3 Trade Ideas That Can Kill Two Birds With One Stone For the Twins
The MLB trade deadline is only a week away, and the tension between many Minnesota Twins fans and the traditionally gun-shy front office is palpable. While this season certainly holds the possibility of having a far different outcome than the deadlines of the last five years, it’s hard for fans to expect something seismic. If the Derek Falvey-led regime bucks their trend and pulls the trigger on a substantial blockbuster trade, fans will undoubtedly be intrigued. But they’re getting tired of holding their breath in the meantime.
For the Twins to have a successful deadline approach this time around, they’ll need to address the gaping holes that plague their rotation and beleaguered bullpen. The impending absence of catcher Ryan Jeffers is another wrinkle in their needs heading into the season’s final 10 weeks. The 24-year-old will be out of commission for at least the next six weeks and probably longer.
While the team claims that they don’t expect this to be a season-ending injury, it’s hard to see a scenario where Jeffers rushes back to MLB action and contributes at a high level. If that’s the case, they’ll need help behind the dish. Gary Sánchez can hold his own as a primary catcher for the next couple of months, but the Twins may want an established backup to spell time behind the plate. With that said, perhaps they can swing a deal that accomplishes multiple goals – getting a part-time catcher and improving some facet of the pitching, to boot.
Here are three deals that can kill two birds with one stone:
Twins receive: RHP Jorge López and C Robinson Chirinos
Orioles receive: RHP Cole Sands, RHP Yennier Canó, LHP Steve Hajjar, and OF Alerick Soularie
The biggest impact in this trade would come from López (1.62 ERA, 17 saves), the Baltimore Orioles closer who is having a breakout year and is under team control for two more seasons. He would instantly fill a crucial role for the Twins bullpen. If Jhoan Durán comes into a game in the seventh inning of a close game, the club can then turn to López to close it out with more certainty than, say, Tyler Duffey or Emilio Pagán. That bumps them to lower-leverage situations where they might be best suited for the time being.
Chirinos is by no means a starting-caliber catcher, and he is having a pretty brutal year by most accounts. The veteran backstop is hitting .162/.258/.265, and his pitch framing is among the worst in baseball. However, he is coming off a 2021 season with the Chicago Cubs, in which he hit a much more palatable .227/.324/.454. Plus, his career numbers against left-handed pitching are stellar (.252/.358/.463). Twins GM Thad Levine has familiarity with Chirinos from their time with the Texas Rangers.
The Twins would be giving up a near-MLB-ready starting pitcher in the form of Sands (5.45 ERA, 10.9 K/9 in Triple-A) and Hajjar (2.08 ERA, 14.3 K/9 in Low-A). Hajjar is a high-upside starter drafted in the second round last year. The Twins would also throw in Soularie (.218/.317/.379, 11 stolen bases in High-A), a speedy 23-year-old outfielder who had a solid first season in pro ball in 2021. Canó, 28, could pretty much step right into the big league bullpen mix for the Orioles in Lopez’s place and is under cheap control for the foreseeable future.
Twins receive: C Willson Contreras and RHP David Robertson
Cubs receive: IF Spencer Steer, IF Edouard Julien, and RHP David Festa
This trade would feature the loftiest package leaving Minnesota, headlined by breakout prospect Steer (.278/.363/.559, 19 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A this year). However, it would address two needs perfectly. Contreras (.253/.366/.455, 13 home runs) is one of the best catchers in the game and is coming off his third All-Star Game appearance on Tuesday night. He’s a free agent at year’s end, but he would be a true middle-of-the-order bat who can push Sánchez to more of a DH and backup catcher role.
A vital member of the 2016 world-champion Cubs team, he would bring an experienced, star-caliber player into the fold. Robertson (1.93 ERA, 150 career saves) would be a great addition to the Twins’ bullpen and is also a free agent at year’s end. He still accumulates punchouts at a great clip (11.6 K/9) thanks to elite spin rates on his fastball (100th percentile) and has a spectacular 0.99 WHIP on the season.
Beyond shipping away Steer, the Twins would also be trading away Julien (.283/.425/.465 at Double-A), who has been an on-base machine since the Twins drafted him in 2019. They would also trade an exciting young starter in Festa (1.86 ERA, 9.5 K/9 at High-A), who has impressed national scouts. He’s seen as a potential frontline starter if he keeps progressing at his current pace. Sure, it would be hard to swallow a trade that sends away a blue chip prospect and two players that are well on their way to being the same, but star power doesn’t come cheap, especially in late July.
Twins receive: RHP Noah Syndergaard, RHP Ryan Tepera, C Kurt Suzuki, and cash considerations
Angels receive: RHP Cole Sands, RHP Jordan Balazovic, and LHP Cade Povich
If/when the Los Angeles Angels decide to sell, the Twins could come calling for a couple of veteran righties and a familiar name to take on backup catching duties. Syndergaard is having a good-not-great year in Anaheim. Still, he has managed to stay relatively healthy, which is encouraging considering he missed almost two full years while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Syndergaard’s two worst starts of the season, where he gave up a combined 10 earned runs in just 9⅔ innings pitched, have bogged down his overall numbers (4.00 ERA, 7.0 K/9 in 75 innings pitched). If you take out those two appearances, Syndergaard has a 3.20 ERA and 7.4 K/9 on the year. Sure, if you take out any pitcher’s two worst appearances, their numbers are bound to look far better. But at the very least, this shows that Syndergaard has been reliable for most of the year.
He would be an adequate starter in the playoffs and has substantial upside given his pitch repertoire and reputation as a frontline starter. Tepera would be a welcome addition as a middle reliever, even if he doesn’t figure to close out many games. He’s also under team control for another season. Plus, this trade includes cash considerations from the Angels to pay down some or all of that $7 million salary in 2023.
Like Chirinos, Suzuki wouldn’t wow anybody behind the plate, but he could be a good veteran presence down the stretch. He also has a career .300/.395/.586 slash line as a pinch hitter if manager Rocco Baldelli wants to get creative late in games with runners on base.
The Twins would be trading away Sands along with their preseason top pitching prospect in Balazovic. However, Balazovic’s prospect star has worn out considerably this season — he has a 10.63 ERA in 10 Triple-A starts. He hasn’t been as healthy as he’d like in 2022, which has contributed to his poor performance. The Angels might be willing to take a shot at a high-upside pitcher who is one good break from contributing at the big league level. Povich, a third-round pick in last year’s draft, would be a prize in the long-term for the pitching-starved Angels. While he is still only in High-A, he has a 3.62 ERA with a spectacular 12.5 K/9 in 14 starts.