COMMENTARY | After going on a nice run to approach .500, the Minnesota Twins have slumped badly to put an end to any real hope of contending in 2013, if there was any. With a difficult schedule looming ahead, the Twins need to look for trade offers for Justin Morneau.
After ending a 10-game losing streak in May, the Twins went on a 15-9 run to get within three games of .500. P.J. Walters and Samuel Deduno had helped to stabilize the rotation along with improved pitching from Mike Pelfrey. The Twins were even having a difficult time finding a spot in the rotation for pitching prospect Kyle Gibson.
However, the Twins hit the road on June 21 and have gone 3-10 since then to drop to a season-low 10 games under .500 and nine games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central standings. The Twins soured Fourth of July celebrations with their fifth straight loss and face the spectre of a 10-game road trip against AL East teams, which has always been difficult even when the Twins were annual contenders. The Twins will take on the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. The Twins could be facing another double-digit losing streak soon.
Josh Willingham's Injury Couldn't Come at a Worse Time
Even worse news for the Twins came July 2 when it was announced that Josh Willingham will have surgery on his knee and will be out four to six weeks. Willingham's numbers have been down this year, but he still leads the Twins in home runs and is one of the few right-handed power hitters on the team.
Willingham also was considered a possible trade target for other teams before the injury. This pretty much guarantees he won't be traded, but it was unlikely anyways. The Twins rarely trade away a key player like Willingham with more than one year left on his contract.
Even Gibson showed that he won't be an instant phenom when the injury-depleted Yankees lineup scored eight runs on him in 5 1/3 innings. However, he didn't have a lot of help from his defense.
With Willingham out, the biggest trade piece the Twins would be willing to part with is Morneau, who is in the final year of his contract. The good news is that he's starting to hit for power. In fact, he hit two home runs on the Fourth of July against the Yankees, who should be interested in a short-term solution at first base since Mark Teixeira is out the rest of the season with an injury.
Minnesota Twins Have Rarely Traded Away Veterans Before July 31 Deadline
The Twins need to look at the reality of the situation and do something they have rarely done: trade away a core veteran player for prospects during the season before the July 31 trading deadline. The Twins will have a lot more suitors now than if they wait until players have to pass through waivers starting in August, which is what they did when they traded away Francisco Liriano, Jim Thome and Delmon Young in the last couple years.
Hopefully, the Twins will realize this is a good opportunity to add depth to an already strong minor league system. They especially need to look at bringing in more starting pitching.
The Twins shouldn't be concerned about how trading away Morneau will look to the fans. After 2½ seasons of bad baseball, the fans are ready for the youth movement, which has already begun this season with the promotions of Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Gibson. Most fans will embrace a trade that brings in prospects, especially starting pitchers with the capability of striking out more than just an occasional batter.
It's time to let this season go. The Twins can't afford to wait too long or they might find that Morneau's value has dropped.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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