A late-July collapse may have the Minnesota Twins dumping salaries as the trade deadline approaches. The Kansas City Royals’ improved play, meanwhile, isn’t likely to stop them from dealing some of their top talent.
In a matchup of teams that may be ready to start thinking about next year, the Twins look to snap the Royals’ four-game winning streak Monday night in the opener of a four-game series.
Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline is becoming a distraction for both Minnesota (53-51) and Kansas City (47-57).
“We all know what’s going on, but we have to get over that,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “All people want to talk about is trades. Sometimes it takes away their focus.”
Minnesota has won two straight, but lost its previous five and is 4-8 since July 17. If the Twins have decided it’s too late to make a run in the AL Central, players such as veteran center fielder Torii Hunter would certainly be attractive to a team in contention.
The Royals bullpen, especially Octavio Dotel, along with second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and outfielder Reggie Sanders are also appealing to teams hoping to shore up their roster for the stretch run. Scouts from at least 12 clubs were in Kansas City for the Royals’ seven-game homestand last week.
“It is bothering me,” said Dotel, who has 11 saves in 14 chances. “I’ve got to be honest. Even though you don’t want to think about that, every day I wake up and turn my phone on, I think it is going to be a call from (general manager) Dayton Moore saying, ‘We traded you for whatever.’”
The Royals are looking to upgrade at several positions and bolster their minor league system. Kansas City is 27-22 since June 1, and has been excellent in recent road series, but it remains in last place in the AL Central.
The Royals are 8-4 on the road since June 25, a stretch that included series against Cleveland, Boston, Detroit and the Los Angeles Angels. They are 13-10 overall in July with two games left, assuring them of a second straight winning month for the first time since June-July 2003.
Kansas City completed a three-game sweep of Texas with a 10-0 win Sunday, and has allowed one run or none in three of its last four contests.
Gil Meche (7-7, 3.76 ERA) will get the ball for the Royals. He struggled in his last start, surrendering five runs and nine hits in 7 1-3 innings as Kansas City lost 7-1 to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.
The right-hander won his previous four decisions.
Meche has been particularly effective on the road, going 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA. He is 5-1 with a 4.44 ERA in nine starts against Minnesota.
Minnesota will counter with Scott Baker (4-4, 5.30), who gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings of a 7-0 loss to Toronto on Tuesday night.
The right-hander has pitched well in his last three outings at home, going 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA. Baker is 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in three career starts against Kansas City.
The Twins will look for another strong effort by a starter. They have allowed a total of three runs in their last two games, as Johan Santana struck out 12 in seven innings on Saturday and Matt Garza had 11 strikeouts in six frames on Sunday in a 4-1 win at Cleveland.
Minnesota scored the go-ahead run on an error in the eighth inning Sunday, rallying to beat Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia.
The Royals are 3-2 against the Twins this season, winning two of three at home from April 20-22.