The pressure the Indians have put on the Twins in the American League Central Division race has increased the pressure on the Twins to make a splash before the July 31 MLB trade deadline.
There is zero doubt that Minnesota needs to upgrade the back end of its bullpen to compliment left-hander Taylor Rogers, who outside of a rocky performance in his last outing, has been one of the best late-inning relievers in the majors this season.
The Twins could also use an ace-caliber starting pitcher to go up against the deep lineups of the Yankees or Astros should they meet in the playoffs.
Still, with the trade deadline now 10 days away, the tightly contested wild-card and division races in both the AL and NL have essentially put lid on the boiling baseball rumor mill, and until there's more separation in the standings, the wait could continue till the last minute.
Nine teams are still in playoff contention the AL, and it can be argued that there are 12-14 teams still in the mix in the NL.
- AL East: Yankees lead by 9 games
- AL Central: Twins lead by 3 games
- AL West: Astros lead by 6.5 games
- NL East: Braves lead by 6.5 games
- NL Central: Cubs lead by 2 games
- NL West: Dodgers lead by 16 games
AL Wild Card (top 2 make playoffs):
- Indians (57-41) +1
- Athletics (57-43) 0
- Rays (57-45) -1
- Red Sox (54-46) -3
- Angels (52-49) -5.5
- Rangers (50-49) -6.5
NL Wild Card (top 2 make playoffs):
- Nationals (52-46) +0.5
- Brewers (53-48) 0
- Cardinals (51-47) -0.5
- Phillies (52-48) -0.5
- Diamondbacks (50-50) -2.5
- Giants (50-50) -2.5
- Rockies (47-52) -5
- Padres (47-52) -5
- Pirates (46-52) -5.5
- Mets (45-54) -7
- Reds (44-53) -7
The Mets and Reds are probably out of it, but that still leaves 12 teams sitting as potential buyers in the NL, and nine teams still possibly looking to buy before the deadline in the AL.
Starters most commonly found in the rumor mill
- Madison Bumgarner, Giants
- Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
- Zach Grienke, Diamondbacks
- Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks
- Zack Wheeler, Mets
- Jason Vargas, Mets
- Noah Syndergaard, Mets
- Trevor Bauer, Indians
- Mike Minor, Rangers
- Matthew Boyd, Tigers
The only names above that aren't really on a team still in the mix are Stroman, Boyd, Vargas, Wheeler and Syndergaard. But Syndergaard is reportedly going to take a massive haul to get while Vargas isn't a high-end starter and Wheeler is reportedly dealing with arm fatigue, which ESPN's Buster Olney says is destroying is trade value.
The Athletic's Jim Bowden says (paywall) the Twins have inquired about Stroman and Minor.
"The two starters who are most likely to be traded at this point appear to be the Toronto Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman and Rangers southpaw Mike Minor. The Yankees, Twins, Astros, Phillies, Athletics and Brewers have all at least inquired on both of them. Matthew Boyd of the Tigers is also available, but the asking price is astronomical — though of course that could change in the next nine days."
It was reported last week that the Twins had scouts in attendance to see a pitching matchup between Bumgarner and Syndergaard. Both were fantastic, with Syndergaard striking out eight and allowing just one run over seven innings, while Bumgarner went the distance for the win.
Boyd, under team control through 2023, is also going to cost a ton to get.
Bumgarner, Grienke, Ray, Bauer and Minor are all on contending teams, meaning the wait will undoubtedly continue until there's more clarity in the playoff picture closer to July 31.
Relievers most commonly found in the rumor mill
- Ken Giles, Blue Jays
- Will Smith, Giants
- Sam Dyson, Giants
- Tony Watson, Giants
- Mychal Givens, Orioles
- Kirby Yates, Padres
- Greg Holland, Diamondbacks
- Andrew Chafin, Diamondbacks
- Felipe Vazquez, Pirates
- Edwin Diaz, Mets
- Shane Greene, Tigers
Holland, Chafin Smith, Dyson and Watson all play for teams that are probably too close in the race to give up right now, but Giles, Givens, Diaz, Greene and Yates appear to be readily available.
Any of them would be massive upgrades to the Twins' bullpen, although Diaz, who has been very streaky, wouldn't really help calm the nerves of Twins fans who get anxious when the bullpen takes over.
But Minnesota isn't the only team looking to add firepower to the bullpen, with a report from MLB.com's Jon Morosi saying the Red Sox, who aren't in as good of a position as the Twins, looking to make a big splash for Yates or Giles.
Yates leads the. NL with 31 saves and owns a 1.05 ERA and 0.81 WHIP with 70 strikeouts in 43 innings. Giles has a 1.64 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP and can throw 100 mph.
The Braves are also hot on Giles, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.
Vazquez is a nasty lefty but the Pirates' GM recently said they have no plans to trade him.
Other reports say the Yankees are guaranteed to add a big-name starter, while the Dodgers are going hard after high-end relievers.
The price for pitching will undoubtedly be high, and to get it the Twins might have to come up with bigger offers than some of baseball's most aggressive teams.