The Twins come out of the All-Star break on Friday with a series at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. That will be followed by three games against Cleveland and four games against the White Sox, all at home. If things don't go exceedingly well through that ten game stretch, the Twins could decide to be sellers. If that's the case, the Twins have several trade candidates and over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at them.
That said, today we will begin our Trade Candidate Series by looking at arguably the Twins Most Valuable Player through the All-Star break, Kurt Suzuki.
Suzuki was named to his first All-Star Game this season, his first with the Minnesota Twins after spending most of his career with the Oakland A's, as well as 122 games with the Nationals. After posting OPS over .700 his first three seasons (2007-09), he has really struggled the last couple of years. The Twins took a shot on him in the offseason at a reasonable $2.75 million. The assumption from many outside the organization was that he would be a part-time player, a mentor for Josmil Pinto. Instead, he earned the starting job and has held on to it.
WHY TRADE HIM
If you believe in the philosophy of Buy Low and Sell High, this could be the perfect baseball example. The Twins were able to get Suzuki for a fair rate because of his struggles the last few years. It only makes sense to sell high. His value will likely never be higher, and the Twins should capitalize on that. The Twins are still a team in transition, and as strong as the minor league system is, it never hurts to add more talent. The Twins, and Terry Ryan, did a great job of this in the late-90s.
In 1996, the Twins signed Dave Hollins to play third base. In 121 games for the Twins, he hit .242/.364/.396 (.760) with 26 doubles and 13 home runs. They were able to trade him in late August for a young David Ortiz.
Also, before the 1996 season, the Twins signed Roberto Kelly. He played as a part-timer in 1996 and hit .287/.336/.441 with 19 doubles and five home runs before being traded to the Mariners for Joe Mays.
These players were not performing to the level that Suzuki has this year, while playing a premium position, so the Twins could get a nice package.
WHY KEEP HIM
I don't know that anyone has given up, per se, on the idea of Josmil Pinto being an adequate catcher at some point, but the reality is that he is enough of a liability behind the plate that it's hard to envision him being the top catcher. (But yes, he can hit.) The next catcher in the minor league ladder that is potentially a starting catcher is Stuart Turner, the team's 3rd round pick in 2013 out of Ole Miss who is spending this season with the Ft. Myers Miracle. He is at least two years away from being ready for that.
Though the controversial pitch framing statistics do not shine a positive light on Suzuki, the Twins pitchers have generally been incredibly complimentary of him. He is well-respected around the game and considered a strong leader.
The Twins can negotiate right now and through free agency with Suzuki in an attempt to shore up their starting catching position for the next two years. Would Suzuki consider re-upping for 2 years and $12 million?
WHO NEEDS HIM
There are a couple teams that are in need, at least to some degree, of a catcher. The St. Louis Cardinals lost their all-star catcher, Yadier Molina, to season-ending (most likely) injury. The Baltimore Orioles catcher, Matt Wieters, had Tommy John surgery recently and will miss the remainder of the season.
Suzuki is not elite, but he is a respected (and now an All-Star) player/leader at a premium position. Twins fans should not expect a team to offer up one of their Top 5 prospects. However, I would think that the Twins could get one prospect around #10 from an organization, plus a prospect who ranks in the team's 20s.
I'm an economics major, so you know I believe in the concept of Buy Low/Sell High. Suzuki's value will likely never be higher. He is putting up career-best numbers at age 30, so to expect him to maintain this value through the rest of the 2014 season (much less for 2-3 more years) is not realistic.
That said, the Twins don't really have a quality catcher who will be ready to be the team's regular catcher for at least a couple of years.
There is one best-of-both-worlds scenario that would keep a lot of people happy. They can trade him and sign him. How? Well, the Twins can add a couple of prospects in the next couple of weeks when they trade Suzuki. At the end of the year, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team, including the Minnesota Twins.
How do they do this? Terry Ryan and Rob Antony should sit down with Kurt Suzuki and make it very clear to him that they want to keep him around for a couple more years. However, they are not going to the playoffs this year and are still in a position to accumulate as much talent and depth as they can. Talk through trade scenarios with Suzuki and let him know they want to put him in a position to win in 2014. However, make it clear that the Twins plan to pursue him again in November and December when he hits the market again. Obviously no formal promises can be made or details worked out, but the conversation is good to have.
Honestly, I would put the odds of trading Suzuki at about 60/40 (60% likelihood that he is traded). I would say that there is about a 40% chance that Suzuki stays with the Twins through the remainder of 2014. If he does stay through the end of the season, I would predict that there is a 50/50 chance that the Twins and Suzuki will agree on a multi-year extension before season's end.
What should the Twins do with Kurt Suzuki? Sign him? Let him play out his contract and see what happens? Trade him? Or, trade him and bring him back? What do you think?