With the July trade deadline approaching, teams across baseball will have to determine if they are legitimate playoff contenders or not. Those that are in contention will quickly be labeled as “buyers”, while those that are not will become “sellers” fairly quickly.
Despite their seemingly annual June surge, which not coincidentally coincides with interleague play, the Minnesota Twins will almost certainly need to become sellers and look to trade their most marketable veterans in an effort to re-stock a farm system that has not produced much in terms of major league-ready talent in recent years.
With that, here are five players I feel qualify as the most tradeable on the Twins roster right now, all things considered (salary, roster depth, etc.)
1. RP Matt Capps
Capps has turned things around thus far in 2012 after a very poor 2011, as he has converted 14 of 15 save opportunities and has a 3.55 ERA in 26 appearances (25.1 innings) after posting a 4.26 ERA and blowing nine saves last season. Contenders typically look to add pitching at the trade deadline, so if Capps continues to pitch well more than one team looking to bolster their bullpen may call general managet Terry Ryan. Capps makes a fairly reasonable $4.5 million this season and has a $6 million option for 2013, so his salary would not look to be a significant roadblock to a trade for any interested team. A recent shoulder issue does throw a wrench into things, but otherwise Capps is prime trade bait if he continues to pitch solidly.
2. OF Denard Span
Span has had a rebound of his own this season after being one of the many injury-riddled Twins last season, and is hitting .287 with 33 runs scored and seven stolen bases thus far. His value as a leadoff hitter and defensively in center field can’t be overlooked, but the team appears to have a replacement ready to go in Ben Revere, who has performed well in his second stint with the Twins this season. Span’s contract is very team-friendly, as he is making $3 million this season and is due for small raises in 2013 and 2014 ($4.75 million and $6 million respectively) before a team option for $9 million for 2015. The fact he is under contract long-term at fairly affordable salaries may make the Twins unwilling to trade him at this point, but that may also make him someone other teams want to acquire Span if they have a need in the outfield. In the end, Span may bring the most return in a trade in terms of quality of a player the Twins could get,
3. SP Francisco Liriano
The mercurial Liriano got off to a rough start this season with just one win over his first six starts, which led to a demotion to the bullpen. But injuries opened the door for him to re-join the Twins’ starting rotation after just five relief appearances, and he pitched 12 shutout innings over his first two starts back in the rotation with 17 strikeouts and just three walks. He has come back to Earth some over his last two starts, allowing seven runs in 11.2 innings of work (5.40 ERA), but overall Liriano is trending the right direction and could be getting the attention of teams looking to acquire pitching as the trade deadline nears. The Twins have seemingly missed opportunities over the last couple years to trade Liriano when his value was at its peak, particularly after the 2010 season, and given how inconsistent he can be now may be the time to deal him. Liriano can also become a free agent after the season, which may be good news for the Twins if they seriously look at trading him since a long-term commitment would not be required for an acquiring team.
4. IF Jamey Carroll
Carroll has brought some veteran stability to Twins’ infield that it lacked it in 2011, and he has showed some versatility by playing shortstop, second base and third base this season. He has also not been an automatic out at the plate, hitting .259 with a .339 on-base percentage while already besting his RBI total from last season (17) by driving in 22 runs thus far. The Twins did sign Carroll, somewhat inexplicably at the time, to a two-year, $6.75 million deal last offseason, but at age 38 he would most certainly be open to playing for a playoff contender if the team can find a suitable trade. All in all the Twins may value Carroll’s leadership and stability more than anything they could get in a trade, so it may make the most sense to hang onto him barring something unforeseen.
5. C Ryan Doumit
When the Twins signed Doumit last offseason, I made the prediction that he would be their best free agent signing since the need for another competent catcher was made clear by Joe Mauer’s injury plagued 2011 season. Doumit has largely fit that bill so far this season, along with being a solid piece to a Twins’ offense that has been on a very good run recently. Doumit is playing on a one-year deal this season ($3 million) and he also has the ability to play outfield and first base (though not necessarily well), so a contending team may find him to be a valuable piece for a potential playoff run due to that position flexibility. Given how he allows Mauer the ability to DH and occasionally play first base without hampering the Twins lineup on those days, the Twins are likely to be very hesitant to deal Doumit. But he may be one of their more valuable trade chips if a solid pitching prospect could be acquired.