Minnesota Twins Offer Better Deal for Seattle Mariners Than Do The New York Mets

June 25, 2010

I wrote a piece on Wednesday night about how the Seattle Mariners traded Cliff Lee to the Minnesota Twins for minor league catcher Wilson Ramos, left-handed pitcher Brian Duensing and a low-level minor league outfielder.

The trade disintegrated when Ramos got hurt last Saturday playing for Triple A Rochester.

Once Ramos returns to active duty (he is day-to-day with a strained oblique), the trade will be consummated like a new bride on her wedding night.

It is no coincidence that the Twins pitched Duensing for 3.1 innings last night in relief of a very ineffective Twins starter Nick Blackburn. It was 3.1 scoreless innings of relief by the way, where the lefty allowed three hits while striking out three Milwaukee Brewers hitters.

It basically cements the deal for Lee, with the only obstacle coming in the form of the New York Mets. With the Philadelphia Phillies floundering, the Mets believe they have a real shot of winning the NL Eastern division this season.

Renting Cliff Lee will not only help them achieve that goal, but when combined with a healthy return of outfielder Carlos Beltran, it would help them get to a World Series.

Never forget that Omar Minaya will strip an entire franchise’s farm system for one pitcher he feels can put him over the top. He already did it in 2002 when he was GM of the Montreal Expos.

Back then he TRADED Cliff Lee as part of a package of young players for right handed pitcher Bartolo Colon.

The Mariners could get greedy and, by using the Mets as leverage, try to wrest more away from the Twins.

But oftentimes the greedy get what they deserve, and that is usually something not nearly as good as what they had in pocket.

Why would the Mariners trade with the Mets anyway? The Mets have nothing the Mariners need, who, for starters, want a young catcher with the potential to start right away.

Ramos fits that bill. But is that why the Mets brought up catcher Josh Thole the other day, to show him off in the big leagues? The Mariners will have a few scouts in town this weekend scouting the Twins and can get a look at Thole. The Mariners will also be in town next week when they come in to play the Yankees.

But while Thole has rebounded well from a horrible April, he is very young defensively behind the plate and does not hit for much power (10 career HR’s in 3+ minor league seasons).

The Mariners also want a left-handed starting pitcher. While Duensing is not a complete youngster (he is 27), he does have good major league experience and can step right into Lee’s spot in the rotation–maybe throwing to Ramos. The Mets only have Jonathan Niese as a starting left-handed pitcher, and with his pretty good season thus far in 2010, it does not look like he is going anywhere.

The Mets do have other prospects they would give up for their rental, including a package built around prospects such as Ruben Tejada, Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores, and Jeurys Familia.

But although these players are good, none are what the Mariners are seeking, so the Twins deal makes better sense for the Mariners.

But if the Mets give them ALL of those prospects, then you might have a deal.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Mariners Cliff Lee Will Be Traded to the Minnesota Twins

June 25, 2010

The Minnesota Twins are tired of running headlong into the buzzsaw that is the New York Yankees. This is the team that has beaten the Twins in the playoffs three separate times during the managerial reign of Ron Gardenhire.  

In their new 2010 Target Field, the Twins want to win the whole thing this season. They have a potent offense, led by three-time batting champion and 2009 MVP Joe Mauer and former MVP Justin Morneau.

They have the financial wherewithal with the new stadium and have upped their payroll already to $98 million, more than the Los Angeles Dodgers’. In addition, the Pohlad family, owners of the Twins franchise, are one of the wealthiest families in all of sports.

Yankees be damned!

Speaking with someone familiar with the situation (and verifying the initial conversation), the Twins traded for Cliff Lee last week, but the deal fell through. The primary player going to the Seattle Mariners, catcher Wilson Ramos , suffered a strained oblique during Saturday’s game. Ramos is expected to miss seven to ten days .

Ramos was not yet placed on the seven-day minor league disabled list, keeping the trade possible. Unless the Commissioner’s office signs off on the deal, players on the disabled list are usually ineligible to be traded. There must be an understanding that both teams know that player is on the disabled list.

The deal included Ramos, a Twins Major League-ready pitcher (believed to be left-handed reliever Brian Duensing ), and a low level minor league outfielder. The Mariners might be including a low level player, too.

Once Ramos gets clearance to play baseball again, this trade will again be made.

It appears that this deal heavily favors the Twins, as they would get one of the premier pitchers in baseball essentially for a young catcher their system sorely needs, a possible starting pitcher, and a filler.

If I were the Mariners, I would hold out (briefly, like a day) for 3B Danny Valencia , instead of the low level player, in addition to Ramos and Duensing.

This deal would give the Twins a very formidable starting rotation with Lee, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and Nick Blackburn.

Pavano, Baker, and Blackburn are without any type of innings limits. Slowey (91 innings pitched in 2009), and Liriano (138 innings pitched in 2009), are both coming off arm injuries and will likely be monitored for the rest of 2010.

In addition, Blackburn, who is signed through 2013 and is usually the team’s most reliable starting pitcher, has had a very off year so far. His record is a respectable 6-4, but with a 5.80 ERA. We all know, however, that the pitchers’ wins are more important.

Seattle had scouts watching Blackburn’s start on Thursday night, and weren’t impressed. They really want to get back a left handed pitcher, and Duensing fits that bill. He will be converted to a starting pitcher. The Mariners are also adamant about getting back a high level catcher, and would likely move their top catching prospect, Adam Moore, to first base.

The Twins staff already has five good starters, but Lee would fit in nicely in any team’s rotation. As I write this, Lee just finished up another complete game , beating the Chicago Cubs 8-1 with nine strikeouts and ZERO walks.  

It is Lee’s fourth complete game this season.

He is now 6-3 with a 2.39 ERA and a 0.912 WHIP. He has struck out 76 batters in 86.2 innings, and he has walked only four batters.

Dontrelle Willis walked seven hitters in only two-plus innings last night.

Ramos is a good, young catcher but is blocked by Joe Mauer, making him expendable. Ramos came up to the majors earlier this season when Mauer was hurt and hit .296/.321 OBP/.407 SLG/.729 OPS with three doubles and an RBI in limited time.

However, he is struggling with the bat in Triple-A Rochester, hitting only .218 with four homers and 18 RBI.

That positive Major League time gave the Mariners an idea that he can be a good starting catcher. In fact, Ramos could step into a starting role right away.

Duensing is a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher who was squeezed out of the Twins rotation in 2010. He started nine games last season, including this gem over the rival Detroit Tigers, which helped lead the Twins into the playoffs.

Duensing was 5-1 as a starter down the stretch last year for the Twins.

Even though he has been great as a reliever this season (2-1, 1.88 ERA, 0.812 WHIP), and really tough against lefty hitters (.122 BA), I do expect the Mariners to convert Duensing back to a starting pitcher.

It is not enough of a haul for the Mariners, especially well before the trading deadline and with Lee pitching brilliantly right now.

The Mariners are basically giving the American League Central division title to the Twins.

And that is bad new for the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and any other possible American League playoff team which could face Lee in the 2010 playoffs.