With the All-Star Game over and done with, the second half of the baseball season is set to resume this weekend.
The Twins will open a three-game series on Friday against the Cleveland Indians who are all of the sudden breathing down the Twins' neck.
There will be plenty to watch this month with the trade deadline around the corner too. Here are four things Twins fans should watch for in the second half of the season.
Will they make a trade?
It seems inevitable that the Twins will be buyers by the July 31 MLB trade deadline. The Twins have been linked to starters like Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman.
Although Bumgarner's ERA of 4.03 is a career high, his strikeout rate (9.3K/9) is the best it's been since 2015 and he's issued just 24 walks in 19 starts this season. However, he'll also be a free agent after the season, so he's a rental.
Stroman on the other hand is under team control through 2021 and is having a bounce back season. In 18 starts, Stroman is 5-9 with a 3.18 ERA, with 81 strikeouts and 32 walks in 104 innings.
The Twins' front office has made it known they're more interested in acquiring players with team control remaining instead of reaching for rentals.
And even though either pitcher would make the starting rotation better, the Twins have to address the bullpen if they want to be taken seriously in the postseason.
Ken Giles, Will Smith, Daniel Hudson, Shane Greene, Francisco Liriano and Sergio Romo are all targets who could bolster the Twins' bullpen.
With Giles and Stroman being teammates in Toronto, maybe the Twins could swing a trade where they acquire both players at the same time. The same could be said for Bumgarner and Smith in San Francisco, or Green and left-handed ace Matthew Boyd in Detroit.
Will the Indians catch up?
You have to tip your cap to Cleveland. After suffering a barrage of injuries to their starting rotation, they still managed to play .500 ball through the first two months of the season.
Sine June 1, they've been on a tear going 22-9 and cutting the division lead from double-digits to 5.5 games.
Minnesota and Cleveland will square off 13 times in the second half, including a three-game series this weekend in Cleveland.
Things will be plenty easy for the Indians this month, with a boatload of games against bottom feeders Toronto, Detroit and Kansas City.
Meanwhile, the Twins will see some tough opponents, like the Yankees and Athletics. Luckily, both those series will be at Target Field, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Cleveland gain more ground on Minnesota this month.
Will injuries catch up?
No team in baseball needed the All-Star break more than the Twins.
C.J. Cron, Eddie Rosario, Willians Astudillo and Jake Odorizzi are all on the injured list. Plus Max Kepler is day-to-day with a knee injury that's been bothering him since May.
Although Luis Arraez has been a surprising addition .(393 batting average in 84 at-bats) to the lineup, the Twins' offense needs its core players back in the everyday fold.
It's clear that if Minnesota's going to make a run in the postseason, their offense will be their bread and butter and multiple injuries will hold them back.
Can Jose Berrios win Cy Young?
Jose Berrios is coming into his own in hist fourth big-league season. In 18 starts, the right hander is 8-5 with a 3.00 ERA, with 104 strikeouts and 23 walks in 117 innings.
If he keeps this pace, here's how Berrios would finish the year.
- 15-9 3.00 ERA
- 213 innings
- 189 strikeouts
- 42 walks
- 1.11 WHIP
He'll have some competition from the likes of Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton and even Mike Minor. Cy Young Award or not, it's clear Jose Berrios is developing into the ace we all thought he could be.
Which it makes it even more important for the Twins to acquire a top-line pitcher to give them a solid 1-2-3 punch in the postseason.