July 20, 2005

A vote for not making a trade

I watched the Twins on ESPN yesterday afternoon -- the trio of Gary Thorne, Steve Stone, and Steve Phillips was very good -- and one of the oft-discussed topics was that the Twins are trying to make a trade for another hitter. They showed Terry Ryan on camera several times, and brought up names like Bill Mueller and Joe Randa as potential trade targets.

All of this trade talk is admittedly a lot of fun, especially for fans of a team that hasn't signed a big-name free agent in a decade or so. However, I don't think a trade is the answer to what ails the Twins right now. And even if a trade is the answer, a trade for Mueller or Randa certainly isn't. In fact, I think the idea that adding Mueller or Randa to the lineup is going to get the Twins back to scoring runs is silly.

Both Mueller and Randa would be an upgrade over what the Twins have gotten out of third base so far, but neither of them are really impact hitters and the Twins would only be getting that upgrade for about 70 games. The difference from now to the end of the season between Mueller or Randa and, say, Luis Rodriguez, just isn't very significant. Toss in the part about having to deal J.C. Romero, or possibly even Romero and Kyle Lohse or Joe Mays, and I don't see a potential trade as a positive thing at all.

The Twins' problems offensively go far beyond needing "another bat." Quite simply, the majority of their everyday players are performing worse than expected. Justin Morneau and Jacque Jones (aside from the ninth inning yesterday) have been completely lost at the plate for months now, Bret Boone looks done, Michael Cuddyer was hugely disappointing before losing his starting spot, and Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford have combined to slug .407.

Throw in the fact that Juan Castro has long been one of the worst hitters in baseball and they have two utility infielders (Nick Punto and Rodriguez) splitting time at third base, and I don't think it's tough to see why the Twins can't score any runs. Finding a way to get the players they already have to start hitting will do a whole lot more for the offense and the team's postseason chances than adding someone like Mueller or Randa.

This isn't a case of a team not having enough offensive firepower, because just a few months ago the team was doing just fine. Actually, prior to the start of the season I looked at the Twins' lineup and thought the offense could be significantly better than it was during the past few years. Of course, that was before they gave up on Jason Bartlett and Cuddyer laid another egg, and I still had visions of Morneau as the team's first legitimate cleanup man in years dancing through my head.

Instead, just about every hitter save for Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer has been disappointing this year, and several of the key bats have been scuffling for months now. Swapping Romero for a decent third baseman is not going to do anything but weaken perhaps the team's biggest strength, the bullpen. And the funny thing is that the ESPN guys were talking about how Romero is a hot commodity as a result of nearly every team in baseball wanting another left-handed reliever.

Well, guess what? If the Twins deal Romero they'll be left with Terry Mulholland as their lone southpaw in the pen. As I wise man once said, "That's not gonna be good for anybody."


Runs Per Game 11th
Batting Average 9th
On-Base Percentage 7th
Slugging Percentage 11th
OPS 10th
Home Runs 10th
Doubles 11th
Isolated Power 12th
Extra-Base Hits 12th
Total Bases 11th

Interestingly, two of the only categories that the Twins rank among the top half of the league in are stolen bases (fifth) and sacrifices (fourth). In other words, "doing the little things" doesn't make much difference when you're slugging .404. I'd tell you how the Twins rank in Productive Outs, but it looks as though Buster Olney's favorite stat has vanished from ESPN.com's stats page.

UPDATE: Here's Peter Gammons on a possible Twins-Red Sox deal:

The Red Sox and Twins have had preliminary discussions on a trade that would send Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller to Minnesota for Joe Mays and J.C. Romero.

Trading for Kevin Millar strikes me as an even worse idea than trading for Mueller. While Mueller has hit just .241 with .339 slugging percentage away from Fenway Park over the last two years, at least he's a third baseman who plays solid defense. Millar, on the other hand, is a sub par defensive player at first base or a corner outfield spot, and he's hit just .239/.326/.325 outside of Fenway over the last two seasons. Yeah, those two will get the offense going in a hurry!

UPDATE #2: Here's more on the deal, this time from the Baltimore Sun:

One possibility would be a three-way trade in which Boston third baseman Bill Mueller and prospects would go to Minnesota for reliever J.C. Romero and starter Joe Mays; the Red Sox would then trade Mays and starter Bronson Arroyo to Florida for Burnett and Lowell. However, Lowell's contract is also an issue in that deal and Florida is lukewarm on Mays, sources say.

Sounds like an awful lot of work to get Bill Mueller.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Ten Things I Didn't Know Last Week (by Dave Studeman)
- A Tale of Two Third Basemen (by Dan Fox)

Today's Picks (78-66, +$1,125):
Houston (Oswalt) -130 over Washington (Loaiza)
San Diego (Peavy) -140 over New York (Ishii)

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