For as long as I can remember, the Twins have been a small market team. Rare were blockbuster trades or multi-year signings for the Minnesota teams of the past few decades.

All of that changed this season. With a new stadium expected to bring a revenue increase, and an owner who isn’t afraid to spend some cash, the Twins had one of their most expensive offseasons in franchise history. By bringing in JJ Hardy, Orlando Hudson, and Clay Condrey, as well as extending Carl Pavano and Joe Mauer, the Twins gave a clear message to their fans: We’re no longer a small market.

The Twins haven’t yet been able to show off this “large market mentality” during the Hot Stove season. With July 31 growing closer every day, Minnesota has begun to assert themselves as a possible destination for several trade targets. Could Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, or Dan Haren be wearing a Twins’ uniform on August 1?

Most fans don’t seem to think so. The Twins have been a small market team for eons, and a philosophical change isn’t something that can be accepted overnight. Minnesota has relied upon home-grown talent and frugality for a long time, and trading for a three-month rental seems a little far-fetched.

In reality, though, the Twins have correctly identified themselves as a large market team. (Or, at the very least, no longer a small market team.) The revenue is pouring in, and Minnesota is no longer burdened with financial handcuffs. If the Twins need to take on additional salary to fund a late-season playoff push, they will do so.

But in order to get Lee, Oswalt, or Haren, the Twins will need to be willing to part with something that could be worth more than just money: players.

This is where most fans get off the train. They, myself included, are much more willing to spend Minnesota’s money than they are to trade away players. It’s hard to blame us; trading away future value for a smaller amount of current value is never an easy thing to do. If the Twins wish to win their first World Series since ’91, though, they may be forced to make a few trades that appear lopsided.

For the sake of discussion, let’s say the Twins just traded Nick Blackburn, Wilson Ramos, and Bobby Lanigan for Cliff Lee. Most likely, the futures of Blackburn, Ramos, and Lanigan will hold much more value than three months of Lee (and the two compensatory prospects received). By looking solely at the numbers, that trade doesn’t make much sense. If Minnesota were to advance to the World Series, though, the loss of value would hardly be an issue.

For the Twins, the value of an added win is extremely high. The AL Central title will most probably come to the winner of a late-season dogfight, and Minnesota would gladly pay top-dollar for one additional victory. (Much more than, say, the Houston Astros would pay to improve their win total from 69 to 70.)

As Seth Stohs mentions in his blog entry this morning, the Twins need to walk the fine line between winning in 2010 and not crippling the team’s ability to compete in the future. Trading away two top prospects would hardly be a crippling blow to the Twins’ organization, though, and the few extra wins that a player like Lee would bring would be well worth the cost.

Now, for some trade predictions, in order of preference:

Minnesota gets: Dan Haren, SP
Arizona gets: Anthony Swarzak, SP, Jeff Manship, SP, and BJ Hermsen, SP

Minnesota gets: Cliff Lee, SP
Seattle gets: Nick Blackburn, SP, Wilson Ramos, C, and Bobby Lanigan, SP

Minnesota gets : Roy Oswalt, SP
Houston gets: Wilson Ramos, C, Anthony Swarzak, SP, Adrian Salcedo, SP

What do you think? Will the Twins make a trade before July 31, 2010?

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