Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The hidden hole

There's a lot of chatter about the Twins as the trading deadline approaches. The Twins are said to be talking to Oakland about shortstop Orlando Cabrera. They're supposedly sniffing around Pittsburgh second baseman Freddy Sanchez and Toronto shortstop Marco Scutaro. The Twins' All-Stars (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan) are demanding that something be done.

One problem: The same dearth of high-minors talent that has kept the Twins from solving their problems from within affects their trade possibilities.

This is the Twins' hidden hole. There's just not much on the farm, at least at Triple A and Double A.

Pitching? Ron Gardenhire made it clear after the news that Kevin Slowey is done for the season: Everybody throwing well in Rochester is already here.

Middle infield? The Twins' second basemen are hitting, for the season, .183. If there was somebody at Triple A they though could do better, he'd be here.

What talent is in the nigh minors is spoken for.

The best example is 3B prospect Danny Valencia (photo above). Oakland reportedly insists on Valencia in any Cabrera deal.

Valencia, ticketed to take over third base for the Twins in 2010, is tearing up Triple A. He's a five-year solution to third base, capable of adding a low-cost right-handed power bat to the Twins left-handed core.

I'm lukewarm about Cabrera — he's 34, his range is diminishing, and his contract is said to have a clause prohibiting his club from offering arbitration if he's a Type A free agent again, which seems possible. He had a lousy start but is hitting .375 this month.

Dealing Valencia for a fading shortstop would be a mistake.

There is an area in the minors in which the Twins have a surplus: toolsy outfielders. I doubt they're going to deal the likes of Ben Revere or Aaron Hicks to anybody, even if Hicks is struggling in low-A Beloit. But that still leaves the likes of Rene Tosoni, the MVP of the Futures Game, to dangle for an infielder or relief arm.

But that's not going to be enough.

In some ways, the Twins are in an advantageous position at this trading deadline. Their attendance is up; most teams are looking a slumping ticket sales. They don't want to burn all their payroll space now — not if they plan to sign Mauer to a new contract this winter, and they better have that in mind — but they can handle a salary dump.

As the Friday afternoon non-waiver deadline approaches, that may be the Twins advantage.

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