MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have accelerated the dismantling of one of this season’s most disappointing teams, entering the final hours before Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline.
The Twins traded relief pitcher Zach Duke to the Seattle Mariners and starting pitcher Lance Lynn to the New York Yankees on Monday before their game against Cleveland, three days after dealing popular infielder Eduardo Escobar to Arizona and relief pitcher Ryan Pressly to Houston.
Though the Twins entered the night nine games behind the Indians in the AL Central, the players were dealt another discouraging hand by a front office that has shifted focus to 2019 and beyond. In the clubhouse, competitiveness and pride are often stronger than whatever the reality of the standings.
“You set out to accomplish something in spring training and you’re not going to be able to do that with them, and I think that hurts the most,” said second baseman Brian Dozier, whose own status remained tenuous with the deadline looming on Tuesday afternoon.
The Twins acquired first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin and right-handed pitcher Luis Rijo for Lynn and $2 million toward the remainder of the right-hander’s $12 million salary. The Twins sent $75,000 with Duke to the Mariners toward the rest of his $2.15 million salary, with right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong and infielder Ryan Costello coming in return.
Add that all up, and the Twins have received a total of nine prospects from the Diamondbacks, Astros, Mariners and Yankees. Of the four players they dealt, three will be free agents in the fall. Pressly is one year away from free agency, but he’s only signed through this year.
“The circumstances around you change, but you take it upon yourself. That’s how you find out a little bit about character about people, how they respond,” manager Paul Molitor said.
The 26-year-old Austin is the most advanced of the arriving players. He joined Aaron Judge on Aug. 13, 2016, as the first teammates to hit a home run in their first major league at-bats in the same game. Austin never became a regular with the Yankees, though, despite plenty of opportunity at first base. He hit .223 with eight homers, 23 RBIs and 53 strikeouts in 121 at-bats for New York this year and batted .247 with five homers, 11 RBIs and 32 strikeouts in 97 at-bats with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The left-handed Duke had a 3.62 ERA with 15 walks and 39 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings and no home runs allowed. Lynn went 7-8 with a 5.10 ERA in 20 starts, with 62 walks and 100 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings. Both pitchers sounded relatively upbeat about the upgrade in the standings, with the Mariners and Yankees currently on track for the two AL wild-card spots.
“It’s a very good vibe in this clubhouse, regardless of what the record says,” Duke said. “The guys have such a great attitude every day. They get along so well. I will miss that. But, from what I’ve been told, it’s a similar atmosphere there in Seattle. So hopefully I can step in and not mess that up.”
Lynn didn’t sign until mid-March and struggled through April, before showing some improvement as the weather heated up. He’s likely to be a long reliever with the Yankees, with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and the newly acquired J.A. Happ already in place.
“I wish I could have done better. Got off to a late start, but I really enjoyed everybody here. They were great to me,” Lynn said, adding: “I wish them all the best, and I hope they keep growing like they’re doing because they’ve got a lot of young guys who have a lot of talent. They’ve got a bright future ahead of them.”
— On Monday night, Mitch Garver hit a walk-off double to lift the Twins to a 5-4 win over the first-place Cleveland Indians. Miguel Sano hd two hits in his return to the lineup.