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Twins open to trading Denard Span, not Josh Willingham

Jun 29, 2012, 1:02 PM EDT

Josh Willingham Getty Images

The Twins lost 99 games last year. This year, they’re on pace to lose 96. Their minor league system boasts one potential star in Miguel Sano but is otherwise probably among the weakest in the game. Maybe cashing in the 33-year-old outfielder with a history of back problems wouldn’t be such a bad idea?

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Twins aren’t listening on Josh Willingham, though. They will consider moving Denard Span, who is five years younger but who could be replaced in center field by Ben Revere.

Given their place in the standings, the Twins really should be open to moving anyone. No one is going to make a big offer for Joe Mauer‘s huge contract, so he stays. However, everyone else — Justin Morneau included — should be able to be had.

Willingham has been outstanding with his .272/.384/.535 line and 49 RBI this year, and given that he’s just in the first year of a three-year, $21 million contract, it’s understandable that the Twins wouldn’t want to part with him. Still, his value probably won’t ever be higher, and it’s doubtful the Twins are going to win with him next year. By the time 2014 rolls around, Willingham will be 35 and probably won’t be the same player. If they can get two quality prospects for him now, they should pull the trigger.

Span is hitting .277/.341/.396 this season, which should give his trade value a modest boost. The Nationals have often been mentioned in connection with him, and a deal involving him and closer Drew Storen was discussed last year. The Twins still might be interested in such a trade once Storen returns from minor elbow surgery next month. The Marlins are another team that could pursue Span.

  1. Ben - Jun 29, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    Stupid. They should trade Willingham. The Twins are 3+ years from contention, perhaps more if Gleeman’s recent, hellaciously depressing piece on the Twins’ minor-league system is to be believed. http://aarongleeman.com/2012/06/27/down-on-the-farm-checking-in-on-the-twins-top-10-prospects/

    They need to totally and completely blow up this team and recognize the next years are wandering the wilderness. But that’s not the Twins’ way, so we’re just go to try to scrape 80 wins with scraps and hope that’s enough to win a weak division. And Willingham will anchor a meandering, directionless ship, instead of bringing back prospects with upside.

    (Sorry, bitter Twins fan–I really have come to dislike the front office.)

    • kopy - Jun 29, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      I’m also a bitter Twins fan, but you (should) know the Twins have a distinct history of wandering the wilderness – under Terry Ryan’s watch no less. The Twins wandered so hard they almost got contracted. I don’t know that I trust the front office, but I don’t think they’ll be afraid to build for the future. Although they probably feel a little compelled to “win now!” since they made promises to taxpayers about competing with the new stadium.

      • 7ransponder - Jun 29, 2012 at 4:26 PM

        “Although they probably feel a little compelled to “win now!” since they made promises to taxpayers about competing with the new stadium.”

        Which was of course the Pohlad snake oil sell all along. If they get worse to the point of not selling enough tickets to Target Field, then that gives them justification in further diminishing the payroll, which usually results in a worse team fielded, which results in less ticket sales which results in a smaller payroll, etc. etc. In the past that has been offset by a decent farm system, but Big Billy Smith made sure that won’t work again for a while either.

        It’s gonna be a long bumpy ride, bitter Twins fans.

      • Ben - Jun 29, 2012 at 4:59 PM

        Kopy, totally agree with your points.

        It seems to me there are three ways to successfully manage a franchise, and all of them depend on pragmatism and recognizing what exactly your role in the market is.

        1. The Yankees/Red Sox/Phillies model–if there’s a problem, throw money at it.
        2. Be the smartest guys in the room. The Rays/Rangers/formerly As model. Draft successfully, don’t sign expensive free agents, don’t pay for decline years. The Rangers don’t quite fit this model, because they do throw money around, but they primarily build through their organization.
        3. Win in cycles. This relates to #1 and #2. Unless you can constantly throw money around, or you’re the smartest guy in the room, you have 3-5 year windows to win, followed by fallow periods. The Royals will be an example of this, most likely. And this is how the Twins should operate, because they’re not #1 or #2.

        And then there’s a fourth way, which is sort of amble along, never quite rebuilding and never quite winning big, but occasionally winning a wild card or division, but never convincingly and never advancing. Which is probably the Ryan years. And yeah, that scares me. A lot. Which is why I think the Twins should just clean house and get themselves back on track for 2015 or 2016. Get themselves on track to fit the third model.

  2. Kevin S. - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    Not sure what’s more insane – the Twins not being willing to move Willingham or the Rockies not listening to offers on Cuddyer.

  3. randygnyc - Jun 29, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    The Yankees, if they can’t pry away Car-go, will have to look at Span to fill in as our left fielder. Gardner will probably not be coming back before the deadline. Span has speed and has decent fielding skills. Would be ok batting ninth.

  4. natslady - Jun 29, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    Seems strange to me. If Span is really past the concussion, why wouldn’t you keep him and trade the Hammer?

  5. yahmule - Jun 29, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    I understand the reasoning here. Willingham is about the only power hitter they’ve had who isn’t psyched out by Target Field.

  6. randygnyc - Jun 29, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    Ben- well said. But the empty stands now, will, I’m afraid, dictate what tomorrows payroll will be. I’m afraid diminished attendance will give ownership an opportunity to not only dismantle this organization, but to trade away it’s Holy Grail.

  7. natstowngreg - Jun 30, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    Wouldn’t put anything past Mike Rizzo but I suspect the window for a Span-Storen trade has closed. When Jayson Werth returns, they will have a Morse-Harper-Werth outfield. Span would be an obvious defensive improvement over Harper, who is learning to play CF in the Majors. But who would Rizzo move to open up CF for Span? Meanwhile, the Nats really need Storen to return because their RH relief corps isn’t as deep as expected.

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