Pressure on the Twins to add an ace starting pitcher and depth to the bullpen has to be building now that the MLB All-Star break has arrived and the trade deadline is just three weeks away.
But any deal-making right now is undoubtedly complicated by the high number of teams still within striking distance to either win their division or make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
In the American League, the Yankees, Twins and Astros are leading their respective divisions, while the Rays, Indians, Red Sox, Athletics and Rangers are all within three games of each other in the wild-card race.
The Angels and White Sox are further back, but not dead in the water, so they could choose to wait until closer to the July 31 trade deadline to go into sell mode. The only teams in the AL that are clearly out of it are the Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers, Royals and Mariners.
The National League races are even tighter, with Braves, Cubs and Dodgers leading their divisions and 10 teams within 5 1/2 games of each other in the wild-card race: Nationals, Phillies, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Cardinals, Rockies, Pirates, Reds and Giants.
Only the Mets (7 games out) and Marlins (13 games out) appear out of contention.
If the Twins wanted to add a high-end starter or reliever right now, they'd likely have to work out a deal with a team that's out of contention. That's a relatively short list: Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers, Royals, Mariners, Mets, Marlins.
Do any of those seven teams have what the Twins might be looking for?
Ken Giles: The right-handed closer nicknamed "100 Miles Giles" is nasty, sporting a 1.54 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and an extremely impressive 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings. As you might imagine, hitting a near 100 mph heater in a two-pitch mix with a nasty slider isn't easy. The 28-year-old is arbitration eligible next season, and he'll likely get a raise from the $6.8 million he's making this year. La Velle Neal III of the Star Tribune reports that Minnesota has had contact with Toronto about Giles.
Daniel Hudson: He's a right-handed reliever with a solid fastball (95.9 mph) and has 2.72 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 40 innings out of the bullpen this season. Toronto has used him as an eighth inning setup man, and as a righty he'd be a solid addition to Minnesota's bullpen. He's cheap ($1.5 million this season) and would be a three-month rental unless signed as an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Marcus Stroman: Toronto's best starting pitcher (an All-Star this season) has another year of control on his contract, meaning getting him will definitely cost some top prospects. While not a high-end ace, he's a veteran right-hander having a great season: 3.14 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, but he hasn't been as sharp the past month or so, and his 5.12 ERA in 11 starts against the Yankees since 2016 is a bit concerning considering the Twins always getting knocked out of the playoffs by New York.
Mychal Givens: He's right-handed setup man with a fastball that averages 95.6 mph, which has helped him strikeout nearly 13 batters per nine innings. The problem with Givens is that he walks a lot of guys (16 in 34 innings) and is prone to serving up the long ball. But he's more than capable of getting a strikeout when needed.
Matthew Boyd: The All-Star lefty is having a fantastic season, and the Detroit Free Press reports that the Yankees, Astros, Twins and Phillies have touched base with the Tigers about Boyd. The 28-year-old owns a 3.87 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and his 142 strikeouts ranks fifth in the AL. He has, however, given up 19 homers, including eight in his past three starts. Boyd is under team control through 2023, so getting him will cost Twins some of their best prospects, if not their best, shortstop Royce Lewis.
Shane Greene: Arguably the most reliable right-handed reliever on the market, the 30-year-old has a 1.09 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in 33 appearances this season. Only four runs have been charged to Greene, who is under team control through 2021. The Free Press says the asking price on him is likely a couple of good prospects.
Zack Wheeler: The 29-year-old right-hander would be a rental starter, but he's a lot cheaper (just shy of $6 million) than Madison Bumgarner ($12 million) and he might be just as good right now. Wheeler's fastball is averaging 97.2 mph, and his 4.69 ERA would likely be a lot lower if the Mets weren't one of baseball's worst defensive teams.
The big difference between Wheeler and Bumgarner is that Bumgarner is a World Series MVP and Wheeler has never pitched in the playoffs.
Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are the Mets' big-name starters, but they're much more expensive and therefore less likely to be dealt.
Sergio Romo: The 36-year-old was a staple in the Giants bullpen for years, but is now in his first year with Miami where he continues to be effective despite a sub-90 mph fastball. He's a right-handed closer who gets batters out with an effective mix of a slider, sinker, changeup and fastball, but he relies mostly on his off-speed stuff.
What about Madison Bumgarner and the Giants?
Bumgarner has again been linked to the Twins, this time in a Monday report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal says (paywall) the Twins, Astros, Braves and Brewers are among the teams interested in the 29-year-old former World Series MVP.
"The Astros, Twins, Braves and Brewers are among the clubs interested in Bumgarner, according to major-league sources. None of those clubs will publicly admit as much — no, no, they’re just kicking the tires! — and the Twins are the only one in that group that can acquire Bumgarner without his permission."
Bumgarner exited his start Saturday night after being hit in the pitching elbow by a line drive. He's expected to be fine and will continue to be one of the most-talked-about trade candidates on the market.