On Sunday, the Minnesota Twins avoided a three game sweep at the hands of the worst team in baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers. In doing so, they halted a losing streak at two games, meaning they have yet to lose three straight games since the first three of the season. While the stretch they have put together has been impressive, the next 13 games all come against teams with winning records. No doubt that signifies tougher tests loom ahead.
In a 162 game season, baseball is as much about beating the teams you should as it is stealing wins from the teams that match up competitively to you. In having not lost four straight games at any point this season, the Twins are the only team in the American League that can lay claim to that remark. Call it a by-product of lackluster competition if you wish, but this team has shown a level of resiliency not seen in recent seasons.
Going forward and continuing to win, the Twins will no doubt need to stack the deck in their favor. That process started to take place on Sunday as Minnesota optioned starting shortstop Danny Santana to Rochester and recalled designated hitter Kennys Vargas. Santana struggled mightily this season for the Twins, slashing just .218/.235/.291 over 49 games. Regression hit hard for the second year player, and the Twins made the move that equates to roster growth.
In bringing back Vargas, the Twins address a few key issues that should bolster their overall level going forward. First, and maybe most importantly, the shortstop role is addressed. Santana was already worth -8 DRS (defensive runs saved) this season, and had compiled a -3.2 UZR (ultimate zone rating). To put it simply, he had become a defensive liability on top of failing at the plate. With the Vargas swap, Eduardo Escobar takes over at short in the starting role, and the heightened level of defense should only help Twins pitching.
Secondly, and probably most obviously, Vargas' return to the active roster does a lot for the Twins power prospectus as well as their designated hitter acumen. While Vargas was down on the farm, Escobar and Eduardo Nunez routinely got at bats in the DH role. Their combined slash line was not pretty, and neither is regarded as any semblance of a power threat.
Prior to his demotion, Vargas was batting .366/.395/.561 in 12 games during the month of May. On the season, the Twins slugger has just three home runs, and that's a mark the club would like to see improvement on. Adding in Vargas to a lineup that has produced this season, should only drive up the run total going forward. Having just batted .308/.403/.519 for Triple-A Rochester, Vargas seems more than locked in this time around.
Minnesota has played well above expectations for the first two months of the season. Projected by most to finish last in the division, this team leading the AL Central is no doubt one of the biggest surprises this season. As the middle of June presents 13 games against tougher competition, the Twins are going to see exactly how good they really are. Making more roster moves that equate to net positives may be a practice that is just beginning.
It was fair to question the demotion of Vargas in the first place, but there's little doubt that the Twins are making the right move at the right time in this instance. This club is going to be tested soon, and it's time to call for all hands on deck.