The injuries the Twins have suffered early on in the 2011 season have destroyed essentially any chance of competitiveness that they had. Currently the team is playing without it's #2, 3, 5, and 6 hitters. Their cleanup hitter is batting below the Mendoza line with just one home run. As a whole the team is averaging just over three runs per game. It's a legitimate offensive nightmare scenario.
In the past when the Twins suffered injuries, it seemed as though the team could pull from an endless well of well prepared players from their Minor League system and they would adequately fill in for their counterpart. This year however the depth and breadth of the injuries have simply overwhelmed the system.
To some extent, those that argue the team's management has made the situation worse are right. The team foolishly traded away top prospect Wilson Ramos who is now a blossoming star for the Nationals for reliever Matt Capps. They brought in Dusty Hughes while inexplicably choosing to part with Rob Delaney. In the infield, they made a poorly considered decision to move J.J. Hardy for a pair of mediocre (at-best) relief arms. Even the decision to trade Jose Morales, an out of options player was probably poorly timed. While the team couldn't have predicted Joe Mauer's injury, they didn't have to trade Morales in January, they could've just as easily have waited until March.
These weren't well planned moves that went astray - they were widely panned as poor decisions immediately from a broad swath of the blogosphere. It's just bad baseball sense to trade a top prospect or a quality MLB middle infielder for relievers. They're too easy to acquire via trade, waivers, or from within your own system to go giving away quality position players. Worse still, the relievers the Twins acquired range from expensive and over-rated (Capps) to just flat out not very good.
At the same time, there is no team in baseball that could've suffered this many injuries to so many key players and have stayed afloat. Any team, and any Minor League system (short of perhaps the Royals) would've caved in under the intense pressure being applied from above. But the Twins front office certainly exacerbated the issue and they don't deserve a pass for that.
If you make enough bad decisions in a row, you eventually pay for that, and not even the Twins - renowned for overcoming injuries and pulling no-name players from the Minors - are immune.
Now the team finds itself backed up against a little known but frightening wall. Believe it or not, there is a limit in Major League baseball to how many players any one team can have on the 15-day disabled list at a time. That limit is five. After that point, the team needs to move someone to the 60-day disabled list.
The Twins at this point have used all but two players on their 40-man roster - AA players Chris Parmalee and Joe Benson. Delmon Young, Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jim Thome, and Jason Repko are all currently on the 15-day DL. Trevor Plouffe, who was called up to cover for the poor play of the other Twins middle infielders suffered a minor hamstring strain, but it may still force him to the DL.
Thankfully to say, Young is expected back by Friday, and Thome and Repko should follow shortly.In the meantime, the team is left with no legitimate course of action. Calling up Parmalee or Benson would only be done in a desperate situation despite the fact that both are playing well in AA.
The only realistic flexibility the team currently has would involve outrighting AAA catcher Steve Holm, or pitcher Eric Hacker to free up a 40-man spot - I'm assuming they aren't prepared to give up on Deolis Guerra just yet.
Outside of that the team is left with little choice but to wait. To hope that players get healthy sooner than later and that no one else gets hurt. Though at this point it surely feels to most Twins fans like more of an eventuality than reasonable hope.
In the meantime Twins manager Ron Gardenhire - who said of Plouffe's recent injury "the day to day stuff isn't helping me, I need a decision..." - will continue to run out a threadbare lineup filled with AAA players who, though talented, aren't realistically prepared for Major League competition yet. The reasons why this is happening though have as much to do with bad luck as bad management and it's something the Twins will need to consider this off season.