CHICAGO — If the Minnesota Twins’ season continued to stagnate, if the team was in position to be a seller ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, there would be plenty of players on the roster who would be attractive to teams in the hunt.

Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, Michael Pienda, J.A. Happ, Hansel Robles and Matt Shoemaker will all be free agents following this season and that group could pique the interest of contending teams. Younger, more attractive pieces of the team’s core are slated to hit free agency a year later.

But with so many players who could be considered contributors to teams, why sell? That’s the way general manager Thad Levine is looking at it right now.

This was a team that was built to win and one that the Twins still believe can, despite the early-season bullpen woes and offensive struggles. The Twins aren’t entertaining the idea of selling yet. Tey’re far from the point on the calendar when they would need to make that decision and they’re far from believing that they will have to.

“If I objectively asked you, ‘If we were sellers, how many players do you think would draw interest in the league?’ We could all quibble as to who they’d be but we could come up with quite a few, right?” Levine said. “I then would say, ‘Aren’t we good enough to win? If we have that many people who could help another team win a championship, shouldn’t we?’ That’s where my head is still. … If the answer is more than I can count on one hand, then I’m going to try to apply myself to figure out how can we help them win together.”

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How they do that has been a season-long search. The Twins are fourth in a division that they were expected to be near the top of. They are much closer to the Tigers, who entered the day with the worst record in the American League, than they are to the White Sox, who entered with the best record in the AL.

Injuries to key players and COVID-19 are among the things that have helped play a role in the disjointed beginning to the team’s season.

“This team is built to win games, not to be in these situations,” Cruz said. “But unfortunately it is what it is. We all have to take responsibility of our job. We have to be individual, you know? Everyone has to do their part on every game and that’s how we’ll win games.”

Knowing the expectations, knowing the push they made this offseason to help pry open the window of opportunity helps make this all the more frustrating for them. But it also makes them all the more confident that there’s still time to right the ship.

“We’re so in tune with saying, ‘Well, it’s not sustainable this person keeps performing at this level,’” Levine said. “Well I would argue it’s not sustainable that some of these guys perform at this level. If we get enough of those guys buoying back to where we know that they can perform, we have a lot of division games left so I think there’s a strong argument to say our destiny is still within our hands.”

Injury updates

Center fielder Byron Buxton has showed continued improvement as he rehabs from a Grade 2 hip strain to the point where he will begin hitting in the cage within the next day or two.

Buxton has been participating in light rehab exercises and he has been cleared to throw and work with the Twins’ strength and conditioning coaches on his “dynamic and movement prep,” the club announced.

Rookie Alex Kirilloff has also shown improvement as he rehabs his sprained right wrist, though the club is not planning on having him test out swinging until Friday after returning home to Minneapolis. For now, Kirilloff has been cleared to work in the weight room and the Twins are increasing his hand strengthening exercises.

“With both Alex and Byron, when they were diagnosed, there was a little bit of hold your breath, ‘What are we going to hear here?’ I think there was a general sense of optimism when we heard the diagnoses,” Levine said. “It wasn’t ‘they’re good to go.’ But the alternatives could have been more significant. I think our initial reaction to the diagnosis was a sense of real relief and encouragement.”

Lefty Devin Smeltzer landed on the injured list on Wednesday with inflammation in his elbow. Levine said they would have more information on his condition once they returned to the Twin Cities and were able to do more analysis.

The Twins called up Shaun Anderson to fill his spot on the roster. Anderson was acquired this offseason in a trade with the San Francisco Giants for outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr.