We chatted Thursday with Twins President Dave St. Peter for a Q&A that will run in Sunday’s print edition. But with the post-break schedule starting Friday at Target Field with a game against Tampa Bay — the first of a 10-game homestand — we thought one particular question was pertinent for the here and now.
Namely: Given the fact that they are still 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central and 6.5 games back in the Wild Card standings, are the Twins (44-50) still considering themselves potential “buyers” at the trade deadline, are they already resigned to being “sellers,” or will the way this homestand plays out determine the answer to that question?
Keep in mind, the homestand will end July 27; the non-waiver trade deadline is July 31. We presented it to St. Peter with us having difficulty believing the Twins could still be buyers, regardless of how the homestand goes. Here is what St. Peter had to say:
“I think the 10-game homestand is going to go a long way toward determining what course of action we take. Obviously the best thing we can do to add to our team is to get Joe Mauer, Danny Santana and Ricky Nolasco back onto our roster. That’s number one. At the end of the day, I do believe our team is certainly capable of playing better baseball and producing more victories over the course of the second half.
“We’re disappointed with our record. We’ve probably played better than that, but it is what it is. You need to get to .500 before you can even think about contending for a post-season spot. So that’s mission number one, getting back to that .500 mark. … We believe (we’re better). Whether it plays out that way, I guess we’ll find out. But it has to start on this homestand.”
We didn’t really like Flip Saunders’ first draft as Wolves President in 2013, when it seemed as though the team got caught without a plan when dealing the No. 9 pick (Trey Burke) for No. 14 (Shabazz Muhammad) and No. 21 (Gorgui Dieng). But now we’re absolutely in love with Dieng as a player and like the potential of Muhammad as well.
We weren’t sure about all of the free agent moves Saunders made last year — Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, re-signing Nikola Pekovic — but in retrospect we at least could understand the reasoning of trying to build as good of a short-term roster as possible in an attempt to keep Kevin Love’s wandering eye from drifting too far astray.
When that didn’t work, we were sure the Wolves needed to deal Love before the NBA draft in June in order to maximize his value and expand the number of possible teams in play.
But Saunders, once again, is proving that he deserves the benefit of the doubt — this time in the most important decision of his tenure-to-date. Whether it was intuition that the post-draft, free agency world of the NBA could yield better Love deals — maybe even a hunch that LeBron-to-Cleveland could happen — or whether Saunders stumbled into some good fortune, his patience is being rewarded.
Love to Cleveland for the last two No. 1 overall picks, and perhaps some other assets, is a better deal than we could have imagined possible — not because we doubt Love as a player, but because the leverage in any potential deal feels equally divided between the Wolves, Love and the acquiring team.
Now it’s time to close the deal. We do not care one bit that Golden State is reportedly willing to part with Klay Thompson. This chatter with Cleveland is not to gain leverage in a mediocre trade with the Warriors. The purpose is to make the deal with the Cavs. Put Golden State on some version of eternal call waiting, Flip, and get this thing done with Cleveland.
Our guess is that Flip wants the Cavs deal. He talked post-draft about hitting home runs instead of settling for doubles. The baseball analogy was apt in that he was saying teams like the Wolves need to shoot for franchise players, even at the risk of swinging and missing. The Cleveland deal could be a home run. The Golden State deal, with Thompson, would be a double.
You’ve played everything perfectly so far, Flip. Finish this off, and you will have aced the biggest test of your tenure.