I mentioned a week ago that the Twins would be sniffing around Padres camp in heat for a closer…Heath Bell. Now it’s official, and with the rumors flying hot and heavy about the Twins growing interest in last year’s N.L. saves leader, to replace Joe Nathan who just announced the need for season ending elbow surgery, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the prospects that the Twins may have to offer.
Minnesota has had a longstanding reputation for being able to draft and develop major league talent. While their system may not currently have multiple blue chip prospects ready to break in to the big leagues, they do have a deep cache of B+ type talent throughout he system at all levels. Here are a few names that may get thrown around in any trade discussions.
- Aaron Hicks: Ranked the #1 prospect in the Twins system, the 20-year old outfielder out of California H.S. is generally recognized as their top talent, and a player who could be superstar in the near future. He is already a gifted defensive fielder with good speed, and a gun of an arm (can pitch in the mid 90’s), and projects to have great power at the plate as he matures. The Twins long history of NOT trading talent like this makes me think that if Hicks is the piece the Padres have to have, the Twins will be shopping elsewhere.
- Wilson Ramos: The 23 year old, Venezuelan catcher is ranked anywhere from #2-#6 on various organizational prospect depth charts. Most agree that he is defensively solid, and threw out 40% of runners last year. The debate is about his projection at the plate. He hit .317 last year in AA, with only 7 HR’s, doesn’t seem to walk much, but significantly reduced his strikeouts last year. Given that the Padres are not deep in the organization behind the plate, and catcher Joe Mauer just signed an 8-year extension, Ramos could be a point of common ground for a possible deal.
- Ben Revere: Another top outfield prospect that seems to fit what the new Padre leadership is looking for to match Petco – speed! Ranked anywhere from #2-#5 on their prospect depth chart, there is no question the 21 year old centerfielder has speed, with 91 stolen bases during his first two full seasons of pro ball. He also knows how to get on base with a .396 OBP since signing as the 28th overall pick in 2007, but at 5’9” 166lbs. power is not part of the equation. For the same reason Hicks will probably not be part of the discussions, Revere may be on the Twins “do not touch” list. However, with overall depth at the position with both young established major leaguers and prospects in the minors with more power upside than Revere, if the Twins reach a point where they fear their playoff caliber team is going under, they could break from their traditionally stingy ways with their young talent and send him West.
Other names that may be offered by the Twins include Angel Morales (19 year old outfielder with great tools playing in A), Brian Duensing (LHP with MLB time last year), Jeff Manship (RHP with 5 starts for Twins last year), as well as other low A prospects and MLB spare parts. I doubt any of these options will be enough for the Padres to Part with Bell.
The courtship has started, but neither side needs to get something done right away. Minnesota will probably try to see if they have an internal candidate such as Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, Matt Gurrier, or Pat Neshek, with Rauch the frontrunner. As for the Padres, Bell doesn’t break the bank, he should still have multiple interested suitors as the season moves forward, and he will close out victories for a young team that needs to be rewarded and taste victory for games during which they’ve outplayed their opponent for 8 innings.
As far as I’m concerned, the Padres right now are in the driver’s seat on this one. They have no need to immediately move Bell, and assuming he continues to perform they should have multiple needy trade partners to swap him to if necessary, as the season moves forward. Minnesota will probably try to buy time, as well as create some leverage by allowing an internal candidate to step up. However, if no one does so early and convincingly, I doubt they will waste much time allowing that hole in the bow to sink their ship, and they’ll be forced to part with more than that would normally like to in order to salvage any chance of reaching their anticipated postseason destination.