With each day leading up to the MLB trade deadline, speculation continues to grow around the Minnesota Twins. In the latest round of rumors, the Twins seem to be narrowing the market for Nelson Cruz and José Berríos while they could make the deal of the deadline if they wind up trading Byron Buxton.
Could Buxton get traded?
The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported last week that contract negotiations have begun between the Twins and Buxton but the outfielder's name has started to appear on the trade market.
ESPN's Jeff Passan says that Buxton "is on the minds of people across baseball" as teams are awaiting the resolution of those talks. Rosenthal reported on Friday that the Twins had started with the seven-year, $70 million contract Aaron Hicks signed in March 2019 as a starting point, but Passan says Buxton signing an extension remains "a long shot."
"The question, should the extension not come to fruition, is whether the Twins actually will trade him," Passan wrote. "Some are convinced he's gone. Others think they hold him with an eye on 2022, when they can shake off this disaster of a season and rebound like they did from 2016 to 2017. Should the Twins move him, the return, executives said, would be massive."
Passan wrote that "every team is in play" if Buxton hits the market and could be a target for smaller market teams thanks to his projected $7 to $8 million due in arbitration next offseason.
While that's a broad market, Passan specifically listed the Tampa Bay Rays as "a perfect fit" thanks to their deep farm system and log jam of outfielders.
Big market teams could also be in on Buxton but Passan warns they may not want to give up as many top-tier prospects. That makes adding Josh Donaldson a possibility, as any team that takes on his $57 million remaining on his contract may not need to give the Twins as much in return.
Buxton is currently recovering from a broken hand but should be back later this season. While he is injured, teams will be enticed by Buxton's talent, which could make the next 10 days a perfect time to make a blockbuster trade.
The latest on Berríos
Berríos was the trade target of the day on Monday when he hinted he was too close to free agency to sign an extension. On Tuesday, Passan said that Berríos's fate will be similar to Buxton's as he is due to hit free agency after the 2022 season.
"As with Buxton, sources are wildly divided on Berrios' fate, which is the sort of thing that could be advantageous to the Twins," Passan said. "They can hold out for what they want, and if they don't get it, then they can wait until July 30 to truly show their cards.
Passan lists Berríos as the best option for teams looking to acquire controllable pitching and lists teams in possession of top-end young talent and good farm system depth as potential suitors.
The problem is, there's not a lot of teams that can match those demands. The Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels were all listed as possibilities as well as the New York Yankees, who reportedly don't want to deal their top prospects.
The Athletic's Dan Hayes corrected a report that said the Twins wanted two top-100 prospects and an arbitration-eligible MLB talent in return but also said the price is "very steep." This could mean Berríos could remain with the team through the deadline unless they get an offer they can't refuse.
The market narrows for Cruz
Cruz would be a great addition to a playoff contender thanks to his experience and his performance at the plate. But as a 41-year-old designated hitter, that's where things get complicated.
Passan reports that some National League teams have considered playing Cruz in the field. While Cruz is reportedly willing, he hasn't played in the outfield since 2018 and has never played first base.
That limits the market to contending American League teams, which gives the Twins fewer options.
MLB Network's Jon Heyman said there's "keen interest" in Cruz, listing the Rays, Blue Jays and Athletics as possible landing spots. Passan also listed the Mariners as a potential destination.