The Red Sox play the Twins this upcoming extended weekend, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s not because I expect the Red Sox to sweep the Twins or anything (we actually lost our series against the Twins in June), but because I like the people at Twinkie Town, and it’s a good time to reconnect with them. It helps the Twins are probably my favorite team to watch in the AL Central, and they have a lot of young talent that make these games fun to watch.
I recently got the opportunity to talk with Maija Varda, the managing editor at Twinkie Town, to touch base on how the Twins are doing, and what some story lines are for them, going into the trade deadline. I hope you guys enjoy this special feature.
1. The other day, the Twins pulled Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, if I remember correctly. Dozier, at least, is a trade target for us. What’s the deal there, and what do you think the odds are that the Twins deal one or both of them? Do you think something is close now?
Yes, the Twins did that on Monday. They also removed Eddie Rosario from that game. The reason Paul Molitor did that was because it was late in an 8-1 game and he just wanted to give some of the bench players some playing time. The removal of Rosario proves that, as I’d put the odds of the Twins trading Eddie Rosario at about 1%, if that.
Dozier and Escobar, on the other hand, are both free agents at the end of the year, so I could see one or both of them being moved. I have no idea how likely it is they will be moved, but I think it really depends on what other teams offer in return. The Dodgers went after Dozier heavily the off season before last, but would only offer Jose De Leon in a one-for-one trade. Even though the Twins desperately needed pitching, they did not feel that was adequate, and they passed on the trade. The Dodgers ended up trading Jose De Leon in a one-for-one trade with the Rays for Logan Forsythe, who turns out to not actually be as good as Brian Dozier. Dozier had another great year, and proved the Twins front office correct.
Escobar is probably my favorite player on the active roster right now not named Mauer, and I absolutely do not want him to leave. Escobar is the life of the clubhouse. I don’t see the Twins selling him easily, but it’s possible.
It’s also very possible the Twins keep Dozier, give him a qualifying offer, and Dozier accepts it. I could see that happening, especially after how last year ended.
2. From my point of view, the Central is pretty weak (arguably, the weakest division in baseball), and the Twins are in second, 7.5 behind the Indians. Do you think the Twins are legitimately on the cusp of being a good team? What do you think the Twins record would be in the AL East, or heaven forbid, the AL West?
”Pretty weak”? The AL Central Division frickin’ sucks butt. (Author’s Note - I was trying to be diplomatic, but yes, the AL Central is awful).
I really thought the Twins would be better this year because they had improved pitching. Their offense was great last year, they just didn’t have pitching.
Well now the pitching has improved... and the offense went down the toilet. A lot of it is due to injuries. Miguel Sano never fully recovered from having a titanium rod put in his leg last fall, then Byron Buxton had migraines, broke his toe, yadda yadda. Both Sano and Buxton have since been activated off the DL, but their time away knocked them both back down to the minors (the Twins even sent Sano back to Single-A ball to get help). Beyond that, catcher Jason Castro suffered a knee injury and is out for the year, Joe Mauer has spent time on the DL with the return of concussion symptoms (this absolutely kills me), and shortstop Jorge Polanco only just recently returned from an 80-game PED suspension.
The Twins have really not had luck on their side this year.
3. What have you put into Eddie Rosario’s water? What has turned him into this monster? In 2015/16, he looked like roughly a league average hitter, with no plate discipline, and a propensity to strike out. The past two seasons now, he’s hit above average, and has basically doubled his walk rate.
Rosario finally started hitting the balls he swung at. He used to swing at everything and miss and strike out constantly. He never walked. Now he still kind of swings at everything, but he actually hits it. He’s an awesome “bad-ball” hitter. Pitchers have adjusted their approach to him, ending up in more walks. Eddie has been a god send.
I’m so happy the front office believed in him. Lots of fans thought he was trade-bait last year, and the front office said resoundingly that he was not, he was not on the market, and he was part of their future. I am so happy they are smarter than the rest of us fans.
4. What’s going on with Byron Buxton?
Buxton was suffering from migraines pretty bad going into the Twins vs. Indians series in Puerto Rico back in April. Because of the travel required for that game, the teams had an off-day Monday, games Tuesday and Wednesday, and then another off-day Thursday, which is pretty unusual. The Twins decided just to give Buxton the time by using all of that on the 10-day DL (I almost think they were worried it was concussion symptoms). With the extra off-days, it meant he would miss fewer games.
Well, then, Buxton was playing a rehab game in the minors and fouled a ball off his foot, which broke his toe. He tried to come back earlier than he should have, struggled (if Buxton can’t run -- which is the most glorious thing in the world -- it’s not good), and then was placed back on the DL. After Buxton’s time on the DL was up, the Twins just opted to give him more time in Triple-A to regain himself. So that’s where he is now.
