Tom Powers column: Here comes Twins’ annual, official day of surrender
Rarely does a person wake up in the morning and think: "A week from now, I'll be in the dentist's chair getting drilled. It should be so interesting!" Nor does someone say: "It's almost April 15th, and it's so much fun to see how much I owe in ta...
Rarely does a person wake up in the morning and think: “A week from now, I’ll be in the dentist’s chair getting drilled. It should be so interesting!” Nor does someone say: “It’s almost April 15th, and it’s so much fun to see how much I owe in taxes!”
And yet people in these parts are counting down the days to baseball’s trade deadline as if it will somehow bring less pain than the above examples. There is a sense of anticipation, as if the Twins are going to do something other than dump salaries. As if something peachy is going to happen.
The non-waiver trade deadline, this year Aug. 1, marks the first day major league clubs can officially surrender. That’s when it is acceptable to admit failure, raise the white flag over the ballpark and drop all pretenses of competing until next year. The Twins were cooked by early May, of course. And the white flags have been flying high, wide and handsome over Target Field for so long that small aircraft have learned to avoid them by taking alternate routes to the airport.
But now, during this time of “official” capitulation, it is considered OK to jettison higher-priced players for little or no return. For the Twins, Aug. 1 is as much a beginning as a deadline. Players still can be traded in August after passing through revocable waivers. So the Twins can put a player on waivers and, if that player is claimed, the Twins then reel him back in and try to work a deal with the team that put in the claim. It’s the equivalent of throwing chum in the water.
In August, the Kmart aisles clear a little bit, giving the Twins elbow room to do their blue-light special thing. Minnesota usually makes an August trade or two each year, so keep that in mind if nothing happens by the non-waiver deadline of Aug. 1.
For example, in August 2013 the Twins sent Justin Morneau to the Pirates for outfielder Alex Presley and pitcher Duke Welker. Presley was waived by the Twins the following spring. Welker was traded back to the Pirates for Kris Johnson, who pitched 13 innings for the Twins before being released.
See how that works? Think about the dentist’s chair.
In August 2014, the Twins sent Josh Willingham to the Royals for pitching prospect Jason Adam. The youngster pitched seven innings in Class AA ball for the Twins in 2014 before a catastrophic elbow injury. He hasn’t pitched since. Some players, such as Jamey Carroll, wind up peddled for a couple of bucks. But the key is not having to pay their salaries.
As for the actual non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins usually are less active. Last year, they acquired Kevin Jepsen from Tampa on July 31 for prospects Alex Tapia and Chih-Wei Hu. And I immediately yelped when they let Hu go. That kid, just 22 and from Taiwan, has great control and continues to be a solid prospect as a starting pitcher. His cumulative minor league ERA is 2.75 and, in my opinion, he has a terrific future. As for Jepsen, well, you know about him.
Back in the days when the Twins were contenders - kids, ask your parents - the trade deadline was more than just an opportunity to throw salaries overboard. One of Terry Ryan’s finest moments occurred when he acquired Shannon Stewart from Toronto on July 16, 2003. Stewart ignited the Minnesota offense and was a major factor in the Twins reaching the playoffs. That was a long time ago.
Since the great crash of 2011, nothing good has happened on or around the deadline. At best, this year we may get an indication of where the front office believes the team is. If Ryan trades Ervin Santana, who is signed for up to three more years - depending on whether the Twins pick up a final-year option - he is saying the team is more than three years away. Same for Brian Dozier, who is signed through 2018.
I don’t think they will. There are obvious moves, such as trying to trade Trevor Plouffe, a move they should have made in the offseason when he had a higher value. Putting Miguel Sano in the outfield was a bad idea. The problem is they rarely receive much in return at this time of year. And there are plenty of other guys available for next to nothing.
Yet folks will keep counting down the days as they wait in fascination to see what the Twins do. Deep down, we know what’s going to happen. And it’s right up there with a rabies shot.
Tom Powers writes for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.