The Minnesota Twins have surprised this season. Many experts didn’t expect the Twins to be over .500 in mid-July, let alone in the hunt for one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League.
As of the of July 16th, the Twins are 46-45. Two games behind the A.L. Central leading Cleveland Indians and a game and a half behind the New York Yankees for the final A.L. Wild Card spot. If you’re a Twins fan, you’d certainly take being in this position after witnessing the team finish with an MLB-worst record of 59-103 a season ago.
During a radio interview before Sunday’s rubber match against the Houston Astros, Twins manager Paul Molitor gave a peculiar answer in regards to what the Twins may do at the trade deadline.
“I hope that we play well enough over the next couple weeks to put some pressure on them to add,” Molitor on @TwinsRadio re: deadline.
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) July 16, 2017
Molitor’s answer seems to suggest one of two things: either the front office isn’t looking to be very active between now and July 31st or they may be looking to sell.
With new leadership in the front office, lead by CBO Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine, it’s not shocking that the Twins may look to sell by the trade deadline. Falvey and Levine have no allegiance to anyone on the current Twins roster or coaching staff, and GM Levine alluded the Twins window for winning hasn’t opened yet.
The idea of the Twins selling even though they’re in contention starts to hold more water when you look at stats like run differential. As of July 16th, the Twins have a run differential of -65 and are the only team in MLB that has a negative run differential and a .500 or better record. According to baseball-reference.com, when looking at Twins’ Pythagorean Win-Loss, which measures the amount of runs scored by a team versus the amount of runs they’ve given up and uses that to calculate an expected win total, the Twins should be 39-51. Considering their runs scored, runs given up and run differential, the Twins have certainly been lucky to be two games over .500 to this point of the season.
Beyond the fact that the team is likely outperforming their expected record, starting pitcher Ervin Santana looks be pitching better than what his secondary numbers suggest and a regression to the mean could be looming for him. Santana currently holds 2.99 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 45 walks over 126.1 innings of work.
On the surface, those are great numbers, until you start to peel back the onion some. Santana’s FIP is 4.77 this season, which suggests his ERA is much lower than it should be. Also, Santana holds a .217 BABIP, which is much lower than his career average of .282. Santana is currently 34 years old and likely won’t be getting better the older he gets. With potentially two more years remaining on his contract after this season, it may be wise for the Twins to get out from underneath that deal while Santana’s value is at an all-time high, especially considering the return the White Sox got for starting pitcher Jose Quintana.
While they’ve outperformed expectations, the Twins likely aren’t a playoff team this year, let alone a team that could challenge for the American League pennant. It’s been a fun three and half month stretch for Twins fans, but this club is several pieces away from contending. Cashing in on Santana while his value is high makes a ton of sense for a young team that likely won’t be ready to win for another year or two.