Scouting The Trade Market: Minnesota Twins

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Willingham. (Tim Umphrey/Getty)
Willingham. (Tim Umphrey/Getty)

The non-waiver trade deadline is now one week and one day away, and we’ve got a pretty good idea of which teams will be sellers and which will be buyers. The Yankees, like or not, will be buying. Yesterday’s Chase Headley trade confirmed that. They’re 1.5 games out of a playoff spot in Derek Jeter‘s final season and selling just isn’t something they’ve done during the Steinbrenner era. Rotation help is a clear need, ditto an upgrade in right field. Possibly second base too, though they might be able to solve that internally.

At 47-53, the Twins have the ninth worst record in baseball, and GM Terry Ryan recently told Rhett Bollinger he is planning to listen to trade offers for his veteran players over the next eight days. “We’re in a tough spot right now and we’ve been in a tough spot for four years, so you have to listen. And that’s what we do,” said Ryan. Outside of Brian Dozier, hometown guys Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins, and probably the resurgent Phil Hughes, I’m not sure Minnesota has any untouchables.

I’ve been splitting these Scouting The Market posts up into position players and pitchers by team, but the Twins have an amazingly thin roster, so I’m going to lump all of their trade chips together into one post. Prying Dozier and his right-handed pop/above-average defense at second base loose would be an amazing get for the Yankees, but I just don’t see it. Here’s a look at the Twins players who are actually available and possible fits for the Yankees.

OF Josh Willingham
The 35-year-old Willingham has consistently been an above-average hitter since breaking into the league full-time in 2006 — his 117 wRC+ in 2007 was his lowest from 2006-12 — and his best season came in 2012, his first in Minnesota. He hit .260/.366/.524 (142 wRC+) with 35 homers that year, which was the first covered by his three-year contract worth $21M. In hindsight, the 2012-13 offseason was the perfect time to trade him. His value was never getting any higher.

Willingham dropped down to .208/.348/.368 (102 wRC+) with 14 homers in 471 plate appearances last season while missing a month and a half with cartilage damage in his left knee. This year he is sitting on a .212/.358/.412 (116 wRC+) batting line with nine homers in 215 plate appearances around a hairline fracture in his left wrist that sidelined him for almost two months. (He suffered the injury on a hit-by-pitch.) As the batted ball data at Baseball Heat Maps shows, the average distance of the balls Willingham has hit in the air is holding steady, which is encouraging:

Josh Willingham Batted Ball Distance

The Yankees have only gotten 16 homers out of their right-handed hitters this season and right-handed power is Willingham’s best tool. He might not ever hit 35 homers like he did two years ago again, but his .200 ISO is in line with his career average (.214). He’s actually hitting more balls in the air than ever before (29.1% grounders), which helps explain his career worst .250 BABIP. Fly balls are often easy outs. Willingham has always drawn a ton of walks (16.7% this year and 12.0% career) and, frankly, that’s something the Yankees need in addition to his righty pop. He isn’t going to hit for much average, but if healthy he’ll hit the ball out of the park and still get on base at a respectable clip.

Willingham has played left field exclusively the last five years, which is a problem. He has only 264.1 career innings in right and they all came way back in 2009. The Yankees would be asking him to play an unfamiliar position by sticking him in right. Willingham’s contract is a non-issue since he’s in the final season of his deal and similar rental outfielders like Ryan Ludwick and Shane Victorino have not cost much in recent years, so the left field/right field thing is the only problem. He’d be a fantastic addition to the lineup. It’s just a question of where he’d play.

Another member of Team Generic White Guys. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Another member of Team Generic White Guys. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

3B Trevor Plouffe
Plouffe, 28, made a name for himself by hitting 24 homers two years ago even though it came with a less than impressive .235/.301/.455 (105 wRC+) batting line. Leg and wrist problems limited him to 14 homers and a .254/.309/.392 (93 wRC+) line last year, though this season he’s rebounded to hit .243/.315/.413 (102 wRC+) with seven homers and an already career-high 29 doubles in 355 plate appearances. Plouffe did miss time with a ribcage/oblique problem last month.

