Minnesota Twins Ups and Downs Trade Deadline Edition

July 20, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago (53) throws in the third inning against Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
July 20, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago (53) throws in the third inning against Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

After First Winning Month, the Minnesota Twins Look to Remake Roster

The Minnesota Twins are on a high right now, for them anyway. Hard to feel too good about yourselves when you’re still officially the worst team in the American League, standings-wise.

But, they are coming off a month in which they went 15-11, their first above .500 month since May of 2015. This past week, despite losing two games to the last place Atlanta Braves, the Twins mustered a 3-3 record.

Their front office, with interim GM Rob Antony pulling the trigger, secured a Top-100 prospect in return for Eduardo Nunez.

Today, he pulled off another winner by trading Fernando Abad to the Boston Red Sox for AAA reliever Pat Light, who can touch triple digits on the radar gun.

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The non-waiver trade deadline will be expiring during the writing of this column. I’ll be breaking down the two trades already completed, and any updated trades as they come in. Additionally, I’ll break down deals that didn’t happen as well.

UP: Adalberto Mejia (from San Francisco), for Eduardo Nunez. Yes, Nunez was the Minnesota Twins sole All-Star this year, and yes, he was a great lead-off hitter for the Twins right now. And yes, his 28 steals are fourth in all of baseball, providing a spark that hasn’t been seen in a while on the Twins.

So why is this trade so good? For one thing, Mejia is near-MLB ready. Most experts expect him to get the call-up this September and compete for a starting spot in 2017. While not a flame-thrower, his 101/27 strikeout to walk ratio in 105 innings this year shows he get batters to swing and miss.

He’s ranked in the 90’s in most MLB prospect rankings, and was ranked between sixth and ninth for the Giants’ organization. He’s just 23 years old and ready for the big leagues.

Nunez, while productive this year, has been a career utility guy. The one-time heir apparent to none other than Derek Jeter, he’s instead having his breakout year at age 29 on a terrible Twins team.

Then there’s his defense.

Nunez has always been able to make the average, regular play. Even his range is good.

But when he’s been stretched to make a play, called by defense gurus a “non-routine” play, then Nunez suffers…badly.

As a shortstop, he’s ranked near the bottom. In 2013, he had the worst season ever for a shortstop on such plays, converting only 15.9% – the MLB average for shortstops converted 40% of non-routine plays that year.

UP: Pat Light (from Boston), for Fernando Abad.

Abad was another Twin who was considered for the All-Star game, but Nunez’s ability to play multiple positions helped him secure the Minnesota Twins’ lone selection.

Lefty reliever, Abad, was signed to a minor-league contract, a make-good deal for this year at Spring Training. The Minnesota Twins knew his history of getting left-handed hitters out at a high rate, they hoped he could be more than that.

For the first two months of 2016, he was. Barely allowing any hits to lefties, Abad became a strong, back-end reliever. He even was considered for the closer role before injuries limited his appearances.

Light was a one-time Minnesota Twins’ draft pick in 2009 out of high school, before going to college.

Boston drafted him in 2012, but he’s obviously been on the Twins’ radar for years. Currently at AAA, Light often touches 100-101, but does has control issues.

For Pawtucket, Light has walked 4.94/9 and struck out 10.45/9, with an ERA of 2.32. He could also be a September call-up.

He’s already had two cups of coffee with Boston this season. Another plus, Light is just 25, Abad is 30 years old.

SO-SO: Announced with 30 minutes to go before the trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins traded starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer to the L.A. Angels for Hector Santiago and Alan Busenitz.

The Twins will also be sending cash to the Angels to make up the difference in Nolasco’s and Santiago’s projected 2017 salaries. Each team will pay the other players’ salaries for the rest of 2016.

While Santiago was an All-Star in 2015 for the Angels, he has given up the most walks in the American League this season. In his fifth full season now, he’s 33-32 for his career, with a 3.68 ERA.

The Angels have been struggling as much as the Minnesota Twins this year, and Santiago has been a lone bright spot lately. The Angels have won eight of his last ten starts, with Santiago going 7-1 during that stretch.

Both teams must feel they are selling high, two months ago the Twins were hoping to unload Nolasco on any team, with the prospect of having to pay the majority of his salary a la San Diego and the James Shields situation.

While Santiago is the more intriguing starter for the next year and a half, the Minnesota Twins must have felt that former Top 50 prospect Meyer (who’s on the DL currently) just wasn’t in their future, either due to injury concerns or mechanics.

Busenitz performed well at AA this year, but hasn’t made the jump to AAA without hiccups. 11 runs in 13 innings looks bad, but he’s still maintaining a 13-5 K/BB ratio.

What will make this deal a plus for the Minnesota Twins is if Santiago performs well enough for the next year, and the Twins can re-sign him in that $8-10 million range for an extension.

Otherwise, by paying him Nolasco’s contract for a year and a half and watching him leave in free agency, they just paid to not have Nolasco pitch for them any longer.

And maybe that was the point all along.

DOWN: Not being able to trade either Brandon Kintzler or Kurt Suzuki. There are few catchers available on the open market, and none performing as well as Suzuki right now.

Teams were worried about giving up too much for a rental situation.

And the Minnesota Twins couldn’t give Suzuki away given their lack of organizational depth at the catcher position.

Kintzler’s name never seemed to be linked to any team in the rumor mill but it would have been nice to capitalize on his recent hot stretch to get a younger arm.

Next: Twins Trade Nolasco, Meyer to Angels

NOTES: With the trade of Abad, manager Paul Molitor has reinstated Tyler Duffey to the starting rotation. The need of a lefty reliever has Tommy Milone out of the rotation for now. Jose Berrios starts tonight, Kyle Gibson tomorrow night, Duffey back in on Wednesday, and Santiago on Thursday.