I've tried to rationalize my way out of it. I've tried reconciling the deep divide between my heart and my brain. Truly, it has been one of the most difficult instances of my emotions as a fan clashing with my insights as an analyst.
But at the end of the day, I can't escape from what I know deep down to be true: The Twins ought to trade Glen Perkins. And passing on the opportunity to do so could go down as a critical mistake.
It was an excellent article
from Dave Cameron on FanGraphs last week that served as the tipping point. In discussing the stated commitments of the Twins and Mets to build around their talented young closers, Cameron points to Joakim Soria as a cautionary tale. The Royals repeatedly refused to shop their elite closer when they had a chance, and ended up getting bitten. Soria never pitched for a good team in Kansas City and the Royals got nothing in return for him when he left because he got hurt.
Soria is hardly the lone example; Cameron also points to the top ten under-30 closers from the 2010 season (as ranked by WAR) and finds that -- without exception -- every single one has since lost his hold on the closer role due to performance or injury. Every. Single. One.
Even before I came across this column, I was having difficulty convincing myself that trading Perkins isn't the most logical course of action for this rebuilding Twins franchise. The southpaw has emerged as one of the most dominant relievers in the game and his value has never been higher. In addition to carrying the vaunted "proven closer" label, Perkins ranks 14th among MLB relievers in ERA (one spot ahead of Mariano Rivera), seventh in xFIP and 15th in K/9 rate. His contract is extremely team-friendly -- perhaps the best in baseball for a high-end closer.
In addition to his flat-out dominance on the mound, Perkins appeals to me as a Twins fan for a variety of other reasons. He's a local guy who grew up in Stillwater and attended college at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. He's friendly to bloggers and fans. He's hilarious and forward-thinking. He gives back to the community.
In many ways, Perkins is the perfect fit in a Twins uniform, which makes this such a sticky issue. But with his value at an all-time high, and numerous contenders in serious need of a lockdown reliever for the ninth, it stands to reason that he could bring in a sizable haul that may supplement multiple areas of need for this retooling Minnesota franchise.
How does that weigh against the value that Perkins provides to the team? Right now he's closing out meaningless games for a club headed toward 90-plus losses. When the Twins return to a competitive state -- hopefully within the next year or two -- the closer's innings will obviously become far more important, but we're still talking about a guy who will end up throwing around 65 innings per year if he stays healthy.
As we're seeing this season, Perkins is a victim of the institutional suppression of closers, limited to pitching in very specific situations and therefore restricted from helping the team in many times of need. Despite the fact that he is easily the Twins' best pitcher, he ranks seventh among Twins relievers in innings pitched. He also ranks 101st in the majors. Perk is as good as it gets but his impact is severely lessened by Ron Gardenhire's stringent adherence to traditional closer usage (not that this differentiates Gardy from the rest of the league's managers).
Obviously, it all comes down to what offers are out there. But if Terry Ryan has a chance to add multiple quality prospects in exchange for a reliever, he may very well regret saying no. History shows that, as phenomenal as Perkins is right now, there's significant risk tied to his future. History also shows that contending teams have a tendency to overpay for closers at the deadline -- look no further than the Twins for a recent example.
I'd hate to lose Perkins, and I'm sure Ryan would too. Because of this, I know that a trade won't occur unless an offer really knocks the GM's socks off.
If that offer comes, though, Ryan must pull the trigger. It will be the biggest bummer of a season that's been full of them, but this 2013 campaign has been all about present sacrifices for future gains.