Following the sweep of the Chicago White Sox, the talk around Minnesota water coolers has been whether or not the Minnesota Twins will be buyers or sellers on the July 31st trade deadline. The Twins are currently 33-36 and are entering a stretch of games that could bring them at or over .500 when the trade deadline approaches. With that in mind, would it make sense for the Twins to become buyers if they continue to play well and are firmly in contention as the trade deadline approaches? In one word: no.
When the Twins entered the season, expectations were low and fans and analysts stated that if the Twins could find a way to stay around .500 for the majority of the season, it would be a successful year. Many around the organization and media were looking toward the future with this team due to the immensely talented farm system the team had assembled. As a result, the team was not very active this past off-season and championed their moves by making cheaper and short-term moves in order to assemble stop gaps on the roster until the next wave of talented prospects is ready to take over full time in the majors.
The fact that some of these stop gap moves have worked out and the team is suddenly approaching contention should not alter the strategy and plans by which this team has operated under as of late. This team has assembled a talented farm system by trading away current pieces for future prospects, making great international signings and drafting solid high school and college players. Now that the pieces are beginning to fall in place in the minors, the Twins must now play the waiting game for these prospects to mature and make it to the majors. Once that vision materializes, it is expected that the Twins will, yet again, become perennial contenders. Why would the Twins jeopardize that vision and progress for a team teetering on being simply relevant?
Typically, trade deadline deals are made for teams who believe they are one player or one trade away from making their team a legitimate playoff or World Series threat. As they are currently constructed, the Twins are not one player or one trade away from making their team a legitimate playoff or World Series contender unless that trade is historically lopsided. Even so, a trade that would make the Twins “instant contenders” would certainly cost their entire farm system, leaving the team bare in the future and setting themselves up for future failure and mediocrity. Thus, becoming buyers at the trade deadline makes little sense for the Twins.
If the Twins were to rattle off a run where they win 30 out of 40 games—or something similarly impressive—the temptation will be for the team to add another piece to solidify this team; but in my opinion, if the team goes on a run of that caliber, I’d rather stand pat with the guys we have assembled and see what happens while waiting for the team to improve even more once the talented prospects can contribute. If the team is good enough to get themselves in contention via a long winning streak, they’d be good enough to go to battle with in the playoffs where—I still believe—the Twins would still be huge underdogs because of their lack of pitching depth in the starting rotation; one player or trade cannot and will not alter that perception.
Standing pat and not selling out the future for a minimal post-season run is how teams can become perennial contenders. By not sacrificing their future and operating with the idea of “what is best for the franchise long-term”, the team can continue to compete without relying on free agency or trades to supplement their talent; the team would essentially become self-sufficient like the St. Louis Cardinals who, despite losing Albert Pujols, have remained a perennial contender and legitimate threat at winning a championship year in and year out because they remain committed to not sacrificing the future for the present.
While it may take restraint on behalf of the Twins’ organization, the team must resist the urge to make a deadline trade to improve a team that is not constructed to win a championship this season. Winning championships is the ultimate goal in professional sports, not simply contending. If the Twins become buyers at the deadline and sacrifice their future in the process, they will never reach that ultimate goal.