Let's face it: The AL Central is the Minnesota Twins' division to lose, and they did just about everything they could to lose it in the last month or so before the All-Star break. The starting pitching was atrocious and the offense faltered.
So what should the Twins do? With Mauer and every starting pitcher besides Pavano underperforming, it's looking pretty rough. I've got a few ideas to entertain:
Trade for Dan Haren or Ted Lilly
Cliff Lee already slipped by. I'm sick of seeing the Twins wait and wait for a great deal to land under their nose, only to get stuck with a lackluster upgrade right before the trade deadline.
Supposedly the Twins would have had Lee for Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks, but backed out. I understand that Minnesota values their prospects, but they've been developing some great young players for the last 19 years with no championships.
Why not trade the young guys? Looking ahead to the future is a good thing, but not if there is never a "present."
Dan Haren would come to Minnesota with an option for 2013 if they could land him, and would be a better deal than Cliff Lee because he is young, proven, and isn't just a rental. Roy Oswalt has been great this year, but hasn't been given any run support and comes at a high price. Either pitcher would be a great upgrade, and the Twins absolutely need to make a push for one of the two. Shoddy pitching is not how teams win divisions.
Some other starters that should be on the move are Ted Lilly and Fausto Carmona. Lilly could benefit from a change of scenery, as he has posted a 3-8 record in a Cubs uniform. The Twins would love another lefty starter as much as I'd like to see Lilly pitch in the American League. Carmona looks to be back to 2007 form, going 8-7 with a nice 3.64 ERA before the break.
Shop for a Starter at Third Base
I've heard rumors about the Twins eyeing Miguel Tejada. He would bring great defense, and is currently hitting .276/7/35. Not too bad for an old guy. The problem is he likes playing in Baltimore. If the Twins could hoist him over to Minnesota, he would be a nice upgrade both offensively and defensively.
What about Joe Crede? He is apparently healthy and would sign for next to nothing. He promises stellar defense at third, but his offense is questionable. At this point, I don't see why the Twins don't sign him for $1 mil or so and spend some real big bucks on another offensive upgrade.
Mix Up the Starting Rotation
Trade Nick Blackburn. Cut your losses. Blacky has shown nothing but his inability to compete at the major league level, and hasn't been effective since the end of May.
Something else I'd like to see is Brian Duensing in the starting lineup. He's been lights-out as a reliever and even showed great starting stuff last year, ending with a start against the Yankees in game one of the ALDS. Putting Duensing in the starting five would give the Twins another proven (although briefly) lefty starter.
I wouldn't even be opposed to sending Alex Burnett to the mound for some starts. He's thrown 40 innings so far this season and boasts a 3.60 ERA from the bullpen. Sure beats Blackburn's 6.40 or Baker's 4.87.
Grab Some Relievers and a Real Closer
Neshek is injured, Condrey is injured, and Guerrier has imploded as of late. It's about time to shore up the bullpen. A lot of guys could be moving, and I would expect one, if not more, to land in a Twins uniform by the end of July.
A diamond in the rough down the stretch has been Jesse Crain. He's been electric lately, although his numbers don't really show it. I expect Crain and his rejuvenated slider to see a lot more time in the second half.
Matt Capps is somebody I would love to see end up in Minnesota. While I haven't heard anything involving the Twins and Capps, he makes perfect sense. Matt has had some issues with the long ball this year, and Target field seems to be a pitcher's ballpark through and through. The Twins need a good closer, and Capps could fit the role nicely.
Another (more likely) option for the Twins is David David Aardsma of the Mariners. Aardsma is a proven closer, but holds a rough 0-6 record and a sub-John Rauch 16-for-20 saves. At this point, I'd stick with Rauch unless the Twins can land a Matt Capps or Heath Bell kind of closer.
Just Make Some Moves!
The Twins are going to need to be busy before the trade deadline. The White Sox have already been linked to some big players like Prince Fielder, and the Tigers don't appear to be going anywhere. A new third baseman, a veteran ace, reliever and closer are what the Twins need. Here are my suggestions and hopefuls for said deficient positions:
Third Base Suggestion: Miguel Tejada .277, 7 HR, 35 RBI
Third Base Hopeful: Kevin Kouzmanoff .266, 8 HR, 40 RBI
Starter Suggestion: Ted Lilly 3-8, 4.08 ERA
Starter Hopeful: Dan Haren 7-7, 4.36 ERA
Reliever Suggestion: Todd Coffey 2-2, 4.41 ERA
Reliever Hopeful: Mike Wuertz 2-1 5.60 ERA
Closer Suggestion: Kerry Wood 8 SV, 6.30 ERA
Closer Hopeful: Matt Capps 23 SV, 3.18 ERA
There's the blueprint. A handful of moves could put the Twins back on track in 2010, and will hopefully help Ron Gardenhire win his sixth division title and first World Series as manager of the Minnesota Twins.