Twins Trade Candidates, and What It'd Take to Move Them
It's Trade Deadline SZN; what would it take for the Twins to move certain guys?
The 2022 MLB Trade Deadline is Aug. 2 at 5 p.m. Central time, and between now and then there’ll be no shortage of speculation about who the Minnesota Twins might/should target as they look to stay afloat atop the American League Central.
Multiple times per day, people ask me “would you trade Player X for relief help” or “what would it take for the Twins to move this guy?” and so I figured why not take a look at the guys I think the team could trade and what it might take in return.
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Here’s what we’ve got. Let’s talk to it:
Should the Twins trade Kepler? I wouldn’t go on record as saying they truly ought to, but there’s no reason to outright dismiss it. Is he a good player? Sure. He plays a good defensive right field, can run into one every now and then at the plate and has shown good plate discipline — especially this season.
But if someone else sees value in the 29-year-old Kepler, who is signed through 2023 with a reasonable 2024 option ($10 million), the Twins should definitely listen.
It’s not that Kepler isn’t a good player; it’s that the Twins should be able to reproduce or come close to it with cheaper players — or simply via the free agent market moving forward. Every year there are semi-interesting corner outfielders who sign reasonable deals. Think Kole Calhoun, who has an identical career OPS as Kepler (105).
And again, that’s if and only if the Twins don’t think they can simply fill in the gaps with some combination of Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino and others.
Necessary return: This would have to probably be a swap for a starting pitcher of similar age/skill/salary. If Kyle Gibson was about four years younger, maybe he would be a good point of reference. Chad Kuhl from Colorado might be a good comparison, too.
I don’t see this happening, but when the phone rings you answer it, right? Kiriloff’s season numbers don’t look the greatest — 100 wRC+, .309 wOBA, .303 xwOBA — but since returning to the Twins on June 17, he’s hit .299/.333/.494 in 84 plate appearances. That’s swinging well enough to either replace Kepler or be worth quite a bit in a trade (especially since AK is 24 and not far removed from being a well-regarded prospect).
But the return would have to be huge for the Twins to do anything like this.
Necessary return: He’d have to be the primary piece in a deal for Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo or Frankie Montas, or a pitcher of that caliber.
Larnach is currently on the shelf after core muscle surgery, but the timeline seems as though he could return in the next 3-to-4 weeks. Most of the things said about Kirilloff apply to Larnach, though with the exception of playing first base. Now, with that said, Larnach had turned what appeared to be a pretty significant corner defensively before being injured, so he does bring something else to the table that might be missing with Kirilloff in the outfield.
Does Larnach strike out too much? It’s possible (33.5 percent career rate). Can he hit breaking balls? It’s still unclear, but this season (.220 average/.440 slugging percentage) was a large step forward from his rookie campaign (.169 average/221 slugging percentage).
The achievement requirements for a corner outfielder to be a big-time asset offensively is a pretty high bar to reach. I believe Larnach can do it, but it’s not hard for a guy like that to get thrown into the Jason Kubel bin, either.
That is, a very good hitter who is so-so defensively and thus ends up being a 1.5-to-2.0-win player every year. Those guys are always available.
Necessary return: Same as Kirilloff.
I’m not down on Miranda, though it may seem like it based on the return I propose. The reality is that Miranda is probably fairly blocked from having a full-time role with the Twins anytime soon — though to be fair, that might not be the case if he keeps hitting as he has been.
Since Miranda’s May 30 recall — one day after his demotion — he’s hit .297/.343/.515 in 108 plate appearances. If someone values that enough to give the Twins a look at a good starting pitcher or a reliever with multiple years of control, they should consider it.
It’s going to be difficult for Miranda to hang with the Twins at third base — I’m under the assumption Royce Lewis could end up there, or one of Jorge Polanco/Luis Arraez/Spencer Steer — and who knows what the future holds at first with Arraez, Kirilloff and whoever else.
It’s definitely possible the Twins see it differently than I do at first base, and that Miranda is their guy there. That can especially be true if they open up an outfield spot for Kirilloff with a trade of, for instance, Kepler.
