With the trade deadline looming, the Twins took a big hit to their chances for a division title when it was announced that Kevin Slowey would undergo surgery on his wrist and thus miss the remainder of the season. Any thoughts of a deal involving one of the Twins other starting pitchers (Glen Perkins or Francisco Liriano were most talked about) are essentially moot at this point. Now that Anthony Swarzak is in the rotation full-time, the Twins' options for replacing a starter are a bunch of mop-up men: R.A. Dickey, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber, Bobby Keppel, and Brian Duensing.
The two areas the Twins really need to address, if they plan on making a serious run this year, are second base and the bullpen. You could argue the starting rotation also might need a little help now, but there's never very much quality starting pitching available at the trade deadline, meaning you always have to pay through the nose for it. I don't see the Twins doing any such thing, so I'm not going to consider that possibility.
There have been many names thrown about at both positions: Orlando Cabrera, Freddy Sanchez, and Marco Scutaro at second base, and Michael Wuertz, Brandon League, Scott Downs, John Grabow, Matt Capps, and others for the bullpen. I think it would be a mistake to trade for Orlando Cabrera, unless it were just a very marginal prospect, because he figures to be only a marginal upgrade. If he were to take Nick Punto's spot in the starting lineup, he'd be a little bit better of a trade target, but I, like many Minnesota fans, believe Gardenhire would play Cabrera in place of Brendan Harris. Harris is no superstar, but Cabrera isn't much better, if at all.
Freddy Sanchez and Marco Scutaro would both be much more significant upgrades. And if a deal for Sanchez similar to the one Doogie Wolfson speculates is possible, I would pull the trigger in a heartbeat. His idea is Alexi Casilla, Brian Duensing, and a "low-level pitcher who has a chance" (someone like Bobby Lanigan or Dan Osterbrock?). I really want to give Casilla a chance, but he's had way too many at this point and Sanchez is a no-brainer upgrade; Duensing is just an extra reliever for mop-up duty; and, while you never like to give away young pitching prospects, the chance that the one guy the Twins trade will be a difference-maker in the big leagues is small.
In return for that, they'd get a good defensive second baseman (career UZR/150 of 4.5) who is actually an above average hitter, as opposed to the league-worst hitters they've been trotting out there for the entire season thus far. Even if he plays like he did in 2008, the only year of the last four that he wasn't above average both offensively and defensively, he'd be a huge upgrade over Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla. He can also play third base if the situation arose, as he's shown a pretty slick glove in the past (17.9 UZR/150), though he hasn't played there since 2006.
And Sanchez would even be around in 2010 for the modest price of $8 million. If you think that's expensive, consider that the Twins were willing to pay Punto $4 million to be around in 2010, and Sanchez is, quite literally, worth about 20 of him (Sanchez has a WAR value of 2.2 versus Punto's WAR of 0.1).
I know this is based on one person's idea for what it would take to get Sanchez, but the point is that Sanchez would fill an absolutely gaping hole in the Twins organization and help them compete both this year and in their inaugural year at Target Field. Tomorrow I'll take a look at the relievers that are available on the trade market.