As talks swirl around and rumors dominate the headlines and the airwaves, baseball players on non-contending teams typically offer some variation of a refrain in late July ahead of the trade deadline: They’re just trying to control what they can control.
Exhibit A: Josh Donaldson.
“For myself, it’s not something that I try to pay too much attention to,” Donaldson said Sunday. “All that stuff is going to happen, which is out of our hand, most of it. The only thing that we can control is going out there and playing hard and playing to win.”
Exhibit B: Michael Pineda.
“I know the situation, but I’m not thinking about it,” Pineda said this month. “I don’t have control of that. I’m never thinking. I’m here. I’m a Minnesota Twins player. I want to focus on doing my job and helping my team to win the game, and whatever situation happens just happens.”
But whether they are or aren’t thinking about it, the trade deadline looms, and the Twins are likely to look like a different team after the July 30 deadline.
In Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s experience, often many more players — perhaps 10 or so — on a team might think they’re about to be traded based on something they’ve seen or read. In reality, the number is much lower than that.
“I think that there are a lot of players, maybe even more than not, that don’t let it really affect them in any meaningful way,” Baldelli said. “They’ll follow along, maybe watch some TV, see what’s being talked … But I don’t think it’s going to affect how they prepare or what they’re thinking about at the field. And truthfully, I think there probably are some guys that do probably think about it maybe a little bit too much and probably let it affect them and the stress of dealing with that affect them.”
On this year’s Twins, there are plenty of players who could be intriguing to a contending team. The most likely to go are those on expiring contracts who will be free agents at season’s end — among them, Nelson Cruz, Pineda, Hansel Robles and Andrelton Simmons.
While others who have another year of control — like José Berríos or Byron Buxton, if healthy, or Taylor Rogers — would bring back a bigger haul, it would be much harder for a team that thinks it could contend next year to pull the trigger on a trade like that.
“I don’t want to lose Nelson Cruz. I don’t want to lose any of these guys in this clubhouse,” Baldelli said. “I want to start building in the direction we need to go in and start building toward winning a championship and doing the things we need to do, and those guys, they’re important. They can be important pieces toward doing that, whenever that’s going to be. But as far as what happens and when it happens, we never know those things.”
All they know right now is that things are going to look different in a couple of weeks — whether they’re fixated on it now or not.
“We don’t know what the team is going to look like in two weeks. We don’t know what the team is going to look like tomorrow. There could be some changes that happen,” catcher Mitch Garver said. “We put ourselves in this position. They don’t break down teams that are doing well. We put ourselves in this position.”
It took him a little longer than he initially thought — Garver believed he might be back before the all-star break — but after about seven weeks away, Garver was activated from the injured list in between doubleheader games on Monday. To make room on the roster, the Twins optioned rookie catcher Ben Rortvedt back to Triple-A.
Garver was struck by a foul tip in the groin on June 1 and suffered what the club called a “severe groin contusion,” which required emergency surgery that night. But the Twins’ catcher said he wasn’t nervous about getting back behind the plate in a game, which he did first at St. Paul before rejoining the Twins.
“I didn’t struggle with that. I hope I don’t,” Garver said. “I’m confident that my body is healed and I have a new cup, so I’m confident in that, too.”