Levine not ready to deem Twins as sellers

June 9th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Entering a tough homestand against the Yankees and Astros, the Twins began Tuesday 11 games below .500 and appeared on the path to being sellers at the July 30 Trade Deadline, a wholly unexpected proposition for a team that was expected to compete for a third straight American League Central title.

But for Twins general manager Thad Levine, there's still no rush to anoint the club as a seller at this point -- and he indicated that other clubs haven't yet started to treat Minnesota as such in conversations with the Twins' front office.

"I think, like us, a lot of teams in the industry view us as a very talented club that is just ready to go on a run," Levine said. "So I think there's some degree of, it's early in the season. There also may be some degree of decorum that they're not calling us yet to insinuate that they think we could be selling."

It's been a tough go for the Twins, who lost a series in Baltimore and split a four-game set in Kansas City on their most recent road trip to drop to 24-35, tied for the third-worst record in the AL entering Tuesday.

However, the Twins have also had the tough hand of emerging from that part of their schedule with nine players on the injured list, including their Opening Day starter (Kenta Maeda) and four members of the Opening Day lineup. That's giving the Twins reason to continue to be patient with any possible moves, with more evaluation that can be achieved against some of the tougher competition in the AL, before committing to buying or selling.

"I think that until the market forces your hand, it's prudent to be as patient as you possibly can be," Levine said. "You never know what's going to happen. I do think we try to be as objective as we can in the best of times, as well as in the trying times, so that we can have an honest assessment of the club and its ability to prevail."

If the Twins continue their present trajectory toward selling, trade conversations will likely revolve around their players on expiring contracts (Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, Hansel Robles, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker) or those with one remaining year of team control (headlined by Byron Buxton, José Berríos and Taylor Rogers).

Levine indicated that he expected the market to be more active for additions -- including any possible moves involving the Twins -- in the latter half of July, as is customary, though he did distinguish between clubs seeking additions to help it reach the postseason (filling an area of need) against clubs aiming to reinforce itself, which could likely come later.

There's also the element that early trades from the Twins, particularly smaller moves that lean toward selling, could disrupt the chemistry and mood of the clubhouse, which has largely maintained its confidence throughout the early-season struggles. Levine indicated that has played a role in the Twins' philosophy as well.

"We've had a lot of moving pieces daily, since day one, and I think everybody is kind of gelling together," reliever Tyler Duffey said. "We feel good about where we're at. ... Once we keep clicking, and if we're able to do that on a regular basis, then we won't have anything to worry about."

The Twins appear on the path toward getting Buxton, Max Kepler and Maeda back on the Major League roster soon, which should go a long way for a team that started only three of its Opening Day starters in Sunday's series finale in Kansas City. Time is short to turn things around -- but the club doesn't believe it's run out yet.

But when the decision point comes, Levine indicated that the Twins will be decisive -- in one direction or the other.

"I think the area that we try not to get caught in is in between, where you misevaluate your ability to win in the short term and forfeit an opportunity to help the team in the future and vice versa," Levine said. "I think we're trying to use this downtime as best we can to do as much objective evaluation of what our real chances are and what path is the more prudent path to take, which is to help this team try to win today or to try to help the franchise for tomorrow."