Wasting History. That is precisely what has been so maddening about this team: three players (Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel) are putting up historic (for the Twins) numbers and the front office is completely pissing it away. Indeed, if it were not for the heroics of those three the Twins would be battling the Indians and the Royals for last place. The problem with this team is, and has been all season long, that the supporting cast just isn't good enough. It's not that the Twins need a roster full of superstars to make a deep playoff run. The supporting cast simply needs to be replacement-level, and they're not. They're not even close. I've already discussed the giant blackhole of suck that is the 6-9 hitters in the lineup and little has changed since then, so there's no need to go on about it here. It's been obvious since the end of last season that the Twins need to upgrade the middle infield and the bullpen (and maybe the starting rotation, too), and yet the front office failed to bring in even average players. Their reluctance to give up the farm for someone like Freddy Sanchez is understandable, but solid players like Felipe Lopez and reliever Cla Meredith were available and could have been had for a song. I do criticize the front office a lot, but I also like to think that they are smart people who have the organization's best interests at heart. I realize that it isn't easy to make a trade, especially when the upper levels of your farm system don't have much depth. But when decent players are being acquired for marginal prospects, it erodes the credibility of the front office and makes it difficult to swallow the "Other teams are asking too much" line.
As for the pitching staff, both the starters and relievers have been a disappointment this season. I've defended the starters in the past, and it's true that none of them are anything spectacular, but they shouldn't be quite this bad, either. They are essentially control artists: they don't strike out many batters, don't issue many walks, and pitch to contact. They rely heavily on the defense behind them, and that defense has been letting them down. The Twins are posting a -4.4 UZR/150 this season, or about fifth-worst in all of baseball. The middle infield has been particularly inept, with nearly everything hit to the likes of Alexi Casilla (-21.1), Matt Tolbert (-11.5), Brendan Harris (-19.4), and Nick Punto (-2.8) bounding into the outfield for a hit. Obviously, shoddy defense isn't the sole cause of the pitching woes this season, and there are a number of good defensive teams that aren't even above .500 (the Reds and Pirates come to mind), but I doubt very much that the Twins would have blown a 10-run lead against Oakland if their defense was even adequate. One has to wonder why, when putting together a staff full of pitchers whose success depends so much on the defense behind them, the front office saw fit to put together one of the worst defensive teams in baseball.
The Twins still apparently consider themselves buyers at the deadline, and some of the players they have reportedly expressed interest in are um, interesting. For obvious reasons, I don't think it's a good idea for the Twins to pursue contact pitchers like Jarrod Washburn and Jon Garland. I'm not high on Orlando Cabrera either, but if the Twins could get Michael Wuertz as part of the deal, it might be worth it. Cabrera is 34 years old and seems to be on the decline both offensively and defensively, but he tends to have a strong second half and would provide at least some upgrade over the current options at short. Wuertz, however, is exactly the sort of reliever the bullpen needs: a solid middle reliever who can rack up strikeouts without giving up a lot of hits or home runs. As much as I would love the Twins to pursue Sanchez and Heath Bell, both are likely to cost more in prospects than the front office will be willing to sacrifice. At any rate, this whole mess just makes the Delmon Young trade look even worse. The Twins are now going to have to spend a lot in resources to get back what they lost in Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza, and are stuck with a below replacement-level corner outfielder who may or may not ever reach his potential.