It would be nice if the Twins kept up their recent winning pace through late July, climbing back into the AL Central picture after being left for dead in May. Unfortunately, their lack of starting pitching makes that difficult to realistically envision.
In the more likely event that the Twins are firmly out of contention when the trade deadline rolls around, they'll find themselves in an unfamiliar position.Only once in the past decade has the club behaved as a seller at the deadline; in 2007, seven games out in the AL Central, they traded Luis Castillo and his remaining salary to the Mets for two prospects. Even then they were confident that the heir apparent Alexi Casilla could step in and replace Castillo's modest production.
If the Twins' current 8.5-game deficit in the standings hasn't shrunk significantly within a month, most would agree that it will be time to see what kind of value they can get for their movable assets.
But who should they be looking to deal? The most obvious candidates are the guys in the final years of their contracts – such as Matt Capps, Ryan Doumit and Carl Pavano – but none are likely to make a large impact for a contender so it's doubtful any GM is going to give up much for two months of service. The best the Twins can hope for by trading these players would be payroll relief and a B-prospect.
Quality players with team-friendly contracts extending past this year – such as Denard Span and Josh Willingham – may do more to entice bidders, but the stakes are raised. In trading players with long-term value, returning good prospects is a must. Given the organization's spotty track record evaluating players from other teams in recent years, one can't help but worry about that a little.
As I look over the roster, I see one player who could become an appealing, fungible trading chip at the deadline: Francisco Liriano. He's almost surely gone after this year, so shipping him out would be a no-brainer in a seller scenario. His current 1-7 record and 6.45 ERA aren't going to blow anyone away but opposing clubs might be more inclined to focus on his numbers since a bullpen demotion in early May: 25 IP, 3.24 ERA, 32-to-13 K/BB, .198 opponents' batting average, zero homers allowed.
If the inconsistent lefty can maintain his improved production from the past month over the next month, he may actually become a legitimate commodity as the deadline looms, giving the Twins leverage that they probably won't have with any of the other walk-year players.
It's something to root for even if the usual June winning spell comes to an end.