So there are a lot of moving pieces here. But for me, moving Miranda now takes advantage of his relative youth and strong production at a time where the Twins are probably more hesitant to move other players at or around his age.
Necessary return: If not a starting pitcher, an elite reliever with one-plus year of club control.
Sorry if this is unnecessarily brief, but no.
Necessary return: An exceptionally good starting pitcher with multiple years of control who is better than Montas. In short: not sure it exists.
Martin is on the shelf at Double-A Wichita, but it’s another less-than-inspiring season at the level for the Swiss Army Knife who was part of the return in the Jose Berrios trade.
Controlling the strike zone isn’t and still hasn’t been an issue for Martin, who has now slugged just .354 in his minor-league career — all of which has been played at Double-A, oddly enough.
Is the power outage still due to lingering wrist issues? Is it a swing-path thing? I don’t know these answers, but until it gets resolved I just don’t see a path where it makes sense for the Twins to move Martin, who has quickly fallen down prospect rankings this season.
Necessary return: Unless he can be used in a trade for a Montas-type pitcher, it really doesn’t behoove the Twins to do this.
Balazovic is basically the pitching version of Martin. Is he healthy? Probably not. Is he playing well? No. Does he still have any value in the eyes of acquiring teams? Probably at a steep discount.
Necessary return: I don’t really see a way to make a deal work with Balazovic as a key piece.
Simeon Woods Richardson
It’s easy enough to see SWR’s page on Baseball-Reference and see that he’s having a solid season. It’s a season so solid that you could see a team asking for him in a deal for a sturdy No. 2ish starter, for instance.
Basically, that’s how the Twins got him in the first place (though he wasn’t pitching as well, but hang with me here).
And ordinarily, it would make sense for the Twins to make a trade like this, but the one thing I keep coming back to is Woods Richardson’s age. He’s only 21, and more than holding his own at Double-A Wichita (3.40 ERA, 53 strikeouts in 53 innings, 1.13 WHIP) against competition nearly four years older than him, on average (minus-3.6 years, technically).
I can’t say for sure that he can help this year’s team; hell, I can’t even say that for next year. This year is especially important because it’s the one year the Twins have guaranteed with Carlos Correa contractually, which would increase the likelihood, one might suspect, of the team making a more edgy or aggressive move.
And we’ve seen the attrition rate with pitching prospects in the Twins system this season with Balazovic, Blayne Enlow, and a few others.
Could it make sense to trade SWR at the peak of his value (for the third time in his career and for the third time for a very good starting pitcher)?
Possibly, but again it would have to be a very, very good one.
Necessary return: I think with SWR, I’m aiming higher than the Montas/Mahle/Castillo trio. I want Zac Gallen (who is similarly as good as those guys but under club control through 2025).
The biggest issue with Canterino is keeping him upright. His numbers are absolutely incredible. Even his walk rate, which is a sketchy 5.8 per nine innings this season, is largely influenced by eight walks in the 6.0 innings he pitched right before going on the IL in early June.
The highest OPS he’d allowed in any month this season was .518. Opposing batters have hit just .142/.273/.217 against him this season. Personally, I think a healthy Canterino could help the team right now in the big-league bullpen. But again, that’s wishful thinking as he’s been sidelined for nearly six weeks already.
Necessary return: This is sort of tough, but if he can be a high-end second piece in a big trade for a starting pitcher, I think I’m OK with it. As in, if the Twins can talk a team into taking two guys like Canterino and, say, one of the next two guys on this list as opposed to a Woods Richardson, I think I’d have to consider it.
Speer today, gone tomorrow? Lousy puns aside, it’s hard to imagine a faster come-up than what Steer has had this season. Posting a .976 OPS in Double-A is certainly impressive, but I’m even more excited about the .875 mark at Triple-A since he’s more than two years younger than his average counterpart (minus-2.5 years below the average).
Steer can play shortstop, but has interestingly enough played more second and third base this year with the Saints, and was at third base more than any other spot with the Wind Surge as well.
Are the Twins weak at third base? Not necessarily, but more so than shortstop — at least while Correa is in town.
