Given that the Twins just signed Kendrys Morales over the weekend, this may seem an odd place to start. Ownership just opened the checkbook to the tune of a $7.6 million good faith payment, essentially telling the players that the owner and the front office believes in them. Unfortunately, as great as that is, it doesn't guarantee a competitive finish. Especially if the pitching staff remains unchanged.
That doesn't make signing Morales a bad move, however. As Jeff Sullivan points out at FanGraphs, regardless of the team's fortunes over the next few weeks the Twins get what they want. They get a better offense right now that makes the team better, and if things go well and they continue to contend then they've smartly added a middle of the order bat. But if things start to disintegrate as we move towards the July 31 deadline, then Morales becomes a very interesting trade chip.
If we grant that as a possibility, then it's worth discussing who else the Twins could sell at the trade deadline in just over seven weeks. Here is a list of the most tradable commodities on the Twins' roster.
So then Morales could be sold, and sold for a prospect. If the Twins traded Morales toward the end of July, they could add a prospect for the cost of about $3 million. And if they chipped in greater cost considerations, they could add an even better prospect or two.
That's Sullivan in his FanGraphs assessment of the signing. And it's true, if Morales hits at all. Watching him in his four plate appearances last night, I didn't get the impression that he was starting from scratch in getting up to game speed. If that's the case, last night is a positive sign that come five or six weeks from now he'll be at full speed and ready to go for a contender. He had no shortage of interested parties in the last few days, so finding a market for him in July shouldn't be a problem, either.
All he has to do is hit.
Trade bait rating: 8
Hammer's .208/.342/.368 line in 2013 was a far cry from the career-best 35-homer campaign he put together in 2012, but after starting the season injured he's come back and has been raking. In 88 plate appearances this year he's hitting .303/.455/.545 with four home runs. Not only that, but his walk (16) to strikeout (19) ratio is as impressive as it's ever been.
There's a good chance that any team interested in his services would be asking him to play designated hitter, unless they were in dire straights in the outfield, so the Twins could be in a situation where they're fielding different offers for Willingham and Morales from the same team. Where Morales will have a modest $5.4 million due on his contract at this time next month, Hammer's value would be around $3.5 million. That will make a difference to somebody, although both numbers could be absorbed by the Twins in order to secure a better prospect.
Trade bait rating: 7
This probably sounds like sacrilege, and I'll admit it's highly unlikely, but as one of the best closers in baseball over the last two years there will be no shortage of interested teams who are looking for a shut down reliever. He's under a very team-friendly contract, is left-handed, and at 31 is a good bet for sustained success in coming years. Especially if you get a team in the hunt that has suddenly lost their own closer to injury or a faltering performance, the Twins could cash in on one of baseball's most inflated commodities.
Perkins, of course, wants to stay in Minnesota. It's one of the reasons his contract is so reasonable. He loves the organization and the organization loves him. So no, I really don't see this happening - and as a fan I don't want it to happen - but you can't not field offers if someone is desperate.
Trade bait rating: 5
Suzuki's patience and timely hits have been invaluable this season, and considering Josmil Pinto's troubles behind the plate it's been a necessity to run him out there 60% of the time. He's hitting .307 with a .375 on-base percentage, and if that performance holds into July you could see someone looking for an easy upgrade. Having a competent signal caller who can also hit is still a rarity in baseball, and even though Suzuki's history insists the trend isn't sustainable that won't stop teams from trying to pick him up.
Of course, how the Twins view Pinto's future and whether or not the front office wants to extend Suzuki are two separate issues that will play on Minnesota's willingness to part ways with their primary catcher.
Trade bait rating: 5
He doesn't have much trade value right now, if any, but if the Twins continue to give him opportunities and if he rolls off four or five good starts in a row, some team looking to pick up a number five pitcher they can rely on could look at Correia. Right now it does seem more likely that the Twins eventually designate him for assignment to make room for Trevor May (or, less likely, Alex Meyer), but that's not written in stone quite yet. Good pitching will keep him around.
Trade bait rating: 4
Fien has been one of the Twins' best relievers this season, which makes him a valuable asset when the guys you thought would be reliable (Brian Duensing, Jared Burton, Anthony Swarzak) have been less than ideal in their performance. He'd also be valuable because of his virtually non-existent salary (compared to other relievers who are likely to be on the market), because any team looking to pick him up could very well be interested in making him a long-term part of their bullpen.
It's less likely that Fien is dealt simply because of his contract situation, but if the Twins do refuse to trade Perkins then Fien could be their counter-offer. Trading him would probably enable the Twins to recall Michael Tonkin, who could have a chance at being the team's right-handed set-up man if Burton didn't re-claim the job.
Trade bait rating: 4
Nolasco's current performance dictates nobody would have any interest, especially considering he's under contract for another three seasons, but - if like the example given for Correia - he goes on a run, a team with some cash might be willing to add a long-term solution to their rotation. The Yankees have no shortage of rotation openings, especially with C.C. Sabathia a question mark. Toronto might need a solution at the back of their bullpen that would help them stay ahead of a division poised to make a run at any time. The opportunities are there, if he can string together a series of solid performances.
The Twins might still have to eat a few million dollar in this case, but if the team wanted to clear more than one roster spot and if Nolasco can pitch like he's capable of pitching, then you never know.
Trade bait rating: 3
There are only two players who I'd expect the Twins to move at the deadline if they fall out of contention: Morales and Willingham. If they were to move anyone else on this list I'd probably be surprised, with the exception of perhaps Suzuki.
Regarding the inevitable suggestion of trading Mauer: he's near untouchable right now. Not only because of his no-trade powers and not because he's the walking embodiment of the organization, but because he's having the worst season of his career, may be injured, and nobody will want to take on $23 million in such a situation. Mauer has plenty to deal with right now, and none of that will have anything to do with being traded away from Minnesota.