There's a lot to unpack in Twins Territory right now, from the upcoming July 31 Trade Deadline to a big series win in Cleveland to open the second half to what looks to be an inevitable roster crunch when Minnesota's position players start getting healthy again -- especially where breakout rookie Luis Arraez is involved.
So let's jump right into this week's Twins Inbox.
As far as off-the-radar relievers go -- outside of Will Smith, Tony Watson, Giles, Shane Greene and company -- I'd consider Arizona right-hander Greg Holland and Kansas City left-hander Jake Diekman, who are both free agents at the end of the season. Each could provide potential upside without the Twins needing to break the bank in terms of prospect capital.
Diekman's surface stats (5.06 ERA) aren't pretty, but he still touches 97-98 mph from the left side with a wipeout slider, he is viewed favorably by Statcast's metrics, and he would come cheap. He could certainly address the left-handed need in the Twins' bullpen if asking prices for the likes of bigger names like Smith or Watson are too aggressive.
Holland had an abysmal 2018 with the Cardinals after he got a late start during Spring Training, but the 33-year-old has rebounded this season with some of the best expected batted-ball metrics in baseball based on quality of contact -- to go with 37 strikeouts in 31 innings and a 3.19 ERA.
Would Twins consider moving Jonathan Schoop at the Deadline and giving Arraez all the second-base duties?
-- Carl O.
What's the most likely scenario to keep Arraez in the lineup when players start to get healthy?
For the record, I, too, believe that Arraez has earned his spot on this club. The 22-year-old has already been worth 1.1 WAR, per FanGraphs, in only 29 games, thanks to a .385/.444/.510 slash line. His bat control and plate discipline have absolutely translated to the Major Leagues, and his 39.3 percent line-drive rate also leads the team.
With that said, I don't think the Twins will be looking to move Schoop at the Trade Deadline. Even when acknowledging the struggles in higher-leverage situations -- and still, the sample size on those is too small to draw meaningful conclusions -- Schoop's defense and power are still assets to this team, and that's not to mention his strong clubhouse presence.
I would think that Arraez would assume Willians Astudillo's place on the roster, given his similar ability to play all over the field. And even when both Eddie Rosario and C.J. Cron are healthy, injuries always pop up. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Twins prep for the postseason by getting some of their more dinged-up players off their feet in August and September -- perhaps in "maintenance" stints on the injured list like that for Michael Pineda earlier this season ... if Arraez isn't traded at the Deadline, that is.
If the Twins trade for another starter, who do you see going to the bullpen? Or would they use a piggyback approach like early in the season?
-- Ricky W., Roseville, Minn.
I'd be surprised if they went back to the piggyback approach from the beginning of the season, when Pineda and Martin Perez were both pitching in shorter stints as the Twins tried to push five starters into a schedule built for a four-man rotation. With that in mind, I think it would make more sense to eventually move Pineda into a bullpen role if the Twins move for another starter.
As interested as I would be to see Perez hit 97 mph more consistently from the left side in shorter stints, he was punted to the bullpen by the Rangers last season and was not only ineffective in the role, but also clearly didn't enjoy it. He signed with the Twins in part because they openly viewed him as a starter, and he has been vocal about his identity as a starter since he arrived at Target Field.
The biggest factor for me in considering Pineda for a bullpen role is that he's in his first season off Tommy John surgery, and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has indicated that the coaching staff is certainly keeping Pineda's innings count in mind. Moving him to the bullpen would be a way to not only keep Pineda's arm fresh, but also to mitigate the damage from the one inconsistent inning that has often been his Achilles heel this season.
No and no. Bieber is under Cleveland's control until 2025, and he is clearly a piece that the club will build around in its future. I think he's about as close to untouchable on that roster as it gets. I'd also be surprised if the Twins move for Cabrera, as they already have more playable position players than they know what to do with.
Has there ever been a team to complete a season with their longest losing streak at two games? What would you say the Twins' chances are of achieving this?
-- Cody R., Bozeman, Mont.
I wasn't able to find out about losing streaks league-wide, but with help from Ian Kraft in Twins PR, I've found that there has not been Minnesota team to complete a season without losing three in a row. The Twins are currently the deepest into the season that they have ever been without such a losing streak; the previous record had been June 17-20, 1970. The last MLB team to make it this far without dropping three straight was the 2009 Dodgers (July 26-29).
I'm not even going to try to handicap the Twins' chances of making it through the whole season without dropping three straight, because baseball has such high variance and this sort of thing is impossible to project. But it wouldn't surprise me.
What does a series win in Cleveland mean for the next 10 vs. the Tribe? What do you think the over/under on a six-game lead would be the next time the Twins play them?
-- Mark N., Washington
Taking two of three in Cleveland in this last series in particular was huge for the Twins, because it represented the final set between the teams before the Trade Deadline, and thus the last chance for the Indians to directly eat away at the Twins' lead in the American League Central before they need to make decisions about their buyer/seller status and how aggressive they want to be in the trade market either way.
The Twins are clear buyers at this year's Deadline, but even with their recent hot streak, the Indians are out of an AL Wild Card position once again and have a grueling stretch against the Astros, Angels, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox and Yankees beginning at the end of July, meaning that I wouldn't be surprised to see them go either way -- and meaning that the tone of this matchup could be very different come August.
Either way, seven of the 10 remaining games between the clubs are at Target Field, where the Twins are 28-15 this season, which would make it more difficult for Cleveland to close the gap for the division, at least.