To understand why this long-awaited trade for veteran left-hander Jaime Garcia makes so much sense for the Twins, check out the standings. There's a postseason berth there to be won. It's beginning to be won.This is an opportunity the club may not have seen coming. None of us did. We
To understand why this long-awaited trade for veteran left-hander Jaime Garcia makes so much sense for the Twins, check out the standings. There's a postseason berth there to be won. It's beginning to be won.
This is an opportunity the club may not have seen coming. None of us did. We expected Minnesota to have faded away by now. The Twins were too young in some areas, too old in others. Their rotation lacked depth. The bullpen was a work in progress.
Now here we are, approaching the 100th game, and Minnesota is one of baseball's nice stories. At 49-48, the Twins are 2 1/2 games behind the Indians in the American League Central and a game behind the Royals and Rays in the AL Wild Card race.
To repeat: A postseason berth is there to be had, begging to be had. That's why the Twins acquired Garcia, a free agent after the season, and catcher Anthony Recker from the Braves for Minor League pitcher Huascar Ynoa on Monday.
Garcia gives the club rotation depth and innings. He has pitched at least six innings in 14 of 18 starts. Garcia also has 10 quality starts. Only one Minnesota starter -- Ervin Santana, who has 13 -- has more.
Two youngsters -- Jose Berrios and Adalberto Mejia -- have upgraded the Twins' rotation behind Santana, even while having the normal ups and downs all young players have. Mejia has a 2.56 ERA in his past seven starts, and Berrios has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 10 of 13 starts.
There's other things to like about Minnesota. Manager Paul Molitor has the back of the bullpen lined up, with Taylor Rogers pitching the eighth inning in front of All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler.
The Twins also win because they play great defense. They win close games; they're 11-5 in one-run contests. They win on the road (26-17).
Third baseman Miguel Sano, 24, has become the player he was long supposed to be, with 23 home runs and 68 RBIs entering Monday. Center fielder Byron Buxton, 23, occasionally flashes one of the best skill sets in the game.
Three other regulars -- shortstop Jorge Polanco, left fielder Eddie Rosario and right fielder Max Kepler -- are 25 or under.
There's a funny thing about young teams. They run out there on Opening Day having fun and ready to measure themselves against the best of the best. In this case, that's the defending AL champion Indians.
The Twins have done that, and little by little, their confidence has grown. They are not a perfect team, but they are smart, resourceful and resilient. Minnesota still hopes to get second baseman James Dozier going. And it could use another bullpen arm or two to get the ball to Rogers and Kintzler.
But in a division in which every team is sorting through some issues, the Twins may be good enough. That's what adding Garcia to the rotation means. His 4.30 ERA this season can be twisted and turned anyway you'd like.
Garcia has put together solid starts against the D-backs and Dodgers in his past two turns. Before that, he had four bad starts in a row. In 12 starts before that, Garcia was plenty solid with a 3.16 ERA and six-plus innings per start.
Garcia just makes sense for the Twins, especially in a market in which starting pitching is a hot commodity. We've seen a flurry of trades in front of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline because so many teams -- probably 18, maybe more -- see a reasonable path to the postseason.
Doors like the one that has opened for Minnesota don't come along every season. For a young team, a team on the rise, a postseason appearance would be giant step forward.
Last offseason, the Twins turned their baseball operations over to two of baseball's brightest executives: president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine.
They are smart and detail oriented. They're also willing to alter the larger blueprint to make a run here and now. The acquisition of Garcia is an acknowledgement of that.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.