The Twins spent much of the deadline focused on acquiring Drew Storen. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
I'm barely even going to get into the absurdity that is Bill Smith and Mike Rizzo both overvaluing Drew Storen so much that it's downright comical (Smith thinking it's a good idea to trade a 27-year-old elite defensive center fielder for a reliever, and Rizzo saying "no this reliever is too valuable, give me more than your premium position player that's locked up at a below-market cost" is somewhere around the baseball equivalent of Caddyshack in terms of epic humor in my mind). Instead I'm wondering why exactly Bill Smith was trying to (in his mind) hit a home run, when the Twins should've been looking to hit a single.
The Twins were in a precarious deadline position; they were in the spot no team wants to be in -- potentially damned if you do, damned if you don't. At seven games out of first place, there's plenty of time for the team to come back and make a run. However, the sustained injuries, weak bullpen/bench, and the absence of vintage Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are noticeable obstacles. Selling off big prospects to make a run right now would likely prove to be foolhardy, while selling off Major League pieces means conceding a division race that may still be winnable.
Smith's "solution" to the problem, naturally, was to add an impact reliever, who -- deja vu anyone? -- plays for the Nationals. On the surface, adding a reliever from the Nats would make sense, if it were someone like Todd Coffey, for example. Coffey's an unspectacular middle reliever who nonetheless would improve the Twins' bullpen and could likely be obtained on the cheap. Smith and his regime may have contemplated this fact before Mike Rizzo came by peddling another reliever with saves. It's at that point that they decided they should attempt to trade their 27-year-old center fielder who's under team control through 2015 for $23.25M. That's $5.8M per season. For context, Span's never finished a season with less than 2.6 WAR (using FanGraphs), and the going rate on the free agent market per Win is roughly $5M.
In no way was adding a reliever such as Storen the route the Twins needed to go to win this season, or to set themselves up for future success. Regardless of adding in a nice prospect like Stephen Lombardozzi (son of former 1987 Twin of the same name), and/or a moderately competent replacement like Roger Bernadina, this trade would be highly unlikely to come out in the Twins' favor.
From the sound of things, the Twins were dead-focused on acquiring Storen in the days prior to the deadline. So much so, it would seem, that Kevin Slowey, who's rotting away in Triple-A, still remains in Rochester despite persisted interest from the Rockies and Pirates. Not only that, but the front office's "long-term" solution didn't involve trading pending free agents Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, who both drew significant interest (Kubel again from the Pirates), it involved trading someone who should be a significant part of this team for years to come. That's a head-scratcher, to save the least.
There were plenty of relievers and bench bats that could have been had cheaply should the Twins have pursued them. It's likely that the front office is merely waiting to make some low-profile August trades as they did for Jon Rauch and Carl Pavano in years past. These deals could take a few weeks to facilitate, however, which is another few weeks that Twins fans are subjected to the Alex Burnett and Jose Mijares Base on Balls Bonanza.
Perhaps the plan all along was to simply wait it out and make those August deals, but once Rizzo dangled Storen, Bill Smith and his team simply couldn't help themselves. It sure would've been nice to see some immediate help in the form of bench and/or bullpen upgrades, though. It seems that this front office is instead continually focused on upgrading the bullpen by adding a nominal stat with which they're infatuated, when in reality they could be upgrading it simply by replacing Alex Burnett and Jose Mijares with league-average (or slightly better) arms like Coffey, Chad Qualls, Juan Cruz, etc. who could be had without having to surrender elite prospects.
It appears as if the Twins' front office spent their deadline focusing their (thankfully fruitless) efforts on the future, content to place the present day on the back burner. The non-committal approach could end up costing the Twins if they have to carry on with this bullpen while they wait for August deals to come to fruition. I suppose at the very least, I'm thankful we still have Span, but I can't help but think the Twins brass was looking to take a big gamble (putting it nicely) on their future when some minor, immediate improvements would've been a better approach.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com and contributes at 612Sports.net and MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve