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Ranking the Twins Trade Chips

Mass transportation via trains works in England because it's such a small country. In many ways I still think of it as a regional place rather than a country, if only because you could fit it inside of some American states. Travelling cross-country here takes a matter of hours by train, and when considering the cost of flying and the hassle of driving it just makes sense. Taking the train from Boston to Seattle, well, you step off the train and think: I could have been here yesterday.

Or maybe the day before, depending on what time of day you left. Seriously though, do people still travel the States ocean-to-ocean by train?

Anyway, I took the train into London today. Not the cheapest journey but gas is expensive, I don't want to drive around London, and I certainly don't want to park there. Why wouldn't I take the train? Besides, it gave me an hour (both ways) to work think about baseball.

I've been tossing around the question the last few days of whether the Twins should buy, stay the course, or sell. I'll give you the short version of my conclusions.

Buying - There is no way, barring the Twins running the table through the All-Star game and maybe not even then, that Minnesota should buy. Anything. Certainly not relief pitchers. There are still so many players on the disabled list, and so many holes to plug anyway, that bringing in a couple of marginal relief upgrades would be pointless. But mostly I hate the idea of buying because this team hasn't earned that luxury. Maybe it's not entirely their fault, but it doesn't matter. You buy when you're either in the driver's seat or riding shotgun, and the Twins are still crawling across the roof of the trailer before they jump to the roof of the truck. And even if they manage to do that, they still need to reach in and pull out the guy riding shotgun. 2010: buy. 2011: Hell no.

Staying the Course: This makes me nervous. Purgatory is a terrible place to be, because it means you're not good enough to buy, but you're not going to make yourself better for the future, either. If you think of this year, best case scenario the Twins somehow manage to win the division with 85 wins. Playoffs are small sample sizes where anything can happen, and the '87 Twins are evidence enough of that, but let's be honest: this has not been a best case scenario team.

Selling: I'm not quite ready to jump on this bandwagon yet, either. While I think this is where the Twins will end up over the next few weeks, and while I think this option is more realistic and a better option for the future of this club, I need to know that 2011 is a sunken ship. The tricky part is deciding when to abandon ship, because if you wait until the ship has sunk then you're too late. If the Twins want to get something other than draft picks, potentially, from a player or two, this is the route they'll need to go down eventually.

With that in mind, I'll list my top five trade chips for the Twins after the jump.

Just a couple of ground rules. First, nobody unrealistic is on this list: no Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker. Second, the player has to have some kind of value to another organization: no Matt Tolbert, Luke Hughes, Alex Burnett. Finally, this is all based off how I value a player's worth, both to the Twins and to a potential suitor. So feel free to disagree and come up with your own list in the comments.

#5 - Delmon Young

2011 - Delmon Young 55 207 21 53 8 0 2 20 8 39 1 0 .256 .281 .324

Delmon is making $5.375 million this season, and regardless of how low his numbers end up being at the end of 2011 if the Twins want him they'll need to give him a raise. That's how arbitration works. It'll be Young's third year, and assuming he continues with these rate stats he's still likely looking at a $6.5 - $7 million dollar paycheck.

Any suitor for Delmon will have to be a contender with a shortage of outfielders who is looking to take a risk, or a team who can afford to dish out cash in 2012 for a reclamation project. His pricetag in '12, his defensive inabilities, his offensive shortcomings, and even the potential non-tender after the season: all these things will drive his value down in a trade. If teams aren't looking to take on a risk, or if they're not somewhat desperate, he won't be moveable.

#4 - Matt Capps

2011 - Matt Capps 2-3 31 0 0 0 13 5 34.0 28 14 14 5 4 21 3.71 .94

Capps is due to be a free agent in 2012, and as a closer will likely find a two or three-year deal from some poor team who will overpay for his services. But none of that is to say he's not a good reliever, because he is. He's given up too many homers this season and his strikeout rates aren't the best, but he's a quality bullpen arm.

A typical rental, Capps is making $7.15 million this season, which means whoever takes him on will need to pay $3 million and change by the time anything would get done next month. But even at that price he should fetch one middle tier prospect from someone looking to shore up for the stretch run.

#3 - Jason Kubel

2011 - Jason Kubel 52 200 20 62 14 1 5 30 14 44 1 0 .310 .355 .465

Due to become a free agent for the first time after the season, Kubel will get a nice payday from somebody. While he was down last year, he's sandwiched that with a breakout 2009 and what has been a very, very good 2011. Someone out there will try to give him a multi-year offer this winter, but he will also be a very attractive piece at the trade deadline.

His inability to field either corner outfield spot well may limit his destinations to American League clubs, but whether any National League teams get involved or not, somebody will want him. Kubel destroys right-handed pitching, and even if he has to be platooned his pro-rated salary for the rest of '11 would be $2 million and change. It's hard to find great hitting, even in a platoon situation, even for a couple of months, for that kind of money. If the Twins sell and he's not a hot commodity, somebody in the Minnesota front office doesn't know how to dangle a carrot.

#2 - Carl Pavano

2011 - Carl Pavano 5-6 16 16 2 0 0 0 108.1 121 57 51 9 22 45 4.24 1.32

Pavano's had been on a hot stretch. Prior to his last outing, his eight previous starts saw him tally 60.1 innings (more than 7 innings a start) and a 2.24 ERA. That kind of performance is going to get someone's attention, but nobody is going to confuse him for an ace. But there will be multiple teams on the market looking for a starting pitcher; a #3 to #5 guy who can go deep into games, and pitch well while doing it. Late in his career, Pavano has turned into that kind of a durable guy.

Somewhat prohibitive may be his $8.5 million dollar salary for 2012, but it's also an affordable salary. Competitive clubs will keep an eye on him, and whether that 2012 salary becomes a deterrent in a deal (picking up extra dollars) or a selling point (he's more than a rental) will depend largely on how the Twins choose to sell him.

#1 - Michael Cuddyer

2011 - Michael Cuddyer 74 276 33 78 16 0 10 30 27 44 7 1 .283 .350 .449

Cuddyer got some flack in the off-season for being dubbed an "underrated" player. I'm not sure he's so much underrated as, maybe, underappreciated. There are some things he does well (like mashing left-handed pitching, providing some power, having an incredibly strong arm, being a leader and great guy, and playing multiple positions on the field), and there are things he doesn't do well (hit right-handed pitching, run, play those defensive positions really well), but overall he is a good player. He'll provide a strong veteran presence for somebody, and he'll provide a good supplemental bat as well. If Cuddyer can go somewhere and hit sixth or seventh, like he should ideally, he could be a big upgrade.

There is some kickback here, because some people think Cuddyer means too much to the organization to be traded. Personally, I think the Twins and the fans got a first-hand taste of what "feel good" decisions mean when the Twins signed Jim Thome last winter. Signing Thome, like not trading Cuddyer, are good stories that make you like the organization. But they're also probably not in the best interest of the organization. Cuddyer is going to attract multiple suitors, and the Twins need to listen, and they need to pull the trigger if the right deal comes along. They don't need to be blown away, it just needs to be fair.

Besides, if Cuddyer means so much to the Twins, and the Twins mean so much to Cuddyer, then there's no reason why they can't have a gentleman's agreement (under the table) that Minnesota will seek him out after the season. Considering what he brings to the table, I wouldn't be opposed to re-signing him this winter to a one or two-year deal worth $3 or $4 million a year. He'd be worth that.

Other players worthy of consideration: Jim Thome (not enough value to make the list), Kevin Slowey (ditto), Joe Nathan (too much risk, too much salary, very prohibitive in getting anything back), Nick Blackburn (the Twins won't trade Blackburn with his contract and his performance)