Neal: Here’s how Twins can kick trade machine into higher gear

By the time you finish reading this sentence, the Twins might have made another headline-grabbing trade.

They made the first deal of the post-lockout period when they shipped Mitch Garver to Texas, made two more by the end of the weekend and continue to talk trades as they address myriad issues with their roster. And their roster could be altered even more as they prepare to play spring training games starting Thursday.

As of Monday evening, the Twins were known to have talked with Oakland about righthanded pitcher Frankie Montas and were linked to free-agent shortstop Trevor Story.

They had addressed their two biggest needs — starting pitching and shortstop — by Sunday afternoon. Then they immediately created another need at short a few hours later. It’s difficult to assess the Twins moves until their roster work is complete. But they no longer have starting players in Garver, Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and no longer have their first-round pick from last year, a righthander named Chase Petty who has a fastball that reaches triple digits.

For that, they now have righthander Sonny Gray, a quality starter who immediately gets the ball for Opening Day; Gary Sanchez, who is more of a designated hitter than catcher but hasn’t had an OPS over .730 since 2019; and infielder Gio Urshela, who could end up as their shortstop on Opening Day but is better suited at third base and is not a big bat.

From that standpoint, it’s hard to give the Twins more than a C grade for their results.

Getting Gray was a significant addition to a rotation that’s projected to include Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. The 2023 rotation looks even more promising with Kenta Maeda expected back from Tommy John surgery; Ryan and Ober with another year of experience, and a pack of prospects — including Jordan Balazovic, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Jhoan Duran and Josh Winder — who should be ready to contribute.

Adding Gray helps. I just wish he was being added to a rotation that included Jose Berrios instead of essentially being Berrios’ replacement.

They also received relief prospects Ronny Henriquez and Francis Peguero as part of the trades. Well, Henriquez is a starter but is listed at 5-10 and 155 pounds.

The Twins lose offense in Donaldson and Garver, but both have had two injury-plagued seasons. Donaldson is 36 and Garver is 31, so there are decline concerns as well.

Sanchez’s offense has tailed off since 2019: 34 homers and .841 OPS that season; 23 and .730 last season. Urshela hit .314 in 2019, and he dipped to .267 with 14 homers and 49 RBI last season. The Twins did not gain offensive production in these moves.

The gain was in clearing salary. The Donaldson experiment did not work and the Twins were smart to pounce when the Yankees called. They wanted Kiner-Falefa and were willing to take on all of Donaldson’s salary.

“I can tell you 100 percent, unequivocally, when we acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa, it wasn’t with the plan of moving him to New York,” Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations, told reporters in Florida. “It ended up being a subsequent conversation we had after we had acquired him.”

The Twins hope Sanchez bounces back with the change of scenery. If they find another shortstop, Urshela will likely share third base with Luis Arraez. The club wants third base prospect Jose Miranda — who hit .344 with 30 homers and 94 RBI between Class AA Wichita and AAA St. Paul — to prove himself for a couple of months with the Saints before giving him a look.

The real grade the Twins deserve at the moment is “I” for incomplete. They are back to needing a shortstop like Story who can hit. They could use another rotation arm, and they should be on top of Oakland about Montas or Sean Manaea. There has been no connection between the Twins and any capable relievers, so they might want to get Athletics closer Lou Trivino tossed into any potential deal.

Falvey insisted at the end of last season that the Twins planned to contend in 2022. Actions speak louder than words, and the current Twins don’t have a roster that’s ready to challenge in the AL Central. But if Story and Montas end up in Twins uniforms by the end of the week, their post-lockout roster-building could be called a success.

Source link