With the trade deadline looming over the next month-and-a-half of baseball, it’s about time for teams to get serious trade fever.

The Minnesota Twins have a few trade chips and are definitely in need. Surely, the front office will address a few issues before we see the end of July.

Let’s start talking about what the Twinkies could use.

Third Base: Third basemen in Minnesota are hitting a combined .211 through this point in the season. Kind of reminds me of a black hole. Little Nicky Punto has proven to have stellar defense, but he still can’t hit. Danny Valencia has added a little (I stress, little) pop to the hot corner as well as some nice defensive plays, but I can’t imagine him having an everyday spot until at least this time next year. 

Who Makes Sense:   Kevin Kouzmanoff is hitting .294 with six dingers and 35 RBI for the Athletics so far this year. He may be the best bet for the Twins, but its unclear how much they would want for him. Kouzmanoff would add a nice bat to the bottom half of the order, and make some nice plays on defense. He could also provide the first concrete third baseman for the Twins since…Corey Koskie?

Who Doesn’t: Mike Lowell. It’s as simple as that. Lowell is hitting around .220, barely above the Punto line. With Punto’s incredible defense, it makes absolutely no sense for the Twins to give up a prospect for the old and decrepit Lowell. Don’t get me wrong, for Lowell’s bat will probably pick up later in the season, but he’s still a health risk and rental player at best. 

Starting Pitching: The Twins have a very good staff, as they always do, but it’s not great . Liriano has shown shades of brilliance and looks to be the club’s only candidate for bona fide ace. The Twins have a pretty little trade chip in Wilson Ramos, so it will be interesting to see if he goes in a package for a pitcher.

Who Makes Sense: Cliff Lee does. I know you think I’m crazy, but he might be a great rental for only a couple prospects. I would think a starter like Pavano and a prospect like Ramos could help land Lee in Minnesota for the rest of 2010. But here’s why it really makes sense: After the season, the Twins could shop Lee for some top draft picks and continue to bolster their unparalleled farm system. Cliff Lee would give the Twins a great veteran southpaw to take the number one spot (and maybe a little pressure) off young Francisco Liriano. 

Who Doesn’t: Roy Oswalt is a phenomenal pitcher, but he has a steep $27 million price tag at the moment. There aren’t a lot of teams without the name “Yankees” or “Red Sox” that would be willing or able to absorb such a sum. 

So the Twins are sitting about where they were in the offseason: Barring Orlando Hudson, they have no third baseman or staff ace. They definitely have the trade pieces to get there, so it will be very interesting to see who they start calling up. 

Positions that were once in question seem to be doing just fine now. Delmon Young has exploded recently, upping his average to .295 and nearing the team lead in RBI. With a continued surge like this, it certainly wouldn’t be too much to ask to see him in the All-Star game. (Too bad he’s not from New York.) JJ Hardy and Hudson should return to health soon and give a significant boost to both offense and defense. 

I think a veteran starting pitcher like Lee or Dan Haren (who the Twins have already shown interest in) and a Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base would put the Twins over the top, and well on their way to a successful playoff run in 2010. 

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