20 June 2011
A few short weeks ago, Twins fans were preparing for one of the biggest fire-sales in franchise history. Now, many are preparing for October baseball.
The Twins have won each of the five series they've played this month. They swept a four-game series against the Royals, a three-game set against the Padres, and a two-game stand against the White Sox. Minnesota has gained plenty of ground in the AL Central, but they're still just eight games behind the division leader.
Even though the Twins opened the season with twice as many losses as wins, they still hope to compete. If that's not evidence of how awful the AL Central is this year, I don't know what is.
Let me paint you a picture: Minnesota continues to soar through interleague play, and wins at least nine of the next 12 games. To close the season, the Twins play like they did in 2010 and win 58 percent of their remaining games. That would give them a final record of 86-76. Is that enough to win the division?
Or, more importantly, is that enough wins to give the Twins a chance to become buyers at the trade deadline?
The Cleveland Indians are going to slowly fade from the playoff picture in the AL Central, and the Detroit Tigers are currently on pace for 88 wins. If 90 wins is enough to qualify for the postseason, the Twins have got to bring in any help they can find. Whether that be through an expensive half-year rental (Vladimir Guerrero?), an effective trade (Michael Cuddyer, a few million dollars, and a B-level prospect for Kevin Gregg?), or an impact-making mid-season promotion (Kyle Gibson?), it's going to be tough to find any maneuvering space in the $113 million payroll.
But that's not to say the Twins shouldn't feel obligated to make a move if they are within sight of the AL Central leader. Even though they wouldn't be a favorite in the postseason, the “anything can happen in the playoffs” cliché applies, and the extra few million in extra expenses would be quickly recovered.
Come July 4, if Minnesota can count on two hands the number of games they're behind, they need to make a move. But getting to that point won't be an easy task, even in the laughably-soft AL Central. The Twins need to finish filling the hole they created in the first two months of the season, and they have to do it as soon as possible.
There are still 92 games to be played this year, but I'm going to create a series of short-term goals Twins fans can use to gauge the team's ability to contend.
The first on the list: Nine victories in the next 12 interleague games.
Failing this goal doesn't necessarily end their season, but if the Twins aren't in a position to compete as they head into the All-Star Break, they should feel free to hold a fire-sale; fold their cards, and reload the roster for next season.
But if they hope to compete this year, every game counts. And time is running out.
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