Sure it’s a cliché title but after Joe Mauer‘s first home run of the season that came in the 1st inning with 2 outs, the Twins never looked back and sailed to a relatively stress-free victory.
Mauer actually had a fantastic night at the plate as he drove in 2 runs and between his homer, a single, and a walk, he was able to score three times as well. In fact, the middle of the lineup was above-average as a whole tonight. Cleanup hitter, All-Star, utility man, and mop-up pitcher Michael Cuddyer collected a home run (his 15th of the season) and a single, adding two RBI and two runs scored. Jason Kubel hit behind Cuddy and collected a double and two singles, driving in all 3 of his RBI on a 9th inning, bases-loaded double. Lucky for him, the Rangers committed an error during the inning. If they had gotten the third out with no incident, it would have been a 4-1 game and we could have seen Joe Nathan come in and attempt to become the Twins’ all-time leader in saves. He tied Rick Aguilera at 254 with his finished game from Tuesday night.
I want to focus a little bit on some of the trade rumors that have been floating around. A lot of different people, be it bloggers or fans or anyone in between, are discussing a lot of (surprise!) different opinions on what they want to happen. It started with the simple fact that Cuddyer has been our most valuable player this season and he’s raised a lot of team’s eyebrows, especially with his All-Star nomination. The basic argument coming from this is that he’s either the perfect guy to trade away, or the perfect guy to keep.
Reasons to keep Cuddy (in no particular order):
- Very versatile player with average to above average defense in RF and at 1B, and slightly subpar defense at 3B or 2B in a pinch
- Will hit 20+ home runs each year, something this team has severely lacked since the World Series days
- Fantastic clubhouse guy; teammates have nothing but good things to say about him
- Does a ton of things for the surrounding community, especially for kids
- In the last year of his current contract, he’s making $10.5 million this season and would have to take a pay cut to stay
- He’s 32 years old and if he wants a long-term contract (possibly 4 years with an option for a 5th) would keep him with us during his “decline-in-production” years, and frankly those aren’t the fun years to watch
- There seems to be a fairly decent amount of demand for him, as a middle-of-the-order, RH power bat. This means we could get a good package of prospects in return for him
To me, it comes down to what the organization thinks of its chances to re-sign him at the end of the season. If they truly believe they can get him cheaper, let’s say at a fair market price, then it would be worth it to keep him and let him carry the team to the playoffs. But if the front office thinks he may walk in favor of making more money, then there’s no reason for the team to not ditch him for the best offer. There are a few outfield prospects currently in the minors that could certainly replace him within a couple years’ time, and a productive one-year stopgap in RF could be found on the cheap. I imagine the biggest fear for the team is what sort of backlash may come from the adoring fans. Seriously. Does anyone remember how pissed the state was when Torii Hunter left? Sure it didn’t last long, but Cuddy has had more of an impact on the team and the state, in my opinion. Trading Cuddyer before the deadline (July 31st) would also appear to fans as a sign that says “Well, there goes our best player. Let’s see how many wins we can scrounge up the rest of the season.” A white flag, if you will. But now the collective mind of fans has had its attention turned to another player potentially being traded away: leadoff extraordinaire and center fielder Denard Span. In a rumored Washington Nationals/Minnesota Twins trade, the Nats would get Span and the Twins could get closer Drew Storen. I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, we want to trade for another closer from Washington? No thanks.” But Storen has been a really solid closer, and at age 24 still has a ton of theoretical shelf life left. According to the Star Tribune, the Nationals are the ones initiating the talks for this one, leading us to believe that they are willing to add more to their end of the deal in order to get Span. But as any “how good is a reliever” debate goes, it comes down to the sheer quantity of them out there. A lot of relievers can be found, either from free agency or by trading low-level prospects, and they can make an immediate and positive impact with their ballclub. It’s not necessary to give up your current-but-injured CF in order to get a young closer.