Much has been made about the Twins’ need for pitching at the trade deadline. They achieved one goal by acquiring Jaime Garcia from the Atlanta Braves, and now we just have to wait for them to find some answers to help out the beleaguered bullpen.
But, I was surprised to see some people mention that the Twins needed a righthanded hitter. It seemed odd to me because I didn’t think the offense was a problem, but then I did some casual digging and started to understand. The team currently is tied for 11th in the league with a 96 wRC+, but they’ve been more effective against righthanded pitchers this year. Facing righties, the Twins have a 99 wRC+ (also 11th in the league), but against lefties that number drops to an 88 wRC+ (21st in MLB). Hence, yes it does appear that the Twins could use some added thump from the right side of the plate.
Fortunately, there are some positions were finding a spot for that bat can be done. The presence of Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier show that 2nd base and 3rd base are filled. Though Jorge Polanco has struggled at shortstop, the Twins already have a replacement that can hit LHP in Eduardo Escobar. As for catcher, there’s a natural platoon already between Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez. Although both really only provide patience at the plate, expecting an offensive upgrade at catcher will likely be expensive and I think the Twins could stay in-house with Mitch Garver anyway. Thus, the only infield position that could use an upgrade is at 1st base, where Joe Mauer has been playing less and less against lefties over the past year and a half. Kennys Vargas should be the one that fills this role, but his inability to hit southpaws this year has caused him to lose Paul Molitor’s trust, even though Vargas has offered more production from the right side of the plate over his career.
As for the outfield, Byron Buxton isn’t going anywhere and his replacement is probably Zack Granite, anyway. In left, Eddie Rosario has a career 94 wRC+ and .734 OPS against lefthanders, so he remains playable even if he’s not necessarily good against them, but the main issue is Max Kepler. He’s already been sitting against most lefties this year due to carrying a career 34 wRC+ while facing them, which has caused the Twins to turn to Robbie Grossman instead. That often has opened up the DH spot for someone else, which has rotated between Vargas, Escobar, and simply giving a half-day off to one of the regular starters.
Therefore, it appears that the biggest improvements could be made in the corner outfield and at 1st base and/or DH. Below is a list of some players that I think the Twins could pursue to improve the team for the last couple months of the season.
LF/2B Howie Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies
Kendrick is a name that I’ve seen thrown around quite a bit and the reasoning is simple. The Phillies are clearly selling as they have the worst record in the league. Kendrick has been hitting well, and he plays left field which would allow the Twins to continue benching Kepler while Rosario slides over to right field. He hasn’t played much this year due to injuries but he’s been raking when healthy (.350/.400/.467). He doesn’t offer much power and his walk rate is slightly below average, but his batting average and average to above-average defense in left field is what makes him attractive. He’s also a free agent at the end of the year and is currently making $10 million, though half of that is deferred to 2019 without interest so that would be a little bit of a wrinkle when it comes to trade negotiations.
LF Melky Cabrera, Chicago White Sox
A switch-hitter that is earning $15 million this year in the final year of his contract, Cabrera has a 121 wRC+ against lefties this year, though that number is 99 for his career. His contract and his poor outfield defense make him less attractive than Kendrick, but he also theoretically would be cheaper to acquire. I think the Twins would be content sticking with Grossman, however.
OF Rajai Davis, Oakland Athletics
An extreme bounce-back candidate as he’s hitting the worst out of the three players I’ve named thus far, though he does have a career 110 wRC+ and is serviceable in center field if necessary. He’s also the cheapest salary-wise as he’s earning $6 million this year. He does have 19 stolen bases in 25 attempts for the A’s, but I wouldn’t blame you if you look at Davis as this generation’s version of Bret Boone.
UT Steve Pearce, Toronto Blue Jays
Pearce would be one of my top choices if I had a say in the matter as he’s able to play all over the diamond, though he’s primarily used as a 1st baseman, left fielder, and designated hitter. A career 129 wRC+ against LHP makes him very attractive and he would be more than a rental as he’s signed for $6.25 million for 2018.
IF Wilmer Flores, New York Mets
Flores “plays” all four infield positions but really should be relegated to 1st base and DH. He’s started hitting for more power as he’s gotten older and feasts on LHP with a career 123 wRC+. He’ll be in his second year of arbitration and is currently earning $2.2 million, so he is another player that could be more than a rental for the Twins. However, Flores is a good platoon partner for lefthanded 1st baseman Lucas Duda, so the Mets would probably be hesitant to part with him.
1B Tommy Joseph, Philadelphia Phillies
Ordinarily a cheap, relatively young, power-hitting 1st baseman wouldn’t be a trade candidate, but the Phillies have a unique situation in that their true 1st baseman of the future is knocking on the door to the big leagues. Rhys Hoskins is likely already a better hitter than Joseph, but Joseph’s presence is what’s keeping Hoskins in the minor leagues. Joseph would be a good 1B/DH as he has a career 124 wRC+ against LHP in his short career, plus acquiring him would signal that the front office is 100% devoted to moving on from Byungho Park (as if that wasn’t clear enough already).
What do you think? Are there any other righthanded bats that you would want to see the Twins acquire before the trade deadline?