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View from the other side: Twins questions for Jesse Lund of Twinkie Town

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I'm slow with the 'View from the Other Side' this week, in part because I forgot about the early game on the holiday Monday.But better late than never, here are some questions and answers with Jesse Lund of Twinkie Town, SB Nations Minnesota Twins site.

I answered some questions for Jesse here.

The Twins made just one deadline move, I'll ask about Jepsen next, but are Twins fans unhappy with the lack of action or are they taking more of a long view, figuring your time is coming? Last year, the Jays didn't make any big moves at the deadline and fans (and players) were very unhappy, any complaints coming from the players?

I think there's frustration. Some folks are taking the long view but are still disappointed, because hey - look at what it cost the Cardinals to pick up Steve Cishek or the Mets to get Tyler Clippard. Kevin Jepsen is a fine middle reliever, but for a bullpen that's been a dumpster fire for weeks (outside of Glen Perkins) it's hard to understand how the front office could come away without a legitimate set-up man. There were endless rumors connecting the Twins to Joaquin Benoit, but even beyond him the club was linked to no fewer than half a dozen other bullpen options that didn't get traded. There are less patient members of the fanbase too - the types who really wanted to gun for David Price or Troy Tulowitzki - but I think most people realized that 2015 wasn't the time to go all-in.

There was some pressure from the players to get something done. One of our beat writers had a post-game story filed last week that included references to some impatience on their part as well, and it sounded like the players' preference was for Benoit as well. But the club came away with Jepsen for two pitching prospects whose numbers are, apparently, ahead of their "stuff" - but their numbers are pretty good. Chih-Wei Hu was our #18 prospect heading into the season, and Alexis Tapia was having a good year, too.

Where does Jepsen slot into your bullpen? Is he a big upgrade?

Jepsen is a perfect candidate to take middle relief innings away from Blaine Boyer, who's been getting steadily worse, but Minnesota's bullpen is so bad that it's not Boyer whose innings are being compromised. Right now I think Paul Molitor is trying to see if Trevor May can slot in at the eighth inning guy for the rest of this year (which is something else I don't get, but hey, trying to take the long view here), and so I think they'll try to see how Jepsen can do with seventh inning duties. The seventh and eighth are where he's spent most of his time throughout his career, so he's comfortable in a set-up role.

Joe Mauer isn't having the best of seasons. Is there a problem or is it just age? Are the Twins going to have to find a way to replace him at first base? I guess that would be tough with 3 years and $69 million left on his contract? Where does he fit on the list of all-time great Twins? Top 5? Top 10?

I think most of his issues are stemming from what's now been two or three concussions (that we're aware of), and that last one - which ended his 2013 season - looks to have left its mark. He hit .324/.404/.476 that season, which was more or less his career triple slash at the time, but ever since we've seen a different player. Shifting to first base was a necessity to mitigate the risk of another concussion, as catchers have (by orders of magnitude) more concussions than any other position on the field. Maybe time helps him recover a bit more and we can see more than flashes of his former self, but right now he's obviously nowhere near the hitter he used to be. For the time being, though, he's not going anywhere.

His place in Twins history belongs in the Top 5, no doubt. He's the best catcher in the history of the organization and one of the best-hitting catchers of all-time. Three batting titles, an MVP, six All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, and great in the community - it's hard to find fault with his career, unless you're someone who finds fault in his lack of fire showing on the field. bWAR ranks him fourth all-time (47.0 wins above replacement), fWAR ranks him fifth (44.9), but for lovers of more traditional metrics he's third in career batting average (.315), first in on-base percentage (.396), third in OPS (.849), fifth in doubles (329), fourth in walks (714), fourth in singles (1,175), and third in intentional walks (125).

What's terrible though is that a small but vocal portion of the fanbase doesn't appreciate what a great player he's been for the organization. Apparently it's Joe Mauer's fault that the club didn't win a World Series or something.

Who's the Twins MVP to this point of the season?

Brian Dozier. If the club had better hitters he'd be in the middle of the order, but he's done a good job leading off by trading the more ideal traits of getting on base for unconventional power from a leadoff man and second baseman. He's a good all-around player and is having a great year at the dish with a big time flair for the dramatic big hit.
Jess
What do you think of the Twins chances to make the wild card? Are Twins fans optimistic? Or are you just enjoying the ride?

I think we enjoyed the ride through the All-Star break. After that Minnesota had three games with Oakland, the Angels, the Yankees, and then two with the Pirates. That was the test to see how the club might look down the stretch...and the Twins went 3-8. And then it was the trade deadline and instead of really finding ways to bolster the roster without mortgaging the future, the front office added a mediocre middle reliever with command issues.

But I think they still have a chance. We need to do well against you guys this week obviously, but failing that need to A) throw relievers at the wall to see what sticks and who can help put the fire out, and B) score more than three runs a game consistently. That hasn't happened since the break. The starting pitching continues to be surprisingly reliable and has kept the club in games, but the other two aforementioned areas of the team have been letting the side down. Optimism is waning, but it's still fun to see all these young players holding their own and making a name for themselves.

Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays will see?

You saw Ervin Santana last night. He's done a solid job for the Twins, which is great, but because of his suspension he's ineligible to pitch in the post-season. That dampens any enthusiasm that builds in his favor.

Otherwise you have Phil Hughes today. He's been better of late, but with the way Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have hit him historically I'm not sure if his hot streak will continue. He's posted a 3.06 ERA over his last eight starts and has held opponents to a .267 batting average and .277 on-base percentage, but he's had consistent trouble elevating his fastball. So hitters are able to catch up to it and smash it. In that same period his slugging percentage against is .467. Yeah - a .200 ISO mark for opposing hitters. Yikes.

On Wednesday you'll see the Major League debut of right-hander Tyler Duffey. He tends to be a fly ball pitcher but has a cutter he can use to get grounders, and compliments it with a solid mid-90s fastball and a plus curve that acts as his out pitch. The changeup was a work in progress last I checked, so we'll see how often he throws it for pitching coach Neil Allen, who preaches its use in pitch sequencing. He posted a 2.66 ERA between Double and Triple-A this year in 21 starts with good strikeout rates and command.

Finally, on Thursday it'll be Kyle Gibson. He's been Minnesota's most consistent starter this year, and since the weather has improved he's been getting more swinging strikes which really helps his game. At his best he can use the breaking ball and the changeup to get strikeouts, and if that's working his fastball combination looks pretty good, too. It's great to see him really come into his own a bit, and I think Twins fans are excited seeing a few extra strikeouts these last few weeks since that's something that had been missing from his repertoire since coming back from Tommy John surgery last year.

Thanks Jesse.

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