Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Help Wanted

It’s that time of year again and the Twins should hope to be players in this year's trade market. From about mid-June until the trade deadline rumors heat up and deals go down. Some teams, like the Royals, are already out of it while others will wait around a little bit longer before gutting their pieces. There are many spare parts and a few studs out there. The Twins are a team hoping to get over the hump this year and advance in the playoffs. Anything is possible with the current roster but an upgrade would greatly improve their chances. What do they need and what is it going to take for people to be calling the Twins world champions come October?

It is hard to tell where to start when considering what the team's greatest need is. There are numerous areas of weakness but if the Twins hope to advance in this year's playoffs they must add an Ace starter. Pitching makes all the difference in the playoffs and right now the Twins don't have 3 or 4 pitchers capable of shutting down a team. Brad Radke has pitched very well and once again the team will rely on him to win. He is followed by Johan Santana who had mixed results last year against the Yankees. This year he needs to shake off freak injuries and come up big for the Twins to advance. Carlos Silva has been great this year and will earn the right to start in the playoffs but no one should expect him to shut down an opponent. He just allows too many hits and lacks experience. Kyle Lohse has been inconsistent his whole career and a big game will only get him more exited and more inconsistent as has happened before.

The problem is there aren't many Aces available out there. The ones that are, are not considered true Aces but cost as much as one. So the team might have to go ahead and gamble on what they've got in the playoffs. Nevertheless, they need to at least add a veteran starter before the deadline. Right now the fifth starter has been a major void and no one has emerged. It could be JD Durbin or Joe Mays in the end but this team can't wait.

The second biggest need is a big time hitter. Unfortunately most of these hitters play positions the team is already stacked at. This move is unlikely to happen but it would be nice to go into a playoff series with a player capable of driving in some runs. Perhaps a Jacque Jones and a prospect deal would be the ticket. The past two years the Twin's bats have been shut down in the playoffs. It doesn't matter how well your pitchers throw if you don't score any runs. A .400 OBP. and 30-40 homerun guy in the middle of the lineup would look very good but once again could be quite costly.

Before the end another middle reliever would really help the staff. This might be the cheapest item on the market but still may be overpriced. To this point the bullpen has performed admirable especially with the meltdown of JC Romero. The bullpen lacks depth and proven pitchers. A high quality set up man would help everyone out. Juan Rincon has performed very well but a second option will cause other teams headaches and keep him fresh not to mention if he should falter.

At the beginning of the year everyone was calling for a middle infield addition. That speculation has cooled with the improved play of Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas. I don't think this team needs someone to start over these guys or could find anyone better. What they need is a guy good enough to start who can hit a little bit off the bench. That way if Rivas gets into another slump they will have an option to replace him. Also he adds flexibility to late inning personal changes. Nick Punto will be a welcome addition with his return.

The team is going to have to give something up to get help. They have a glut of outfield prospects that are ready to play in the majors. Mike Restovich might look very appealing to other organizations but in this one really doesn't have a spot. The team should be willing to part with him. Grant Balfour is another player who has a lot of talent but has yet to prove himself. I would not part with JD Durbin or Jesse Crain unless the team was blown away with a player. The Twins have a window of opportunity and just about anyone else should be made available to make postseason glory possible.

Justin Morneau might be the team's most valuable asset. They should do their best to hold onto him. Out of all the prospects that have come up he has the best chance to provide the power this team has lacked since 1987. He might be hitting cleanup for the next 10 years. He might even be a valuable weapon for the Twins down the stretch this year at a cheaper cost then anyone they try to trade for.

This is a team that needs to be active in this year's trade market. They have to be smart and identify needs without overpaying for players with some kind of fault. Terry Ryan has been very good about being creative and getting more then he should for AAAA type players. He needs to bring that same mentality to this year's dealings. The competition is only going to get stronger and the Twins must follow suit. The time is now and nobody knows when the window of opportunity closes.