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Twins have a few guys to dangle as trade deadline approaches

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Before the 2012 baseball season is over the Minnesota Twins are going to part ways with some of the big names on their roster.

Every major league team goes into the season with big dreams, but by the time their 162-game seasons are over, the dreams receive a heavy dusting of reality.

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The major league non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, and the Minnesota Twins have plenty of motivation to make a deal or two. With one of the worst records in the majors, the Twins have to be interested in improving their club any way they can. As of last Sunday, the Twins were 36-49 and 11 games back in the American League Central, a fact that may give you an idea what their playoff chances are this year.

Francisco Liriano and Justin Morneau are two high-priced, big-name players who could be the kind of trade bait the Twins need. Given the size of their contracts, the teams that would be willing to add them would have to be big market ones.

Liriano has a no-hitter to his credit, but he is too erratic to win consistently. Here is a guy who can be throwing a no-hitter for five innings, strike out the side a couple times and then suddenly go to pieces if his rhythm is broken by a bloop single or a fielding mistake. The Atlanta Braves have expressed an interest in the big right-hander.

Morneau could be quite a catch for a club that is fighting for a pennant, and there are plenty of those right now. When contenders go shopping for talent during the season, they need the guys of experience. Morneau certainly rates high in this area. He was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 2006. He was a candidate for another MVP award in 2010 when he suffered a concussion in a game with Toronto. That Morneau had 18 home runs, 56 RBIs and a .345 batting average through 81 games. The one we have now has 11 homers, 38 RBIs and a .246 batting average at almost the same stage of the season. He has picked up his hitting lately, but he went nearly a month before hitting a home run July 6 - definitely not vintage Morneau hitting.

Some people expect the Twins to dangle Matt Capps, and that would not be a bad idea. Plenty of clubs would like to acquire a veteran stopper like Capps. He has 14 saves and is currently rehabbing his right shoulder. Maybe someone should ask what kind of pitches the Twins have been asking their right-handers to throw? Capps, Carl Pavano and P.J. Walters are all rehabbing. Scott Baker is out for the season.

Denard Span's name has also come up as trade bait. The Twins are deep in outfielders, so Span is considered expendable. This is a guy who might really help another club. He is fast, a terrific outfielder and he is swinging a pretty decent bat this season after a terrible 2011 season.

Span's best quality is his toughness. Watching a Twins game several years ago, I saw speedy outfielder Carlos Gomez, now with Milwaukee, run into the wall and then limp off the field. A short time later, I saw Span do almost the same thing. He was also hurt, but he got up and went back to his position.

It doesn't seem likely the Twins will offer Joe Mauer in a trade, but when you are talking big name players, he is at the top of the list. The Twins had a pretty fair hitter by the name of Rod Carew once upon a time, and they swapped him. Would they be willing to do the same with Mauer if the right offer came along?

If the Twins are going to rebuild, they have to do it like they mean it. The Twins were marching at the head of the parade just a couple of years ago in the AL Central, and a lot of the same players on still on the roster.

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Brian Hansel
(218) 631-2561
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