The American League Central has emerged as arguably the best division race in baseball. It’s the only race in which, at midweek, three teams had a .600 winning percentage or better. And those three teams -- the Twins, Indians and White Sox -- all entered play Wednesday within 1 1/2 games of each other.
“We know,” said Twins reliever Tyler Clippard, “every day is huge.”
Were conditions normal, this would be a situation screaming for each of those clubs to aggressively patch any and all holes at the Trade Deadline.
But what about 2020 is normal?
Certainly not the expanded playoff field, as it allows all three AL Central stalwarts to have a FanGraphs-calculated 98% chance or better of reaching October. Certainly not the postseason format, in which even the division winners will be subjected to the best-of-three opening round. And certainly not the Deadline itself, which looms on Monday at 3 p.m. CT with an overwhelming number of potential buyers and very few sellers.
So the trade equation isn’t straightforward for Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. It could be that the Twins have already done all the heavy lifting they’re going to do in 2020 with the signing of Josh Donaldson and Kenta Maeda. It could be that a simple return to health (for Donaldson and others) -- as well as the pending return of Michael Pineda from suspension (he’s eligible after 36 games, and the Twins played their 36th Wednesday night) -- is all the help Minnesota needs.
Falvey views the 2020 World Series -- given all the industry adversity it will have taken to get to that point -- as wholly legitimate. As such, he’s doing his due diligence in the trade market.
But he doesn’t sound like a man desperate to make a deal.
“I’ve never really viewed the one move at the Deadline to be the single answer,” Falvey told reporters this week. “I think that the group that is within our walls will be the vast majority of what will carry us ultimately to whatever outcome we get to this year. And I still feel that way.
“If there are ways to help our club and opportunities that present, certainly. But we’re going to do it on the backs of a lot of the people who are already within this organization.”
Twins opt to play
Across Major League Baseball on Wednesday, six teams and several additional players opted not to play -- a display of solidarity to call attention to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc.
In Cleveland, the Twins and Indians played on. But Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said his players did have a pregame discussion about the best path forward.
“We know there’s a lot of important discussion going on, not just in baseball, but around sports and throughout the country right now,” Baldelli said. “I think the movement to not play is a very powerful and even appropriate, in some circumstances, message. As far as our clubhouse, I think the players as a whole are going to take charge of that discussion.
“I probably at times will lead some of those discussions, and today I wanted the players to be able to talk amongst themselves. I don’t know that there was a team meeting. I don’t believe there was a team meeting, but I know that there was a lot of back and forth. And of course we ended up playing the ballgame. But it doesn’t mean that our guys didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about what’s going on.”
Said Baldelli ahead of Wednesday's game: “Our guys are very passionate about what is going on in the world. We have a very empathetic group. We have a group that always wants to do the right thing. I think everyone who gets the chance to spend time around our team knows the kind of people we have, and acknowledging disparities and inequalities is a big part of that. ... I know that there are some guys who are definitely hurting today. Again.”
Clippard comes back from comebacker
As has been the case throughout his long big league career, Clippard avoided the injured list this week. As scary as it looked when Clippard was drilled in his right elbow by a comebacker on Sunday, he was available out of the bullpen Wednesday, surprising even himself.
“I think initially, right after I got hit, I was pretty scared about the outcome of what happened there,” he said. “But the swelling went down really fast. Right away, I had mobility, full mobility.”
Clippard is proud of the durability he’s achieved in a career dating back to 2007.
“That’s what I hang my hat on, honestly,” Clippard said. “I’ve worked my tail off to be able to say that to people and I do wear it like a badge of honor.”
The Pineda Plan
Baldelli won’t publicly guess when Pineda, who is wrapping up his suspension for use of a diuretic, will officially rejoin the rotation. But he expressed confidence that Pineda will be ready when called.
“I’m not going to need to see Big Mike in person,” Baldelli said. “We’ve had plenty of eyes on Mike. He’s doing great, he’s built up.”
Pineda hasn’t appeared since Sept. 6 of last season.