James Dozier was mentioned regularly in last offseason's trade rumors, leading many to speculate that the second baseman would be one of the biggest names moved before this summer's non-waiver July 31 Trade Deadline.But something strange has happened with the Twins, the team that lost an MLB-high 103 games last
James Dozier was mentioned regularly in last offseason's trade rumors, leading many to speculate that the second baseman would be one of the biggest names moved before this summer's non-waiver July 31 Trade Deadline.
But something strange has happened with the Twins, the team that lost an MLB-high 103 games last season. They're winning.
Minnesota has been at or near the top of the American League Central all season, never falling further than 2 1/2 games out of first place while never building a division lead of more than three games.
As the calendar turns to July this weekend, the Twins have a few more weeks to decide whether to bolster their roster with an eye toward October or simply stay the course, continuing the long-term plan that chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine instituted before this surprisingly successful season.
That decision can be more difficult than you'd think.
"I don't ever take for granted that being in first place lacks meaning," Levine said. "When you're in first place, you try to capitalize on that, and the deeper that you get into a season and you're in first place or you're vying for first place, you don't take that lightly. At the same time, when you enter the season with an objective view of the team and where you are in the winning cycle, you also try not to lose sight of that."
Falvey, Levine and their staff appreciate being in contention, and while they don't want to turn a blind eye to that, they won't throw caution to the wind and abandon their long-term vision: to build a sustainable championship-caliber team that can win on an annual basis.
"In order to accomplish that, we maybe started the year not anticipating being a clear buyer at the Deadline," Levine said. "I don't think we feel that's changed dramatically, other than maybe adding his one qualifier: We're probably not going to be inclined to spend lavishly on short-term assets, but we would be very open to spending aggressively on assets that we could use to propel our team forward this year and for years to come.
"I think it leaves us contemplating buying, and that's how the season has impacted our decision-making."
That means players with years of team control remaining could be on Minnesota's radar. Levine didn't mention any by name, but players such as Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana and Player Page for David Robertson are among those that fit that profile.
The Twins aren't entirely opposed to adding an expiring contract or two in the coming month, though it's unlikely they would pay a premium when it comes to top prospects -- their three players (Nick Gordon, Stephen Gonsalves and Alex Kirilloff) listed among MLBPipeline.com's Top 100, for instance -- for such a player.
"I just don't think we're going to go all in to try to win this year," Levine said. "We're going to try to put ourselves in the best position to win, but with an eye toward now and the future. We're not a mature team that has a window that's wide-open or closing; we're trying to see how far we can push this season as we're cracking this window open, and we're going to treat it accordingly.
"I don't think we view it as we're just one piece away and we're not looking to finish off this club; we're looking to continue to build this club. We have a lot of core pieces that have a chance to be part of something special in the future, but we're cognizant that we're going to need to add to that core."
Like virtually every team in the game, the Twins are seeking bullpen reinforcements, having recently called up Alan Busenitz and Trevor Hildenberger to help the cause. They're also planning to bring Phil Hughes back from the disabled list in the coming days, hoping to get something out of the right-hander after an injury-filled year related to Thoracic outlet syndrome.
Hughes, of course, was very successful as a reliever with the Yankees, setting up for Mariano Rivera during the 2009 championship season.
"When you have the ability to add a guy with the track record and pedigree that Phil Hughes has to your young bullpen, that has to give you a shot in the arm," Levine said.
Minnesota is likely to let the next three or four weeks play out before making any major moves, or as Levine put it, "give ourselves a little bit of a longer runway to evaluate the situation and not make any short-term, capricious decisions." One thing seems certain: The idea of the Twins being sellers in the next month seems far-fetched.
"As objective as you try to remain, the fact remains that we're in contention," Levine said. "We've been kind of seesawing back and forth with the Indians. Most of the national pundits would suggest that the Indians are going to pull away at some point -- but they haven't yet. We're not looking to do anything to help them do that. If it happens organically, it happens; but we're not looking to accelerate that by trading away our most established and productive players. We're going to continue to evaluate the season moving forward.
"Some teams know where they are because they walked into the season with a clearer sense of where they were going to be. Where we are today vs. where people thought we were going to be at this point in the season is quite different. I think the Twins are one of the teams that will play this out as long as possible and allow for itself to kind of pivot one way or the other based upon how the rest of June and July ultimately unfolds."
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.