Moving Steer at the peak of his value could be a good idea. But keeping him with the idea of making him their quasi-Ben Zobrist/Marwin Gonzalez type in the mold of what they were hoping Lewis could do isn’t a bad idea, either.
Necessary return: Only in a trade for a legit No. 2 starting pitcher who would start a playoff game for the Twins.
Inasmuch as someone can have a dream season at Double-A, that’s exactly what Wallner is doing. He’s slashing an unthinkable .288/.429/.587 with 21 home runs in just 77 games, which prompts the question of why he’s still at Double-A in the first place in his age-24 season (about average for Double-A).
But it’s pretty easy to see what, if there is a singular reason, is keeping him at Double-A: 107 strikeouts in 336 plate appearances. That’s a 31.8 percent mark, which when coupled with an 18.2 percent walk rate (super elite) and 21 home runs comes out to a three-true-outcome score of 56.3 percent.
For some big-league context, Wallner’s strikeout rate is about the same as Seattle’s Eugenio Suarez, who came into Wednesday slashing .242/.336/.443 (128 wRC+) but plays a solid third base defensively.
The walk rate is about the same as Max Muncy of the Dodgers, who is having a poor season overall offensively (86 wRC+) but is coming back from a serious elbow injury.
From a three-true-outcomes perspective, his mark is well above any qualified hitter in MLB (there are a pair of guys just above 50 percent in Kyle Schwarber and Patrick Wisdom, but nobody else).
In short, Wallner is a bit of a unicorn. He’s not particularly young for his level, doesn’t profile as an up-the-middle talent whatsoever and could probably just as easily be the next Daniel Palka as he could the next Adam Dunn.
If someone values that highly, the Twins should take them up on it.
Necessary return: I’m not sure he can be the second piece in a deal for a high-end starting pitcher, but if he can bring back an elite reliever under control through 2023, he should be on the first plane out. The Orioles are moving back into contention as we speak, but Jorge Lopez is the kind of guy I’d target here.
The Best of the Rest
I’m not as much of a prospect guru as some others are in this space, but the updated Baseball America list has some interesting guys in the top 10 that we haven’t discussed here:
No. 3 Emmanuel Rodriguez - Massive helium with this outfielder, who has an incredible 1.044 OPS at a teenager at Low-A Fort Myers. Since he’s so young it’s hard for me to put him in the category above, but have to believe he’s only moving in a deal for a big-time pitcher.
No. 8 Marco Raya - Still just 19 even after being selected in the 2020 draft, this righty has been terrific also as a teenager at Fort Myers (2.93 ERA, 10.9 K/9, 1.02 WHIP in 12 games/11 starts). Probably second/third piece in big trade.
No. 11 Steve Hajjar - Tall, strong lefty with big-time stuff. Has had some issues commanding it, but looks like another guy with helium. Could be a second/third piece in a big trade with the right team.
No. 12 Noah Miller - Very good defensive shortstop who is a switch hitter and the younger brother of Guardians infielder Owen Miller. Future hinges on how much he hits, but as a first-round pick (36th overall) it’s fair to suggest Twins value him highly.
No. 13 David Festa - Amidst all the tough seasons top pitching prospects are having, Festa deserves to be right there with Raya and Hajjar as a breakout stud. Crushed at Fort Myers (1.50 ERA in five starts) and has kept right on with Cedar Rapids (1.91 in eight games/five starts). Increased strikeouts and decreased walks since college, and is quite a find in the 13th round.
No. 14 Christian Encarnacion-Strand - Bat first corner guy who may or may not have defensive chops to do much more than first base. He can really, really, really hit though (.964 minor-league OPS across 95 games). Probably a third piece in a huge trade, or could go 1-for-1 for reliever (a good one).
No. 15 Edouard Julien - Incredible eye at the plate (.431 career on-base percentage in minors) and has played almost exclusively second base this season after moving around a bit. Hard to say if he can crack the big-league roster ahead of some of the prospects before him on the list, so could be worth monitoring in a trade.
No. 16 Louie Varland - Local kid with a big right arm. Hard to see them moving him, not because he’s local but because they probably value him more highly than other teams might.
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