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John Shipley: It’s quiet around the Twins. Too quiet

In the movies, that means something big is about to happen, but the Twins have little to deal at the trade deadline

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins; Trevor Larnach
Minnesota Twins designated hitter Trevor Larnach (13) scores during the seventh inning Thursday, April 28, 2022, against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field.
Jordan Johnson / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- “It’s quiet,” they say in the movies. “Too quiet.”

That line generally comes from a steely-eyed protagonist whose lifetime of surviving mayhem and chaos tells him that the crickets — the conspicuous inactivity around him — in fact means something big is about to happen.

Well, it’s been conspicuously quiet around the Minnesota Twins during the runup to Tuesday’s 5 p.m. trade deadline. Too quiet. Only this time it doesn’t feel like something big is about to happen, like tomorrow evening will come and go in Minnesota to the sound of crickets.

How could it possibly be any different?

Like every other team with a sniff of the postseason, the Twins want pitchers. Unlike their competitors, they have almost nothing to barter. Teams unload veterans at the deadlines for prospects, and Minnesota’s top prospects have mostly become major leaguers this season and are mostly hurt – Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Ryan Jeffers, Jorge Alcala and Josh Winder among them.

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Only Jose Miranda, who could be a star, is upright and contributing.

As for a current position player the Twins could possibly move for a pitcher, well, Max Kepler is hurt, too, on the IL with a broken toe. Besides, with Larnach out after core surgery and Kirilloff still battling his sore right wrist, they’ll need Kepler if he’s able to return.

“We always need to find ways to get better. There’s no way around that,” manager Rocco Baldelli said Monday. “We never look away from that fact. … There’s a lot of different ways that you can improve a ballclub, and (the trade deadline) is one of those times.”

John Shipley
John Shipley

But for those hoping a deadline trade will give some juice to a team that started a seven-game home stand on Monday with a one-game lead in the American League Central, well, it doesn’t look good. It’s difficult to even imagine who Derek Falvey and Thad Levine could bring in to drastically change the fortunes of a team that has lost 11 of its past 16 games, and four of its past five to playoff contenders in Milwaukee and San Diego.

Are the Twins a first-place team? Yeah, they have been most of the season despite not really playing like one for weeks. They haven’t strung together more than two wins since June 25-27, while the Guardians just finished a 4-3 trip through Boston and Tampa Bay, and the White Sox won five of their past seven.

The Twins’ bullpen has taken the lion’s share of the blame while what was once a 5½-game division lead has been whittled to one. That’s because its failures have been stark. Twins relievers have a combined 3.88 earned-run average but also a combined 20 losses. Bullpen losses tend to stick to the ribs. But the starting pitching hasn’t been great. Outside of rookie Joe Ryan and veteran Sonny Gray, it’s been a crapshoot, and whether by design or misfortune, they’re not pitching deep into games. The bullpen’s 405⅓ innings through Sunday’s games ranked sixth in all of baseball.

Right-hander Chris Archer has managed to start 17 games — second only to Dylan Bundy’s 18 — while averaging slightly better than four innings a start. Archer is rehabbing from injuries that limited him to only 19⅓ innings from 2020-21, so he sees progress. But his starts aren’t weighted for difficulty, and it’s August. He’s 2-5 with a 4.04 earned-run average.

The Twins don’t need help to snap an 18-game postseason losing streak; they need help to win the Central. But what can the brass do but tweak a team that is losing steam? Their big decisions were made mostly between the lockout ending March 10 and the season starting April 7, and their attractive prospects are all hurt.

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Parting with Carlos Correa doesn’t help this team, nor does trading, say, Jorge Polanco to make room in the infield for major league batting leader Luis Arraez because, yeah, maybe you could get a real pitcher for Polanco, but he leads the team with 49 runs batted in.

So, yeah, it’s quiet. Too quiet. But this ain’t the movies.

While Baldelli addressed the opportunity in front of the Twins before Monday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers, he added a caveat.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have the pieces internally, either at the major-league level or at the minor-league level, that can help us,” he said. “So, we have those things, too.”

The smart money is on crickets.

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