Like Willingham, Plouffe’s calling card is his right-handed power. He owns a .170 ISO this year and a career .171 ISO, which is solidly above-average, though he has actually hit for more power at home in spacious Target Field (.187 ISO) than on the road (.153 ISO) over the years. The spray charts show Plouffe does the most damage when he pulls the ball to left, which fits well with Target Field but not Yankee Stadium. Teaching a guy to go the other way to hit for power is not something that is easy or can happen overnight.

The various defensive stats say Plouffe is a below-average defender but not a disaster at third base, though that position is no longer a problem with Headley on board. He also has experience at first base, second base, and in the two corner outfield spots, so there would be ways to get him into the lineup, plus he’d give the team third base protection next year. Plouffe is what he is, a low batting average third baseman with some power and just enough walks (7.5% career) to get on base three out of ten times. He’s making $2.35M this year, his first of four years of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two, so there’s a good chance he’ll be a non-tender candidate soon. Mark Reynolds was traded for two Triple-A relievers at a similar point in his career, and he hit 44 homers the year before the trade, so yeah. The price shouldn’t be high.

RHP Kevin Correia and RHP Samuel Deduno
The Yankees need some innings, right? Well, these two can given them. I’m not saying they’ll be quality innings, but they’ll be innings. The 33-year-old Correia has a 4.76 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 20 starts and 113.1 innings this year, and over the last few seasons he’s been consistent 4.40-ish FIP guy who misses zero bats (4.29 K/9 and 10.8 K%) but limits walks (2.30 BB/9 and 5.8 BB%). His ground ball rate (41.2%) isn’t anything special either. Correia would be a pure rental (owed another $2M or so), but, in addition to not being very good, he doesn’t really fit what the Yankees look for in a pitcher, namely grounders and/or strikeouts.

Not Correia. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Not Correia. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Deduno, 31, has been a swingman for Minnesota this year, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (4.05 FIP) in 73 innings across eight starts and 13 relief appearances. Last season he managed a 3.83 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 108 innings as a full-time member of the rotation (for half the year). Unlike Correia, Deduno has some bat-missing ability (7.15 K/9 and 18.1 K%) and really excels at getting grounders (55.2%) thanks to his heavy upper-80s sinker. The pitch runs all over the place (4.07 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) and he backs it up with a hard low-80s curveball. The Yankees just brought in Brandon McCarthy for his ground ball heavy ways and adding Deduno would be along the same lines, though he doesn’t offer the same name value. Both Deduno and (especially) Correia figure to come cheap. Deduno is still in his pre-arbitration years, by the way.

Miscellaneous Relievers
The Twins seem to have a knack for rostering relievers I’ve never heard of. Their primary setup men ahead of Perkins are righty Casey Fien (2.34 ERA and 3.23 FIP) and lefty Caleb Thielbar (2.81 ERA and 3.26 FIP), who bounced around waivers and signed out of an independent league, respectively. Lefty Brian Duensing (2.35 ERA and 3.90 FIP) has been around a while and been used in every role imaginable, but this year he’s settled in as a one-inning reliever. Not necessarily a matchup guy either. Veteran retread Matt Guerrier (3.86 ERA And 3.92 FIP) and long man Anthony Swarzak (4.34 ERA and 3.37 FIP) don’t excite anyone. Meh. I don’t think you could convince me any of these guys would be a real help going forward, but more pitching never hurt anyone.

* * *

Willingham is the best fit for the Yankees among players on the Twins roster who figure to actually be available, though acquiring him would mean someone would have to play out of position in right field. It would either be him or Brett Gardner. That’s not ideal. His right-handed power would be a huge help for the offense though. Plouffe is an expensive utility man who can hit the ball out of the part and, as always, the Twins really don’t have many interesting pitchers. They continue to shoot themselves in the foot with that “okay stuff, no strikeouts, pitch-to-contact” profile. I’d be all for a Willingham trade if I only knew how they’d get him into the lineup defensively.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew) RIP Egon

    The internet let me down today. I was really hoping for a trade for Phil Hughes blurb here. Alas, it was no meant to be.

  • Yankee$

    As long as they keep buying without mortgaging, we’re good. Cashman just got Headley for spare change in his front pocket…I’m ok with that kind of buying. Don’t sell the farm (unless the return is a multi-year build for the future type of return.)

    • Scott

      +1

    • http://Riveravenueblues Marty L

      Plus 2. Please, no real prospects (Judge, Pirela , Jagielo) for these guys! Nuno and Solarte types ok. De Paula clones can go too . None of these guys will make a big difference, have they boosted the Twins?

  • HansDavenport

    I’ll take one David Justice please? To me that was just a shining moment.

  • http://stevearts.com Steve H

    Why not just bring up JR the Murph and let him catch/DH for that right handed pop. Dude can hit. tired of mid-level players. Lets promote from within.

    • RetroRob

      Can he hit?

    • Yankee$

      AAA OPS at .643

    • Old Man Time

      JRM is only hitting .231/.282/.361 this year at AAA.

      • Preston

        Obviously because he’s bored.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      So you are tired of mid-level players but want sub-level players?

  • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

    I kinda feel that the idea of Willingham may be better than actually acquiring him. If Beltran can indeed play RF, you might get away with shuffling those two between RF and DH. But that’s not quite as ideal as just going ahead and finding a right fielder.

    RF is one of the positions, unlike 2B or middling SPs, they should look to acquire in a trade that would help them BEYOND 2014 (read: younger than 35 and with a modicum of team control).

    • RetroRob

      I agree. It’s kind of like when I married my wife, not Mrs. Retroness. She was beautiful and I wanted her to be my wife, but then I acquired her, and it wasn’t good.

      Yeah, it’s just like that.

      • sevrox

        Been there.

      • Derek Jeter

        ..you must of stopped beating her regularly!

      • Farewell Mo

        Wives are a lot like prospects.
        They all look great in the beginning and come with high expectations however the vast majority turn out to be major busts.

        • http://Riveravenueblues Marty L

          And even if they fit the bill, their prime years are short lived.

    • Preston

      Who is a long term solution for RF that is available and affordable?

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    RHP Kevin Correia

    No.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Co-signed

  • Preston

    RF is the biggest weakness on the team right now. Ichiro has the worst batting line of any of the regulars, and unlike Roberts and Jeter he plays a traditional offensive position. Willingham is another guy who because of age/injury/impending FA probably wouldn’t cost that much and would greatly upgrade the roster. Even if Beltran starts playing some RF again Willingham is good enough to slot in at DH. If the price is right go get him.

    • Yankee$

      Jairo Heredia and Carmen Angelini.

      • Preston

        Probably more like Peter O’Brien and Jose Ramirez.

        • Yankee$

          I’d certainly give either of them up but might want to hold onto them for a better return.

          • Preston

            I’ve been surprised by how little Cash has given up in both trades so far. So maybe he gets it done for Zoilo Almonte and Danny Burawa. My trade proposals suck.

            • Yankee$

              Mine too.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Rick

      Ichiro has consistently batted between .280 -.300. He’s still an above average fielder. And he’s the biggest problem??? Get rid of Roberts, Cervelli, and Kelly Johnson. Addition by subtraction. What do we have to do to get rid of Cervelli. He’s proven over and over he can’t hit, can’throw, and is injury prone (fortunately). He must have embarrassing photos of Cashman.

      • Scott

        I don’t even have the energy to get into this, but you’re pretty wrong about Cervi. Remember he is a back up catcher.

      • Preston

        It’s almost like batting average should be the end all be all of offensive analysis.

        Roberts, .244/.307/.373 wOBA of .302 wRC+ of 86

        Johnson .231/.304/.373 wOBA of .303 wRC+ of 87

        Ichiro .280/.327/.317 wOBA of 290 wRC+ of 78

        Roberts is a 2b vs. a corner OF, and Johnson is in a bench role and has versatility. And UZR actually has Ichiro as a below average defender in RF, and he has been worth exactly 0 WAR. He’s been even worse lately. He had a wRC+ of 61 in June, and has a wRC+ of 51 so far in July. I’m not sure what Cervelli has to do with it. But he has also hit better, and is a BUC.

