If you’ve been watching the Twins anytime lately, you know things have not been good. The team has only won three of their past 14 games, making for an abysmal .272 winning percentage. Perhaps the lowest point of this recent skid was last Sunday, when the Twins lost to the Rangers in an 18-4 blowout. In case you were wondering, the Rangers are playing below .500 and in last place ion the AL West — a.k.a., not good.
What makes the Twins even harder to watch during this period is the fact the team sold off a good handful of their better players and fan favorites before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. A lot of fans were upset about the trades at the time, and are probably still upset about them now (if they are even still paying attention). The fact the Twins have actually gone 14-19 since August 1st, which isn’t that bad, doesn’t help. Maybe with those five players (or six, if you count the waiver trade of closer Fernando Rodney), the Twins could have mustered some kind of late-season run? Were the Twins actually wrong to sell at the deadline?
The simple answer is no, the Twins were not wrong to sell at the trade deadline.
The more complex answer is maybe, but still pretty likely no, the Twins were not wrong to be sell at the trade deadline.
First of all, the Twins had a 49-57 record on July 31st, and were already 9.0 games back of Cleveland, who was leading the division with a 58-48 record. Since August 1st, Cleveland has gone 21-12, leaving them with a current season record of 79-60. They have played the Twins eight times since the deadline, beating them in six of those games. To be anywhere close to Cleveland right now, the Twins would have had to beat them in all eight of those games, and then played nearly .500 baseball against everyone else. While that sounds somewhat do-able, the team was playing no where near that level before the trade deadline when they still had the likes of Eduardo Escobar, Brian Dozier, Lance Lynn, Ryan Pressly, Zach Duke, and Fernando Rodney.
What about a wildcard spot? Turns out, that question is a moot point. The Oakland Athletics currently own the second wildcard spot in the American League with a 84-57 record, which, hello, is even better than Cleveland’s current 79-60 record. So the Twins wouldn’t be in a wildcard spot right now, because they’d already be in first place in the AL Central if they won that much.
Another point one could argue is what if the Twins had been buyers, and gotten new players that beefed up the team enough for them to catch Cleveland. While that scenario would have been technically possible, it would certainly not have been a guarantee. Furthermore, the Twins would likely have to give up a hefty amount of prospects to get back the type of players that would make that scenario more likely. So instead of the Twins adding 14 prospects to their farm system as they actually did by selling, they would have only subtracted prospects from the farm system, including perhaps some of their best ones.
Okay, fine. Say the Twins did buy at the deadline, selling off prospects, and somehow overtook Cleveland and made it to the playoffs as the 2018 AL Central Division Champions. I will admit, that would be exciting as hell. But then what? The Twins would probably be the hottest team going into the playoffs, but still the team with the worst record — meaning they would face the Boston Red Sox. You know, the team that currently has the best record in baseball and might be the best Boston Red Sox team of all time. Beating that team would be pretty darn daunting.
Let’s say the Twins did somehow beat the Red Sox in the ALDS. We would all be crapping our pants and positive we were going to win the World Series. Then we would get to the ALCS and there would be the Yankees. Even in the best hypothetical scenario I can come up with, the Yankees would somehow beat both the Astros and the As just to face us in the ALCS, and the Twins would lose.
After the Twins get swept by Yankees in the ALCS, they would go home and everyone would say how proud they were of their amazing run even though they didn’t get to or win the World Series. Then the Twins would lose Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Lance Lynn, and Zach Duke in free agency for nothing in return. The team would probably pick up Fernando Rodney’s questionable option for 2019. Instead of having a nice, reloaded farm system for the future, they’d be looking at a depleted farm system, having blown their entire wad on the most improbable post-season run of all time.
So were the Twins wrong to be sellers at the trade deadline? No, not if they actually want to win a World Series anytime soon.