Inbox: Will Morneau be traded soon?
Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger responds to Twins fans' questions
MINNEAPOLIS -- There's about a month left in the season, but there's still plenty of intrigue regarding the Twins, even as they've struggled for a third consecutive year.
Minnesota only has a few more days to make a waiver trade, as players traded after Aug. 31 aren't eligible to play in the postseason. And September callups will be coming soon, although they could be a bit delayed if Triple-A Rochester makes the playoffs.
It'll also be worth monitoring how the Twins play down the stretch, as they limped to the finish line in each of the past two years, but have more on the line this season, considering manager Ron Gardenhire is in the final year of his contract.
So with that in mind, here are a few pressing questions about the club in this edition of the Inbox:
Is there still a chance the Twins trade Justin Morneau this season? And what are the odds they re-sign him this offseason?
-- Mike O., Maple Grove, Minn.
The clock is ticking, as Morneau must be traded by Saturday to be eligible to play in the postseason. He's cleared waivers, so he can be traded to any team.
However, a trade is still highly unlikely, as the Twins simply wouldn't get much in return for a one-month rental for Morneau, who is still owed roughly $3 million this season. If Minnesota couldn't get what it was looking for before the July 31 non-waiver Deadline, it's doubtful the club will get it in a late August trade.
Morneau, though, has played better of late, hitting .270/.318/.550 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in August after a rough July. But he hasn't hit like an elite first baseman on the season, as his .263/.321/.424 line is slightly below the average line of .261/.336/.436 put up by Major League first basemen this year.
But Morneau is still the Twins' best option at first base in the short term, as Chris Parmelee has struggled this year and Chris Colabello hasn't yet proven that his success at Triple-A will carry over to the Majors.
So I could see Minnesota trying to bring back Morneau this offseason on a short-term deal, maybe an incentive-laden one-year deal with an option, because the organization is not exactly long on options at first base and the former American League MVP Award winner is still a face of the franchise, along with Joe Mauer.
Morneau hasn't been shy about wanting to stay in Minnesota, as his representatives have already reached out about an extension, but though they have been rebuffed by Twins officials. So I think he'll test the market this offseason, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's back next season.
Will No. 2 prospect Miguel Sano be a September callup? If not, when will he reach the Majors?
-- Bryan C., Eden Prairie, Minn.
Despite his success in the Minors this season, there's almost no chance Sano will get called up in September unless the Twins suffer a rash of injuries at third base. And even then, it's still doubtful, and general manager Terry Ryan has said as much.
Minnesota isn't in a hurry to place Sano on its 40-man roster, as he doesn't need to be placed on it for another two years, according to Ryan.
But having said that, Sano almost certainly will be placed on the 40-man roster before then, and he could be up early next season by May or June. He's expected to be invited to Major League Spring Training for the first time next year and should start the season at Triple-A Rochester.
Sano, 20, still needs to cut down on his strikeouts and improve defensively, but he has put up another monster year offensively.
Sano is hitting a combined .287/.382/.614, with 33 homers, 29 doubles and 99 RBIs in 116 games between Class A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. He homered twice on Sunday to give him 17 homers at Double-A, which is tied for seventh in the Eastern League, despite not starting there until June 12.
So the organization expects big things from Sano, but Twins fans will have to wait at least until next year to see him in the Majors.
With the impressive start by top prospect Byron Buxton, I imagine he'll reach the big leagues in two years. How do you see the outfield rotation with the likes of Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Darin Mastroianni, etc. in the future?
-- Luke J., Osage, Iowa
Buxton is clearly the center fielder of the future for the Twins and should make his Target Field debut in 2015.
The 19-year-old is the epitome of a five-tool player, and he has essentially dominated at Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers this year, with a .335/.426/.532 line, as well as 12 homers, 19 doubles, 18 triples and 52 stolen bases in 117 games. He should start at Double-A New Britain next year and is expected to continue his quick rise through the system.
Hicks, 23, also figures to be a big part of the club's outfield plans despite his struggles as a rookie this year. One positive has been some surprising power from Hicks, which would help his bat profile more in the corner outfield, where he could be a strong defender with his speed and plus-arm.
Arcia has also been impressive for a 22-year-old, flashing power at the big league level, but it's clear he has plenty of work to do defensively and still strikes out too often. Minnesota could opt to use him more as a designated hitter, but an Arcia-Buxton-Hicks outfield is still likely in 2015, barring a trade.
Other outfielders to look out for include No. 8 prospect Max Kepler, 20, and Angel Morales, 23, but Kepler is more likely to be ready in 2016 and Morales has really struggled at Double-A.
Johan Santana is a free agent after this season. What are the chances of the Twins signing him to a one- to two-year incentive-laden deal? Would they even be interested?
-- Aaron H., Burnsville, Minn.
Given Santana's success with the Twins before they traded him to the Mets, it's a fair question to ask if a reunion could be in the works this offseason. However, Santana is coming off left shoulder surgery and has been injury prone the past few years with the Mets, so it would carry quite a bit of risk.
I'm guessing Minnesota will at least check in on him, but the Twins likely want someone more durable they can plug in their rotation. Given the organization's rotation woes, Minnesota should target any available starting pitchers this offseason. The Twins have already had a few deals with injury-prone pitchers not work out recently with Joel Zumaya and Rich Harden, so I could see them shying away from someone like Santana, even if he's looking for just a one-year deal.