Each year in the majors, there are a handful of teams whose seasons are essentially over before they even begin. For the past few seasons, the Minnesota Twins have been one of those teams, and this year is no different.
Through 59 games, the Twins sit just three games under .500, putting them a manageable five games back of the first-place Detroit Tigers and 2.5 games out of a wild-card spot. But before Twins fans get too excited, it's worth considering that it's early June, which means there are right around 100 games left to play, and the level of talent on the roster doesn't point toward any type of success this season, no matter how close a playoff berth might seem as it currently stands.
Are the Twins Buyers or Sellers?
Despite the Twins' better-than-expected start, they'll enter the July trade deadline as sellers, for the simple fact that their team isn't built for success this season. The best case scenario for Ron Gardenhire's squad is that it stays on course and then makes a playoff push as the season winds down, but all the luck in the world wouldn't give the Twins a shot at any type of title run. No matter how much success the Twins manage to have this season (outside of a legitimate playoff run), the only involvement they'll have in the trade market is in shipping off their most enticing trade assets.
Which players could be moved?
Willingham is the best fit for a trade because a) his contract expires at the end of the season and b) the Twins have a few outfielders at Triple-A Rochester (Chris Colabello and Chris Herrmann) who could replace Willingham. The 35-year-old outfielder isn't getting any younger, and while the aforementioned alternatives aren't particularly enticing given both of the Chris' struggles in the majors prior to their demotions, it's not really worth keeping the aging Willingham or his hefty contract around in the long haul.
The other main draw when it comes to Willingham is that he has exploded offensively this season, including a .320/.493/.600 slash line in 69 plate appearances. That will provide a ton of value, especially for a playoff team that could use backup outfielder, assuming Willingham continues his hot hitting.
Trade Likelihood: Medium
This move would be contingent upon Correia improving, because as long as he continues to post an ERA above six, no other will go near him. But if Correia does revert to his 2013 form, in which he put up mediocre numbers (4.18 ERA) but nevertheless provided some value here and there, along with a veteran presence, it's not far-fetched to expect some type of move here. Unfortunately, that's a big "if."
Trade Likelihood: Low to medium
Hughes still has a few years left with the Twins after this season—his contract runs out after 2016—but that doesn't mean the team can't get any value for him right now. In fact, when it comes to that magical, all-important word ("value"), there might be no better time to sell high on Hughes than right now. (Or more specifically, in July, around the trade deadline.) Aside from posting his best ERA by a full run since 2009 and shaving a full two runs off his total from last season, Hughes is not walking anybody (1.0 BB/9, with a career-low of 2.2 heading into the season) and he's keeping the ball in the yard (0.5 HR/9, after 1.6 and 1.5 in 2012 and 2013, respectively) better than ever before.
And yet, by the time Hughes' contract is up, many of the Twins' top prospects will just be arriving in the majors or will be in their rookie seasons. It might be in the team's best interest to try to grab somebody whose services the team will be able to retain for cheaper (Hughes makes $24 million over three seasons with the Twins) and longer, so as to stay on the team through the arrival of all the current top prospects in the organization.
The fact of the matter is that when a pitcher is pitching like Hughes and has two years left on his contract, conventional baseball wisdom says to stick with him. Even so, it's worth throwing a possible Hughes deal out there, just in case.
Trade Likelihood: Low
As is the case with Hughes, Plouffe's value might reach its peak this season, and because he doesn't figure into the club's future plans, there's plenty of reason to move him for the right price this season. Indeed, with Plouffe's favorable service time, emerging bat (league-leading 21 doubles, .746 OPS, 35 RBI) and fielding versatility, he would be an excellent pickup for a contending team in need of a reliable infielder.
But the real reason it makes sense to move Plouffe is the organization's elite third base prospect, Miguel Sano, who was sidelined by Tommy John surgery this season but nevertheless figures to break into the majors before long. The alternatives aren't great (Eduardo Nunez?), but it might be worth it, as the Twins aren't looking to win at least until Sano arrives anyway.