Buxton, when he’s on, can be one of the greatest players in baseball. His defense is sorely missed. But he always seems to injure himself, and keeps getting lost at the plate. I don’t know if it has to do with his confidence or what. He is an excellent, focused hard worker. I really miss watching him run at Target Field. Watching Byron Buxton run is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in baseball.
5. How do you guys feel about Jake Odorizzi?
I dunno. He’s been fine enough? The Twins’ pitching has been so bad in recent years he’s actually a welcome improvement to the rotation, and not too expensive. I think all Twins fans at this point could tell you in unison, “It could be worse!”
6. Can we please have Jose Berrios?
Absolutely not. Someone at Pinstripe Alley actually wrote a FanPost last week arguing the Yankees should trade for Jose Berrios, which was pretty laughable. The Twins’ biggest need still remains pitching, especially elite starting pitching, and Jose Berrios is the closest thing they have to that. There is no way the Twins would give Berrios up unless you offered something so absurd the commissioner’s office would probably step in and stop it anyway.
7. What do you think the Twins should prioritize in the off-season?
Joe Mauer. And maybe one or two elite-er pitchers. If Sano and Buxton can regain themselves, the Twins really just need more elite pitching. I’m not sure the Twins will be super active on the free agent market, though. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chief Baseball Dude Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine swung a creative trade rather than sign a big-named guy in free agency.
8. Do you think the Twins and Red Sox will be making a deal before July 31st? Do you think they match up for an August waiver trade?
What do the Red Sox even need?! From my viewpoint I can’t even tell. Do you all want Lance Lynn (*crossing fingers*)?
9. Is there a player on your roster that you don’t think we either know about or appreciate enough?
Joe Mauer. It feels like people forget he’s still playing sometimes. He’s been one of the most elite defenders at first base over the past couple years (I’m sorry but he deserved that Golden Glove last year), he is passing the top people on Twins records boards all of the time. He is definitely, without question, one of the greatest Twins players of all time. His number will be retired, they will build a bronze statue of him outside of Target Field, they will number a gate after him, and possibly name the street the field and front office is on after him (it’s currently just a generic “Twins Way”). I believe he belongs in the MLB Hall of Fame, but I don’t know how long it will take him to get there. I think he will get there eventually, though.
Other than Joe... maybe Trevor Hildenberger? He’s a side-arm reliever, but sometimes he’s real sneaky and throws an over-arm pitch. He’s been pretty good for the Twins.
10. How much longer do you think Joe Mauer will play?
Good question. I have heard rumors for multiple different people around the city (since, after all, Joe has been here his whole life) that Joe plans to retire after the season ends. I’m really not sure if that is true. I think he would be willing to accept one-year contracts from the Twins going forward. I would be a little surprised if he accepted anything beyond a one year deal, and I would be VERY surprised if he accepted a contract with anyone other than the Twins. Joe has all the money he needs. He has a beautiful family. He’s gotten to play in his hometown his whole career, where his grandparents get to come to every game. I just can’t imagine him valuing going to a different team over retiring with his family and friends and the fans that have loved him his entire life.
This could be Joe’s last year, and I’ve been having an existential crisis about it all the time. I’ve been watching Joe Mauer play baseball since before he was even drafted. I’ve been watching him my whole life. I can’t imagine baseball without Joe. I will obviously respect and support whatever he chooses to do, but man.
11. Is there something you think I should have asked, but didn’t? What’s your answer to that question?
”How do Twins fans feel about manager Paul Molitor?”
Well, this has really been up and down. Molitor won the AL Manager of the Year Award last year, and he was pretty popular, but now this year some fans are calling for him to be fired. As I have said before, I always wanted the Twins to hire Doug Mientkiewicz as manager, but they didn’t. Mientkiewicz remained a minor league manager for the Twins until they unceremoniously fired him while he was trying to clean up his street in Florida after Hurricane Irma. He’s managing the Triple-A team for the Tigers under Gardy now, which good for him. But dang -- Doug developed and managed all of the home-grown players we have now at multiple levels, and they keep citing him as a huge influence on their careers. He absolutely loved them. I remember listing to a podcast (no longer on the internet, unfortunately), where Doug talked about managing Byron Buxton in a game, where Buxton was obviously injured. Buxton wouldn’t come out of the game so Doug went to him and told him, “Byron, when I am managing you in the World Series, I will let you play, but I can’t let you do this now.” And Byron started crying, because really all Byron ever wants to do is play baseball.
I mean, it could be worse than Molitor. He’s not terrible. He’s an extremely smart baseball man. I just feel the Twins missed their chance to have a young manager come up with their young team and really create that whole atmosphere in the clubhouse that would really bring them together.
Annnndddd it just occurred to me, don’t you Boston people hate Doug Mientkiewicz? Oops.