, as Ortiz did not.

Mike Lamb was brought to the club to add a big bat over at third. His defense is satisfactory, but his bat has been all but that. With the emerging Bucsher lighting up opponents from the left side, and Harris flashing his leather at third recently, I don't see any room on the club for Lamb or Everett.

The guys that Gardy is sending in right now are younger, speedier, and have better range, making for a better long-term decision. 

Daniel Wade: I can’t see any team that needs Livan or someone like him. No one buys into the veteran presence myth like the Twins do, and he hasn’t shown much that would trick another team into bidding for his services. However, the Rockies wanted Ramon Ortiz, and he was worse than Livan, so who knows.

I’ve been beating the drum of trading Cuddyer for months, and I’ve taken a ton of heat for it, but it's too late to quit now. I know all about the small sample size argument, and I’ve taken it into account, but even so, Span has looked very good defensively in right, though he lacks Cuddyers’ arm, but he and Delmon could switch sides without much change.

At the plate, he’ll get on base at a higher rate than Cuddyer did, though he probably won’t have as much power, but it's not like Cuddy was knocking the cover off of the ball anyway.

Trading Cuddyer only makes sense if the Twins get serious value in return, which probably means having him headline a package deal rather than act as a piece all by his lonesome. I doubt this deal will ever happen, but with Span and Kubel both outplaying Cuddyer, it doesn’t make sense to have such a crowded outfield and need players in the infield.

I’ve watched this team long enough to know not to expect anything at the deadline, but Billy Smith is basically playing with house money this season, so who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us all.  

Can Minnesota keep this production up for long? Early predictions for the three-game Red Sox and four-game Tigers series? 

Marty Andrade: The Twins are hitting unusually well with RISP. This is unlikely to continue. However, the Twins have improved their team OPS over the last month, and so far in July, the Twins lead in OPS, SLG, OBP, and are second in the AL in RS.

With the bullpen sorta getting its act together, and the starting pitchers on a quality-start tear, the Twins should be able to keep themselves above .500, and probably could keep themselves close to the White Sox.

How the Twins do against the White Sox is probably the more important indicator of how the season will go.

The Twins, at the time of writing, just lost the opener to the Red Sox 1-0. The team looked real good, which means the Twins could come out ahead in these upcoming series. I say they win three out of four against the Tigers and split the remaining Red Sox games for a 4-3 record. 

Josh Johnson: If I had to give my answer yes or no, I'd have to go with no, and it's really just because I have serious doubts about the bullpen and the lineup. The Twins need more consistent contribution from guys not named Mauer or Morneau.

Delmon Young, I believe, can be that guy, but he definitely needs to drive the ball more.

And I don't like our chances in either of the upcoming series. The Red Sox are just too good and the Tigers are starting to turn things around in the right direction and still have a very frightening lineup.

Andrew Kneeland: While I think this awesome streak is not entirely a gimmick, Minnesota cannot keep at the top of the league at production with RISP for too long. As much as I hate to say it, the bats will die down, as will the pitching. The Twins will need to do some tweaking if they want to compete. They cannot overtake Chicago with the present lineup and bullpen.

Having benefited from knowing the outcomes of the first two Red Sox games, I can tell you that Minnesota won't win that series. Livan will trot out there in game three and show us why he isn't the ace.

I have a bad feeling about this next game, but I feel strangely confident about facing the Tigers. I think our great pitching will still be great against them, and we have the benefit of not having to pitch Livan, which is always good. I think Minnesota takes at least three of four from Detroit.

Nick Nelson: Both these teams can hit and are very good at home, so I feel that the Twins would be fortunate to win four of these seven upcoming games. For over a month now, I have been anticipating a drop-off in what seems like an unsustainable level of hitting in scoring opportunities, but the offense continues to succeed in these situations.

Ravuth Thorng: Minnesota seems to have developed a ballclub that has chemistry. As opposed to the Red Sox and Tigers, both of which are slugging teams, they play a bit of small-ball on the side.

Also, both have a bevy of big names, and with big names come big egos. Many players are out for their own stats and not so much for the wellbeing of the club.

The Twins have played well, despite all the skeptics/analysts that saw them at the bottom of the division. They might not be able to keep up the big productions and come-from-behind victories, but they will sure try.

If the pitching just keeps doing what they're doing, and the bats don't slumber all game (they didn't with Cliff Lee, and handed him his first loss against the AL), they can keep winning against the Tigers, Sox, and everybody else for that matter.

Also, the abundance of speed in the lineup has played a big factor. Speed causes errors and mistakes, putting a lot of pressure on the pitcher.

The Twins will win the series against Boston, and at least split, if not win, the series against Detroit.

Daniel Wade: Conventional wisdom says no; their average with RISP will regress in the second, and without that “lucky” production, the Twins will have trouble scoring runs at their current clip.

