If Twins Are Built To Win Now, A Trade For A Closer Must Be Made

The Minnesota Twins have had a very busy offseason. But when you look at the moves made, all signs point to 2010 being a big season for the team.

Think about it. Orlando Hudson is signed to a one-year deal. Jim Thome is signed for one year. Same with Carl Pavano. Even guys like J.J. Hardy, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer only have two years left on their contracts.

Plus, this is the last season that Joe Mauer won’t be getting compensated as one of the highest-paid players in baseball. He’ll be making a "modest" $12 million.

I don’t want this to come off as gloom and doom after 2011. The Twins have some good guys deep in the minor leagues, and there’s a good chance with the Target Field revenue coming that they’ll keep a few of the above guys.

But the time to win is now. The team has said as much.

Having said all of that, the thought of Francisco Liriano being handed a closer’s job – left open now that Joe Nathan has decided to have season-ending surgery – seems laughable to me.

But it’s true. Even manager Ron Gardenhire has said he thinks Liriano is the one guy with the stuff to do the job.

But what makes a good closer? I’d say it takes more than just having a power arm. There has to be the confidence in that ability. There needs to be the ability to go out and pitch back-to-back days, even if that first outing wasn’t a pleasant one. Is there any reason to believe Liriano could do this?

I have long said I think Liriano can still do the job, and maybe one day that job will be closing games. But it shouldn’t be handed to him. The second a franchise hands jobs to players without them earning it is when things go wrong.

That’s why I say – with Mauer locked up long-term – it’s time to make a deal. San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell is one of the game’s best, and considering the low expectations for that team – he should be there for the taking.

What would it take? I don’t know. I’d start by offering up someone like power-hitting catching prospect Wilson Ramos, who seems expendable now that Mauer is in for the long haul.

Is there a chance Ramos develops? Of course. But you KNOW what you’re getting from Bell, and he would give production at a position of need.

Bell is under team control through 2011. And at this point in his career, he’d be a shoe-in for Type A free-agent status should he walk away as a free agent after that season. So the Twins could still stand to get two first-round picks for him.

If the Twins really want to win now, they’ll go with a closer they know can do the job.

6 Responses

  1. truth harvestor

    Enough with the restlessness about what the Twins are not doing or what they HAVE to do yet! My goodness, doesn’t it seem like you writers never sit back and savor good situations . The ragging for years from the naysayers was that the Twins were cheap and don’t get out to get the name players to help the club. Despite being complaints without merit , The Twins destroyed any doubt of that by the Mauer contract and the signing of Thome , and Pavano and Hardy etc etc etc. Step back Goethe , lets see what this shiny new team has got. There is no need to make panicky deals . Consider that this team may be the most offensively productive one in memory! not since the Hrbek, Puckett Bruno etc etc years has this team had the potential to score runs . consider , the best player in baseball Mauer ! MVP Morneau , Cuddyer , Kubel ( all 30 homer guys possibles) Span , Thome – for heavens sakes- and with great hope that Young is ready for that breakout year and Hardy ready to resume his power production , the ball will be spanked around . It is possible the Twins will be carrying more 3-4 run leads going into the 9th than other years. Baseball is a game of percentages and whoever is the Twins closer now ( Rauch?) will NOT blow That many saves! Do you want to panic and trade some young talent to get a name closer we may not even need that much? Remember the fans (writers) never forget the bad trades. How many yammer that we let Garza and Bartlett get away. Patience Goethe , lets savor what we got .

  2. bisonaudit

    Since the closer was invented the Twins have proven pretty good at finding a closer as opposed to acquiring a known closer.

    Combine that track record with the fact that the position is overrated and I’m not overly concerned.

    and cobweb

  3. Shea

    Bisonaudit has it right… this is the most overpayed and over-rated position in the league. This should be something you can find very cheap and within if at all possible.

    Heath Bell was worth 2.0 WAR last year and was one of the best closers in the game. You can find 2 WAR within. If they are going with Liriano, they see something in him. He has a power arm and an out pitch. The future is Carlos Guttierez, but the now is on the MLB roster, but let’s leave that up to Gardenhire.

    Giving away a top prospect for a closer seems to be a reach. That would be a bad move… but that is just one guys opinion.

  4. Hope N Change

    When the Twins anointed Joe Nathan the closer in 2004 he had 1 career save and 1 year of experience in a major league bullpen with San Francisco. I’m not saying that’s the norm, in fact it would be tough to catch that kind of lightning in a bottle twice, but there is a precedent here for the Twins management (coming off back to back division title seasons) so I think the chances of them delving too deeply into their farm system to trade for a proven closer is slim.

    …at least at this point, if they’ve got a “Brad Lidge” situation in the back end of their bullpen around the all-star break that would be the time to make a deal. They will have less competition for a top flight closer like Heath Bell because there will less teams with contention aspirations at that point and the price will likely be lower.

    The Twins need to see what they have first before they make a trade, the season is long and there is plenty of time to build (heck, last year they didn’t start playing until September and still won the division).

  5. J

    I agree with the other commenters. My first thought after losing Nathan was that it was definitely a blow to the team, I think the Twins can get by. Consider last season when they played the first month without Mauer and the last month without Morneau. I don’t know how the Twins do it, but they always find a way.

    I think a trade should be a last resort. If we get to June or July and nobody has stepped up, then the Twins should go get Bell. I know the Padres ask for the world in trade negotiations, but a package of Revere, Slama, and Casilla/Perkins could easily get it done without hurting their chances for this season.

  6. bisonaudit

    I’m not saying losing Nathan isn’t a blow. It definately is. He’s been one of the best relief pitchers in the game over this run. But there’s no sense in overpaying for a “proven” Closer.

    lead- powering

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