We are just a few weeks away from the halfway point of the season and the Twins continue to impress in the standings. Currently sitting at 38-32, they are much better than any of us could have expected this season. Naturally, with the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline a little more than a month away, that means that the team could be looking at making some acquisitions to help push them to either a Wild Card spot or the top of the AL Central.
Now, this is nowhere near a flawless team, and yet I'm not fully sure where the Twins can make improvements. That is not a contradictory statement, as clearly they could use some more reliable bullpen arms and the offense is still shaky. But, the team could be improved without making any significant trades, as quite a few reinforcements are in the minor leagues. The following is a rundown of all positions and whether the Twins would need help.
Here are the ERAs of the current rotation: Mike Pelfrey (2.97), Kyle Gibson (3.35), Tommy Milone (3.59), Trevor May (4.03), Phil Hughes (4.47). Now, the secondary numbers for most of these pitchers aren't great, but we're talking about the Twins here, not a heavy analytic organization. None of these pitchers are really deserving of losing their rotation spot, and yet that will likely still happen when Ervin Santana is ready to join the team in a couple weeks. Ricky Nolasco is also waiting, although he had a setback with his ankle. Plus, if you're feeling really optimistic, Jose Berrios has a chance at making his debut later this season.
The local media has already floated trade possibilities with Pelfrey, which seems ridiculous when he has the best ERA on the team, but we have to be realistic here. This is the same guy that was bad two years ago, and last year he was terrible and hurt. This year, he's pitching waaaaaay over his head. His 4.14 FIP and 4.49 xFIP suggest he can still be a useful pitcher, but that his true talent level is worse than what he's accomplished thus far. I get that he's been really good this year, but come on, it's Mike Pelfrey.
Another option has to do with the one pitcher that still has options in Tommy Milone. He's already spent some time in the minors this year and would be a nice backup plan if the Twins do suffer some injuries later on in the year. Yeah, he's had success in the majors as well and his Triple-A numbers suggest he has nothing to prove down there anymore, but that's the business side of baseball.
The Twins are carrying eight relievers and I'm only confident in three of them. Glen Perkins and Casey Fien are a solid duo in the back of the 'pen, plus Ryan Pressly is a good middle reliever that has the stuff to carry a more prominent role. Beyond that, however, is a hot mess. Blaine Boyer has a tidy ERA but is surviving on luck like the rotation. Aaron Thompson has satisfied my prediction last fall that he's just another Phil Dumatrait, making one random guy's "Why the (redacted) would you say that, (redacted)?" tweet back to me even more hilarious. Michael Tonkin can't seem to keep the ball in the park. J.R. Graham is being stashed for the future. Brian Duensing has forgotten how to pitch.
I would prefer for Caleb Thielbar to be in the majors, but his control has deserted him at Triple-A. It's a shame, because I do feel he would be an improvement over Duensing and Thompson right now. Also, Alex Meyer is looming in Triple-A, as it seems that he has righted his ship upon being moved to the bullpen. I hope it's not a permanent switch, but it would be nice seeing him sling high-90s heat in the late innings.
Even though they're not hitting, I doubt the Twins would seek an upgrade over Kurt Suzuki and Chris Herrmann. Plus, in spite of history teaching us that Wilson Ramos was worth one "proven closer," any worthwhile improvements would be too expensive.
First Base / Third Base / Designated Hitter
Joe Mauer's not going anywhere. Let's hope that last night's game jump-starts Kennys Vargas, because he can be a good hitter if he learns to stop swinging at pitches out of the zone. Otherwise, there's Miguel Sano in the minors, but I wonder if the Twins wouldn't want him entrenched at third base upon his debut. However, Trevor Plouffe has done nothing to lose his starting spot, so figuring out what to do with Sano is a bit of a puzzle. I'd think the best option this season would be to keep Plouffe at third, keep Mauer at first, have Sano DH and move Vargas to the bench.
Right now, I think Paul Molitor is sticking with the hottest hand. The beginning of the season was devoted to Danny Santana until it was clear he couldn't handle it. Then it was shuffled between Eduardos Escobar and Nunez, though it looks like Nunez has claimed the position now. All three should be in play as the season continues.
Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Torii Hunter looks like a pretty solid outfield at the moment, though Hunter has been slipping lately. It's a shame that Oswaldo Arcia has been struggling in the minors, because he would be the first reinforcement if necessary. There have been some rumblings lately on Max Kepler as he's currently hitting .342/.413/.560, and although he's only hit 3 home runs, he's supplemented it with 17 doubles and 8 triples.
Overall, I look at this and think that there's not much where the Twins would need to look outside the organization for help. As I already addressed, catcher could certainly use someone new, but I don't think the Twins would trade some of their prospects to make short-term improvements this year.
Still, this has been a refreshing take on the organization. I bet I sounded like a broken record over the past few years, constantly touting the idea that the Twins should sell off their veterans. Well, with the exception of Pelfrey (and it's only to make room for other veterans), now I'm at the point where the Twins should stay put. I still don't fully believe in them, which is why I'm hesistant to suggest that they need to buy some other players, but it's certainly nice to see the Twins moving closer and closer to being a competitive team.