At 49-48, the Minnesota Twins are right in the middle of a playoff race, trailing the final wild card spot by just 1 game. While that is a huge upgrade from a season ago, it's also important to note that 11 teams in the American League wild card race currently sit between 44 and 51 wins, making it a big mess of teams competing ultimately for just two spots.
That makes a playoff birth unlikely to begin with, but factoring in the team's poor run differential and lack of starting pitching depth, it's an extreme long shot. The Twins, however, seem to disagree, as they've reportedly been shopping for starting pitchers in the last few weeks. The team even came close to acquiring Atlanta Braves starter Jaime Garcia for a prospect or two, before it fell through due to a medical concern on a prospect. Twins fans should be thankful, because adding someone like Garcia makes little sense for the Twins.
The argument to acquire him seems to be that the team has managed to go 49-48 thus far despite having Kyle Gibson, Hector Santiago and the junk pile of waiver wire pitchers starting 3 out of every 5 games. Garcia has pitched a little below average this season, but his performance to this point is considerably better than what the Twins have used. So that should give them a better second half record, right? Unfortunately, what the team seems to forget is that they are 49-48 mostly by luck. A -66 run differential is terrible at this point in the season. The Chicago White Sox, who are 38-57 and clear sellers, have a -52 run differential, meaning they've been 14 runs better than the Twins.
So while Garcia would be an upgrade, this Twins team has played much more like a 40 win team to this point then a 49 win team. I know that sounds crazy to some people, since the standings clearly show they HAVE 49 WINS, but my point is that on average a team with this kind of run differential wins far less games. Teams that usually outperform their run differential win a lot of close games, and with the Twins pitching staff and bullpen especially that can't be expected to last in the second half. Everyone should agree that adding Garcia does not make this team a real contender, and giving up any kind of prospect could prove to be a grave mistake. If the reported deal that was nixed truly did include relief prospect Nick Burdi, who recently had Tommy John Surgery, it's a blessing that something stopped the deal from being finished. He was dominating AA prior to his injury.
In my opinion, the team should do the opposite of what they appear to be doing. With the playoffs still highly unlikely it would make more sense to sell off the veteran pieces that have value. With the kind of return the Chicago White Sox were able to net for their veterans over the last few weeks, it's clear it's a seller's market this year.
The team could fetch a bounty for the over-performing Ervin Santana, as controllable starting pitching is in high demand. Brian Dozier, a fan favorite who isn't quite as good as some fans believe, would likely garner a sizable return despite having a slightly less explosive season. Brandon Kintzler would also have plenty of interest around the league, so the team could trade three veterans that are likely to take a step back next season for a plethora of prospects to help set up the future of the organization even better than it already is. They could even package two of them together to get a top 10 prospect, in my opinion, based on the market that has developed.
It would create a firestorm in the local media if the team became sellers while they were 1 game out of the playoffs, and I don't expect the new regime to rock the boat much in their first season. Ownership would again be called cheap, but much like the fools who said it during the draft, those people would simply be wrong.
If the goal really is to build a consistent winner at the big league level, and to develop high end young talent again, selling over the next week is the best road forward. I hate to say it, but trading for someone like Jaime Garcia on a team like this is something Terry Ryan would've done. It's not franchise altering, but it is extremely frustrating to see the same mistakes repeated by a new front office that is supposed to be far more forward thinking.
*Update: The Twins have acquired Jaime Garcia and Anthony Recker, a 33-year-old AAA level catcher, in exchange for pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa. Some have suggested Ynoa is a "mediocre prospect" which is just lazy in my opinion. He's unlikely to emerge as a future ace, but he pitched well in his first two minor league seasons. He's struggled a bit in 25 innings this year, but one good start would change his numbers drastically. He's years away and because of that odds are he probably won't ever be a big leaguer, but if he does develop he should be a solid #3 type starting pitcher. Because Garcia isn't going to get the Twins to the playoffs, I hate the deal, but not because I'm enamored with Ynoa. It's fair value, but just a silly move for a team that just isn't very good at this point.