As an unprecedented Trade Deadline looms at 3 p.m. CT on Monday, the Twins are down one-third of their starting lineup, two-fifths of their rotation and two members of their Opening Day bullpen. And yet, here they still are, atop the American League Central with a clear path to a 40-win season and a high postseason seed.
There are already big reinforcements on the way in the form of suspended right-hander Michael Pineda and injured Josh Donaldson (along with the six other players on the injured list), and that gives the Twins hope that their roster will already be plenty improved in September without being too active on the trade market.
"When we look at our club, I think we see a team that is performing pretty well on the field," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "There's certainly always opportunities to try and get better. But I really look at a lot of our group that is coming back to this team as ways for us to meaningfully improve."
An important wrinkle to this year's Trade Deadline is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however. Additionally, scouts have not been allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on provided video and data and past knowledge.
Considering that lack of scouting knowledge and the expanded playoff format creating opportunity for there to be more buyers and fewer sellers, Falvey indicated that he expects this could be a quieter Deadline, though that could obviously change in the final two to three days as teams solidify their plans.
Buy ... though it could be tough to find a deal.
For a team like Minnesota that is looking to win now, it would be a no-brainer decision to mash the "buy" button in a normal year, but it's tougher to see any significant deal materializing in this odd 2020 season.
Falvey indicated that many early trade discussions have revolved around players with expiring contracts and less so on those under club control beyond this season. The latter could have been a better fit, considering the deluge of free agents set to depart and the composition of the Twins' player pool, which involves several elite prospects nearing the Majors and a group of Minor League veterans and not much in between.
"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," Falvey said. "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."
What they want
The bullpen is really the only place where any trade acquisition would even fit on this roster. Once Donaldson, Mitch Garver and Byron Buxton are healthy, there isn't anything close to a hole in the lineup. And even with Homer Bailey on the 45-day injured list, the return of Pineda will already give the Twins more veteran starters than can fit in the rotation.
Is there a need for a left-handed reliever with Taylor Rogers locked into the closer's role? Perhaps, but the Twins actually have one of the best bullpens in the Majors against left-handed hitters, and there are also intriguing young arms at the alternate training site like Jhoan Duran (No. 5 Twins prospect), Edwar Colina (No. 16) and Dakota Chalmers (No. 24) who could be in the mix to contribute, Falvey said.
What they have to offer
Given the Twins are in win-now mode, they almost certainly aren't going to part with any contributors to the Major League roster. There aren't too many realistic trade chips in the player pool, either. Falvey has already indicated that the Twins hope to build around the likes of No. 1 prospect Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff (No. 2), Trevor Larnach (No. 3) and Duran instead of moving them.
The middle-tier prospects like Brent Rooker (No. 12), Gilberto Celestino (No. 15), Colina, Travis Blankenhorn (No. 18) and Chalmers would likely be too much too offer in exchange for a one-month rental, though the non-pitchers might come into play if a controllable arm were to become available via trade.
Chance of a deal
20 percent. In a normal year, the Twins would have many more options available to them, both on the market and in their tradeable assets. But looking at this roster and the amount of arm talent that's nearly MLB-ready in the player pool, it's tough to imagine the Twins making a splash at the Trade Deadline.