Twins not all-in, but target long-term upgrades

Twins not all-in, but target long-term upgrades

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins find themselves in an interesting position heading into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as they were expected to be sellers, but have played well enough to remain in contention in both the American League Central and the two AL Wild Card spots.

The new front office, led by chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, has tough decisions to make, as the Twins are not expected to trade Minor League assets that could help them in the future for short-term help. Pitching remains an issue, but they're more likely to make trades for players under team control beyond this year, or for relief help that won't cost them much in terms of prospects.

"I just don't think we're going to go all in to try to win this year," Levine said. "We're going to try to put ourselves in the best position to win, but with an eye toward now and the future. We're not a mature team that has a window that's wide open or closing; we're trying to see how far we can push this season as we're cracking this window open, and we're going to treat it accordingly."

How the Twins play leading up to July 31 will likely be a factor on if they decide to buy or sell, as they have veterans such as Ervin Santana and Brian Dozier, who could fetch big returns, but selling when the club is still in contention would not be a popular move among the fans or in the clubhouse.

Trade scenario
If the Twins are buyers it makes sense for them to go after relief help, as after closer Brandon Kintzler and left-hander Taylor Rogers, Minnesota has received uneven performances from relievers such as Matt Belisle and Ryan Pressly. But with Kintzler an All-Star, the Twins don't need a closer, just a reliable setup man.

Kintzler retires Stanton

What are they playing for?
With the Indians failing to run away with the division, the Twins are still aiming to make the postseason for the first time since 2010. But pitching depth remains an issue, and this team wasn't built to compete this year, as the new front office has an eye on the future. But the Twins believe this is a good experience for their young core, getting a taste of playing for a postseason berth, which should prove helpful in the years ahead as the front office tries to build a consistent winner.

The road ahead
The Twins have a tough slate in July, opening the second half with a three-game set in Houston against the AL-best Astros before hosting the Yankees for three games at Target Field. They also play the NL-leading Dodgers in Los Angeles from July 24-26. How they fare against top competition will play a factor in their decision-making at the Trade Deadline.

Key player
Twins center fielder Byron Buxton leads the Majors in defensive WAR and has been an asset on the bases, but has yet to put it together offensively. Buxton, though, showed positive signs to close the first half, hitting .379 in nine games in July, and is getting more comfortable with his new mechanics at the plate, eliminating his leg kick. If he improves offensively it would go a long way toward lengthening the lineup.

Statcast: Buxton's sprint speed

Prospects to watch
Right-hander Felix Jorge was called up from Double-A Chattanooga to make two starts before the break, and while he struggled in his second outing, he could see action in the second half. Fellow pitching prospects Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero could find themselves in the rotation mix as well. Outfield prospect Zack Granite, who hit .360 at Triple-A Rochester, was called up two days before the break, and could see action in the second half, although it would be hard to find playing time for him behind Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Buxton. No. 1 prospect Nick Gordon has also been tearing it up at Double-A, and the shortstop could be a September callup.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.