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Twins likely to hold steady at Trade Deadline

First two weeks of second half crucial for second-place Minnesota
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a strong homestand on which they won nine of 11, the Twins are trying their best avoid being sellers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Twins are 7 1/2 games back of the first-place Indians in the American League Central with 68 games to play, but they must play well over the next two weeks to remain in contention, or else they're expected to be sellers. Minnesota has several notable players set to be free agents after the season, like second baseman Brian Dozier, infielder Eduardo Escobar, closer Fernando Rodney and right-hander Lance Lynn.

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a strong homestand on which they won nine of 11, the Twins are trying their best avoid being sellers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Twins are 7 1/2 games back of the first-place Indians in the American League Central with 68 games to play, but they must play well over the next two weeks to remain in contention, or else they're expected to be sellers. Minnesota has several notable players set to be free agents after the season, like second baseman Brian Dozier, infielder Eduardo Escobar, closer Fernando Rodney and right-hander Lance Lynn.

Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine are continuing to monitor the situation, and they aren't likely to make any deals until closer to the Deadline -- much like last year, when they pivoted from being buyers to sellers. At this time in 2017, they traded for Jaime Garcia, only to trade him to the Yankees, while also dealing closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals. Of course, Minnesota went on to the AL Wild Card Game last year, which provides optimism that this group can turn it around as well.

Video: TB@MIN: Rodney fans Duffy to notch his 21st save

"Derek and Thad, it's not like they have a set plan in my mind," manager Paul Molitor said. "Just like last year, you listen to what people have to say and look at our situation simultaneously. As they always do, they're going to do what they feel is best, both short-term and long-term."

Here's a look at where the Twins stand at the season's halfway point.

Current status: Hold
The Twins aren't likely to be buyers, but the hope in the clubhouse is that they play well enough that the front office decides to stick with the current group with the hope of catching Cleveland in the AL Central. Right-hander Ervin Santana is set to return shortly after the break, while third baseman Miguel Sano and center fielder Byron Buxton could provide a second-half boost, although there's no timetable for either's return from the Minors.

Video: MIN@SEA: Buxton throws Healy out at home to end 8th

What they are seeking
It's impossible to have too much pitching, so the Twins are likely to look for cost-controlled arms. The club already has several young starting pitching prospects, like Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell and Brusdar Graterol, so they could look more to relief help.

Minnesota would love to improve its catching depth as well, but it's going to take the best available offers if it decides to sell. The club also prefers prospects closer to the Majors, because it feels it can compete next season.

What they have to offer
The Twins have several impending free agents, including Dozier, Escobar, Lynn and Rodney. Lefty Zach Duke could also draw interest, while designated hitter Logan Morrison has struggled too much offensively to create any value. First baseman Joe Mauer has a no-trade clause, so he's not going anywhere. Right-hander Kyle Gibson remains under contract through next season, but he could bring back a solid return given how he's pitched over the past calendar year.

Video: TB@MIN: Gibson fans 9 over 8 innings of 1-run ball

Possible scenario
If the Twins are out of contention, Dozier remains more likely to be dealt than Escobar, but both have been linked to clubs such as the Dodgers and Brewers, who are seeking infield help. Dozier or Escobar could be a lower-cost alternative to trading for Orioles star Manny Machado.

The Dodgers have had their eye on Dozier over the past few seasons, and he'd represent an upgrade for them at second base. Rodney has had an impressive season, and a contending team such as the Red Sox could look to add him to their bullpen as a setup reliever. Lynn has a 5.22 ERA on the season, but he's been better since a terrible April, posting a 3.67 ERA over his past 10 starts.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins