With just a couple of weeks to go until the regular season, teams seem to be finalizing their rosters and depth charts. Not every team crossed every want off their list this offseason, but with a few moves, we can help shore up weaknesses or further the rebuilding process. To that end, here are 10 trades teams should consider making as we head toward Opening Day. Some are more realistic than others, and some might have to wait for the trade deadline, but a few of these aggressive moves now could shape expectations for the new season.
The Giants’ active winter should have one more big move. After bringing in a couple of older stars in Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, the team should try to get younger by trading for the 25-year-old Santana. Hunter Pence’s contract ends after this season, and Santana — whose bat was 25 percent above average in his breakout 2017 season — would provide a meaningful upgrade now and into the future. The Giants could then sign Alex Cobb at an annual salary below Samardzija’s $18 million, helping them stay below the competitive balance tax this season.
For Milwaukee, removing Santana leaves a still-loaded outfield consisting of Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun. Jeff Samardzija has three years and $54 million remaining on his contract, but the Brewers have been involved in the free-agent market for pitching and could absorb Samardzija’s salary. His Fielding Independent Pitching last year was 3.61, and his strikeout to walk rate was behind only Clayton Kershaw’s in the NL, so he should improve on last season’s 4.42 ERA.
Minnesota Twins’ torture — Breaking down their record MLB playoffs losing streak
The playoff format changed, but the nightmare continues for Minnesota Twins fans.
Here’s a game-by-game walk-through of the Twins’ tunnel of misery.
2020 AL Wild Card Series
Game 1 (Sept. 29 at Min.): Astros 4, Twins 1
A new year and another round added to the playoffs just added another dose of misery for the Twins with Sergio Romo walking in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of a series-opening loss to the Houston Astros. The defeat runs Minnesota’s record skid to 17 games with another chance to snap it Wednesday afternoon.
2019 AL Division Series
Game 3 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 1
The Yankees have been the Twins’ particular nemesis during the painful stretch, handing Minnesota 13 of the 17 defeats, including the series-ender in Game 3 at Target Field.
The air was sucked out of Target Field early, as the Twins came up empty on a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the bottom of the second while already trailing 1-0 on a Gleyber Torres homer. Eddie Rosario provided a little life with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, but given the history, it had to be hard for even Minnesotans to get too excited. Aroldis Chapman kept them — and the Twins — in check.
Game 2 (Oct. 5 at N.Y.): Yankees 8, Twins 2
This one was over early. Didi Gregorius, whose three-run home run in the 2017 wild-card game erased the Twins’ first-inning lead, hit a back-breaking grand slam during a seven-run third inning.
Game 1 (Oct. 4 at N.Y.): Yankees 10, Twins 4
The Twins’ record-setting loss featured a franchise postseason-best three home runs, but Jose Berrios and a procession of relievers got pummeled by the Yankees. The big hit? A two-run, bases-loaded Gleyber Torres double in the fifth that broke a 3-3 tie.
2017 wild-card game
Oct. 3 at N.Y.: Yankees 8, Twins 4
The Twins carried the baggage of a nine-game postseason losing streak against the Yankees (and 12 games overall) into the Bronx. Things started well enough for Minnesota — three runs in the top of the first off Yankees starter Luis Severino, who recorded just one out — but that didn’t last long. New York countered with three runs in the bottom of the first off Ervin Santana, then took the lead for good in the third on Greg Bird‘s two-out single off Jose Berrios.
2010 AL Division Series
Game 3 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 6, Twins 1
In his only season as an All-Star, New York’s Phil Hughes made his first (and best) postseason start, shutting down his future team on four hits over seven innings to complete a three-game sweep. Swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees for the second straight year, the Twins wouldn’t return to the postseason for seven years.
Game 2 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 2
In the eighth straight postseason meeting, the Twins took the lead over the Yankees, only to let it slip away. With the game tied at two in the bottom of the sixth, a tiring Carl Pavano gave up two runs and didn’t record another out, as a Lance Berkman double and a Derek Jeter single put the Yankees on top for good. Minnesota went nine up, nine down in the last three innings.
Game 1 (Oct. 6 at Min.): Yankees 6, Twins 4
Coming off one of his best seasons with the Twins, Francisco Liriano cruised through five two-hit innings, then hit a wall, coughing up a 3-0 lead. Minnesota tied the score on a bases-loaded walk in the sixth, but the Yankees regained the lead in the seventh on a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira. The Twins stranded five runners in the last three innings.
2009 AL Division Series
Game 3 (Oct. 11 at Min.): Yankees 4, Twins 1
Andy Pettitte and Pavano were engaged in a solid pitchers’ duel before the Twins broke through to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth. But as has often been the case in these meetings, the Yankees answered quickly, with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hitting solo home runs in the seventh. New York tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth before Mariano Rivera sent Minnesota packing.
Game 2 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 4, Twins 3 (11 innings)
This was perhaps the most painful loss of the bunch. After Hughes got two quick outs in the top of the eighth of a 1-1 game, a walk and single set up Nick Punto to give the Twins the lead with a single, and a Denard Span single off Rivera made it 3-1. But in the bottom of the ninth, Twins closer Joe Nathan gave up a leadoff single to Teixeira, and Rodriguez followed with a two-run blast to right-center to tie the game. In the 11th, the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out but squandered the opportunity, then Teixeira put them out of their misery with a laser beam of a walk-off homer off Jose Mijares.
Game 1 (Oct. 7 at N.Y.): Yankees 7, Twins 2
The 103-win Yankees figured to roll over the 87-win Twins, but Minnesota struck first, with two third-inning runs off CC Sabathia. Jeter countered with a two-run homer to tie it in the bottom of the inning, and the Yankees were off and running. The big blow was a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui in the fifth off Liriano.
2006 AL Division Series
Game 3 (Oct. 6 at Oak.): A’s 8, Twins 3
Facing elimination, the Twins didn’t put up much of a fight, as Brad Radke, in his final big league appearance, gave up four runs — Eric Chavez and Milton Bradley went deep — in the first three innings. Minnesota never recovered.
Game 2 (Oct. 4 at Min.): A’s 5, Twins 2
After Twins starter Boof Bonser held Oakland to two runs over six innings, Minnesota tied it on back-to-back homers by Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau. With two outs in the top of the seventh, the A’s Mark Kotsay hit a sinking liner to center, and the usually reliable Torii Hunter made an ill-advised dive for the ball, which skipped past him and rolled to the wall. Kotsay, bad back and all, circled the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park home run — and that was that.
Game 1 (Oct. 3 at Min.): A’s 3, Twins 2
To open the 2006 playoffs, the Twins’ Johan Santana, at the height of his powers in his second Cy Young season, faced off against Oakland lefty Barry Zito, no slouch himself. Santana was touched for two runs in the second inning (Frank Thomas hit a solo homer, Marco Scutaro an RBI double), and Zito allowed only a seventh-inning solo shot to the Twins’ Rondell White that made it 2-1. Both teams scored in the ninth (the A’s on another Thomas homer), but Oakland’s Huston Street got White on a fly out to end it.
2004 AL Division Series
Game 4 (Oct. 9 at Min.): Yankees 6, Twins 5 (11 innings)
This one stung. Facing elimination, Minnesota was cruising with a 5-1 lead (and 96% win expectancy) heading into the eighth inning. But things unraveled quickly for the Twins and reliever Juan Rincon. It went like this: single, wild pitch, walk, run-scoring single, strikeout, three-run homer by Ruben Sierra. Tie game. It stayed that way until the top of the 11th, when Rodriguez doubled, stole third and scored on a wild pitch by Kyle Lohse. Meanwhile, Tom Gordon and Rivera combined to retire the last 10 Twins batters in order, and the Yankees celebrated on the Metrodome carpet.
Game 3 (Oct. 8 at Min.): Yankees 8, Twins 4
Minnesota’s Jacque Jones jumped on Yankees starter Kevin Brown with a solo homer in the bottom of the first. But New York answered with three in the second, then tacked on four more runs in the sixth to win.
Game 2 (Oct. 6 at N.Y.): Yankees 7, Twins 6 (12 innings)
The loss that started it all was a serious gut punch for the Twins. After a 2-0 win in Game 1 of the series, Minnesota staged a two-run rally in the eighth inning off Rivera to tie Game 2. In the 12th inning, a Torii Hunter homer off Tanyon Sturtze gave the Twins a 6-5 lead. But Joe Nathan, in his third inning of work, ran out of gas, issuing one-out walks to Miguel Cairo and Jeter before a ground-rule double by A-Rod tied it. J.C. Romero replaced Nathan, who threw 53 pitches, and on Romero’s first pitch, Hideki Matsui hit a line drive to right that brought Jeter home for the winning run. Instead of leaving New York with a 2-0 series lead, the Twins were on a road to postseason ruin they wouldn’t be able to exit for at least 15 years.
MLB Wild Card Tuesday Takeaways — Reaction to all four games as MLB playoffs begin
The 2020 MLB playoffs began Tuesday with four American League Wild Card Series.
The Chicago White Sox beat the Oakland A’s as Lucas Giolito flirted with perfection. The Houston Astros, who finished the 2020 season with a losing record, topped the Minnesota Twins to extend Minnesota’s record playoff losing streak to 17 games.
Here are the heroes, turning points and takeaways from the Game 1s as each opening matchup concludes.
Game 1 hero: Lucas Giolito. The White Sox ace became the fifth player in MLB history to take a perfect game into the seventh inning of a postseason game and allowed just a run on two hits and a walk over 7-plus frames.
What it means for the White Sox: What does a bad finish tell us? Apparently, not much. The White Sox looked like a dispirited club as they dropped seven of eight to finish the season. In the first game of their first postseason game in 12 years, that changed. It didn’t hurt that Chicago’s No. 1 starter — Giolito — pitched like a championship-level No. 1 starter, taking a perfect game into the seventh. Just as important though was the lineup of bashers who swaggered their way through most of the short season was back. Adam Engel, Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal went deep, as the White Sox were characteristically aggressive at the plate and did damage when they made contact. That was the team we saw for most of the campaign. — Bradford Doolittle
What it means for the A’s: The less said about this performance by the A’s the better. Their lineup was the biggest question mark heading into the 2020 postseason, and Giolito validated those concerns. He was brilliant, the White Sox’s relievers did enough to hold the lead and now the A’s — who have bowed out of the playoffs five times in the last eight years without reaching the ALCS — need to beat Dallas Keuchel and his 1.99 ERA to remain alive. — Jeff Passan
The Twins surrender three runs in the ninth inning and lose 4-1 to the Astros, setting an American pro sports record with their 17th consecutive postseason loss.
Game 1 hero: Framber Valdez. Taking out a former Cy Young winner early is exactly the kind of move that can get you second-guessed in the postseason, but young Valdez made Dusty Baker look very smart when he came in and pitched beautifully in relief of Zack Greinke. The relief outing gave Houston’s offense a chance to finally pounce and steal Game 1.
What it means for the Astros: Never did the Astros panic — not when they were stranding runners, not when their starter Greinke got chased after four innings and not when Jose Altuve, in the midst of a season-long struggle, took a full-count Sergio Romo fastball just above the strike zone for ball four to put them ahead in the ninth. Between him and Valdez going five brilliant innings in relief with just a fastball and curveball — and escaping a ninth-inning jam — the Astros did just what they needed to scrape by. And now they’re in quite the enviable position: two cracks at a chance to face the winner of Chicago-Oakland in the division series. — Passan
What it means for the Twins: I’d argue that no team needed to win its first game more than the Twins, because now they’re staring at that incredible, inconceivable mark of 17 consecutive losses in the postseason. Different teams, different years, sure, but that doesn’t mean this streak doesn’t feel like the weight of the Mall of America on their shoulders. Those 17 defeats have come in many ways, but this was one of the most painful. Shortstop Jorge Polanco made a lazy error with two outs in the ninth inning, casually flipping the ball wide of second base on what should have been an inning-ending force that would have kept the game tied at 1. Now they have to summon the mental fortitude to ignore those 16 years of history and hit the ball over the fence — or just get a hit with a runner in scoring position after going 0-for-7 in Game 1. — David Schoenfield
More Tuesday games
Minor league baseball contraction process begins with Appalachian League
NEW YORK — Major League Baseball started the process of contracting minor league affiliates Tuesday, with the Appalachian League converted to a college summer circuit for rising freshmen and sophomores.
The agreement between MLB and the minor leagues expires Wednesday. MLB has proposed cutting the minimum guaranteed minor league affiliates from 160 to 120 next year, or to four per major league organization plus teams at their spring training complexes.
Many teams from the Pioneer League and the New York-Penn League also are likely to become part of college summer leagues.
MLB and USA Baseball said the Appalachian League will become part of its Prospect Development Pipeline and that 320 players will be invited to play next year. The Appalachian League had been an affiliated minor league with professional players since 1911.
MLB and USA Baseball said they are communicating with the NCAA to ensure participation does not detract from college eligibility, which presumably means players in the league no longer will be paid.
Each team will be scheduled for a 54-game regular season with wood bats, and the two organizations will support staffing and administration. Former major leagues will provide instruction.
The 10 teams in the league will change their names and logos to “incorporate symbols and images important to their respective local communities,” according to MLB and USA Baseball.
The 10 teams that were scheduled to be in the Appalachian League at the Rookie Advanced level in 2020 were the Bluefield (West Virginia) Blue Jays, Bristol (Virginia and Tennessee) Pirates, Burlington (North Carolina) Royals, Danville (Virginia) Braves, Elizabethton (Tennessee) Twins, Greeneville (Tennessee) Reds, Johnson City (Tennessee) Cardinals, Kingsport (Tennessee) Mets, Princeton (West Virginia) Rays, and the Pulaski (Virginia) Yankees.
A large number of teams in the Rookie Advanced Pioneer League and the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League also were on an early list of those targeted to lose their affiliations but it is not clear whether those targeted by MLB have changed.
The early list included four Double-A teams from the Eastern League and Southern League and several from the Class A Advanced Florida State League, Midwest League and South Atlantic League, and the Class A Short Season Northwest League.
MLB has proposed eliminating the office of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues in St. Petersburg, Florida, and moving administration of the minors to MLB’s ofice in New York. Pat Conner, president of the National Association since December 2007, said on Sept. 8 that he will retire on Dec. 31.
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