  • Farewell Mo

    I’m all for upgrades, even marginal ones if the price it right but these Twins guys could not be more unexciting IMO.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’ve always had an “but he pitched in the WBC” attraction to Deduno.
    It might be gas, though.

    Him and Plouffe: yes
    Everyone else: no.

    • Yankee$

      “But he pitched in the WBC”
      The Dominican pitching depth isn’t as good as their middle IF depth.

      Plouffe…sure.

    • Farewell Mo

      We know the reason you want Plouffe is that maybe the Plouffinator will return.

      • I’m One

        That in itself makes him worth a top prospect. :-)

        • Farewell Mo

          Who is the Plouffinator these days, Dalek Jeter?

          I lose track of all these name changes.

          • I’m One

            I believe you are correct. I lose track of them too.

            • Yankee$

              Who is Pat D these days?

            • Yankee$

              Who is Pat D these days?

    • nycsportzfan

      I’ve mentioned going after plouffe for a couple yrs in a row now. I don’t follow him overly closely, but know hes got real right handed pop/power, and isn’t quite as one dimensional as say a Mark Reynolds is , and if i’m not mistaken, he plays some OF as well as 3rd? I don’t know how much sense he’d make now that we got Headley, unless we were gonna use him mostly in the OF, which again, i’m not even sure if he plays there much? But if not, prob don’t make much sense for us now.

      Go get Stubby.lol

  • TopChuckie

    What, no Kendry Morales? He’s the Yankee savior no? Cashman failed right?

    “FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Twins are “open to trading” Kendrys Morales.”

    • Preston

      You’d need to know Beltran could play RF before trading for Kendrys became an option. Even if he can play RF, he can’t do it everyday.

    • Farewell Mo

      Not signing Kendry =/= Cashman failed
      Signing Beltran = Cashman failed.

      Fixed.

      • Preston

        Yup. Adding on the third year was a mistake from the start. It looks even worse now.

        • Farewell Mo

          Had it been a 1 year deal, even as bad as Beltran has been, it would have been understandable. Even 2 years would have been somewhat acceptable but 3 years? Should have let him walk.

          • Preston

            It’s hard to look at the FA list and say they should have done something different. Sure if we waited out Nelson Cruz and eventually got him for 1/8 that would have been smarter, but those weren’t his demands when we signed Beltran, in hindsight Marlon Byrd or Curtis Granderson would have been better signs, but it would have been hard to look at it at the time and say that.

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    Mmm nope. Send them back to the black hole with the Vikings.

  • Les

    We should be trading for Wade Miley and maybe one of the outfielders. The Yankees need everything right now , but especially a hitter. I would be for maybe a Matt Kemp deal and putting Ichiro on part time player deal he was supposed to be on. Kemp would obviously cost more than Willingham , but he brings more to the table. he is an all star player when healthy and would fit perfectly in the lineup

  • Cheddard Headley

    Eduardo Nuney would be a great little ballplayer to have right now. He can spell Jete at SS, play a little 3rd and 2nd and we’d get a look at him for next year as well. A Hughes and Nuney package might be optimal. Buy low.

    • Farewell Mo

      Get a look at him for next year????

      He’s stunk it up with the Yankees from 2010 to 2013. How much more of a look do you need before you can conclude that he sucks?

      • Yankee$

        You were trolled.

      • Mr. Roth

        HA! Why would you take that bait?

    • http://thewebsitemarketingagency.com Geno

      Dude, you are soooo tired.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Rick

    Baseball players are the most poorly conditioned athletes of all major sports. As soon as they put Kelly Johnson in the outfield where has to run more than a few feet he pulls something and goes on the DL. Not that it’s much of a loss.

    • Daniel

      That’s because in many cases they aren’t athletes. They are more like skilled men of some kind. And I’d still rather be one of those than any type of athlete.

  • nycsportzfan

    Not to change topics, but the Tigers are in the midst of blowing a 7-zip lead to the D’Backs. Anibal hasen’t been all that lately and the Tigers bullpen is terrible. Every team has issues my friends.

  • TheRealGreg

    Yankees could be a game out by tonight’s game as the Mariners are on the verge of losing 2 of 3 to the Mets at home.