I don’t buy it. I think the Twins will regress some, but I think this team can continue to produce well enough to back their pitcher most nights, and that’s really what matters. I’m still expecting improvements from Gomez and Young at the plate, so that should help, even if Casilla and Span can’t keep their production at the current levels.

I think the Sox are too glad to be home for the Twins to win the series, but every game will be close. 2-1 Sawx. The Twins are playing well against the Tigers right now, and the pitching matchups portend a split at worst, so I think the Twins will win one of the two other games and take their final series of the first half 3-1. A 4-3 roadtrip isn’t bad at all, given the quality of their opponents.  

Even though it indirectly involves the Twins, what are your opinions of the Sabathia trade? Who won the deal, and does it make Cleveland better? How does it affect Minnesota?  

Marty Andrade: I think Cleveland made the right move. CC is a good pitcher, but the Indians have a team to fix and need to start rebuilding parts of the organization. It was, in my estimation, the perfect trade.

Cleveland profited by dropping an expensive player and getting some young talent, and the Brewers gained a rent-a-pitcher for their end-of-the-season playoff run.

As for its effects on Minnesota, it's nice not to have to face CC anymore. However, it also means CC won't be facing our AL Central rivals. It's a wash.

Josh Johnson: I think that the Indians got a great return for Sabathia. They know that it's very unlikely to win the division, and that Sabathia was unlikely to stay in Cleveland after this season, so they dealt him for one of the best hitting prospects in the minors, for really just three more months of Sabathia and two first-round draft picks.

I think that the Indians have a solid pitching rotation centered around Cliff Lee and (although injured) Fausto Carmona that is good enough that they'll be able to absorb the loss of Sabathia next year and for the next few years.

They also free up money, which will allow them to pick up a solid starter this offseason, all while improving their pretty dreadful offense.

I think that this move definitely helps the Twins in the fact that Sabathia has really pitched well against us, but I'm really afraid of how good their offense could be if 100-percent healthy. Sizemore, Hafner, Martinez, and LaPorta is a very good, young lineup (again if 100-percent healthy).

Andrew Kneeland: I love this deal for Cleveland, and I have a feeling we will come to dislike Matt LaPorta as soon as next year. I think he will tear apart our pitching, especially in his rookie year. It will be nice not having to face CC again, though. I wish him the best of luck with the Brew Crew.

Milwaukee made the right rent-a-player deal because they can still contend for the division crown. After Chicago acquired Harden, though, I have a feeling the division will come down to the wire.

Nick Nelson: The trade makes sense from the perspective of both teams. LaPorta has a much more clear path to the majors in the Indians' system than with the already power-packed Brewers, and Sabathia could give the Brewers rotation enough of a boost to make the postseason, and succeed once they get there.

If Ben Sheets can stay healthy, he and Sabathia could form a devastating one-two punch, similar to the Sabathia/Carmona combo, which carried Cleveland to the ALCS last year.

The Indians didn't get GREAT value for Sabathia, but they're dealing him out of the AL and the package is probably better than what they would have gotten with the compensatory picks if he left as a free agent after the season. It's hard to pick a winner in this swap right now, but certainly neither club looks like a loser in the deal. 

Ravuth Thorng: Cleveland won the deal because they need more than just one pitcher. With the two or three guys in the rotation out, and big run producers out, they have dropped out of contention. It is unlikely that they could make a miraculous comeback like the Twins did a couple years ago, so get rid of the big-salary guy and develop players for the future.

The way I see it, the Twins won as well, because now they wont have to face Sabathia all but maybe a couple times a year if he stays in Brew-Town. Even though the Twins have beaten him, he is a hot-cold type guy. He's either on or off, and when he's on, he is unbeatable, and the Twins don't need that stress.

Milwaukee is pretty much just renting Sabathia for the playoff push, because it is still not certain if he will re-sign after the season. So, in my opinion, Cleveland won.

I mean, look at the Twins after the Santana trade. They sure as hell are holding their own, and Santana is suffering from lack of run support. Sound familiar?

Daniel Wade: The trade is the kind of deal I think a lot of people want the Twins to make. Milwaukee used their deep farm system to buy the best piece out there for now; they’ve made their bed, now we’ll all get to find out what its like to sleep in it.

Cleveland won this deal hands down.

Neither team has any chance of signing CC this offseason, so the Indians basically got a top-shelf prospect for throwing in the towel on an already dead season. LaPorta was a great piece, and the others weren’t bad either, and while it makes the Indians worse in the short team, LaPorta will be able to contribute before too long, and he will definitely make them better in the long run.

Milwaukee deserves some props for this deal though. They took a sober look at their core and realized that if they had ANY hope of competing this year, they needed to add a pitcher, so they did.

Sheets will likely be gone next year, leaving Gallardo to anchor the rotation alone, and after that, they will have to start making decision on which of their young players are essential and which can be dealt for younger and cheaper parts.

The Brewers felt this was their best chance to make a run deep into the playoffs, and they added the best possible patch for their most glaring hole. At least no one can accuse them of being spineless.


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