|Trades No Longer Favoring the Twins||| Print ||
Written by Joshua Kay (Contact & Archive) on May 04, 2012
I hadn't really been thinking about the Twins much until asked to do a column on them. I just accepted that this is who they are now. But I looked at the Twins farm system and wondered where this organization went.
After winning seven division titles in the last 10 years, the Minnesota Twins have been obviously one of the best organizations in baseball during that time period. They have also been a team that even before that has always been extremely competitive.
Photo by Eric Kilby, used under creative commons license.
I decided to look a bit deeper, and I came up with this thesis: The Twins have always been a fairly solid drafting team, but due to payroll constraints they have always had to complement their home-grown talent with players that they ripped away from teams in well executed trades. The problem is that they changed the complexion of the organization when they handed out that huge contract to Mauer. Combine that with a few less than stellar trades, injuries to their best players and the ineffectiveness of a few others and 2011 is the result.
When you look back at the success the Twins have had under the Ron Gardenhire era, one of the first things that you look for is roster construction. Now I'm not a scout so this may be a tad off base, but in my opinion, looking at who they've drafted, the Twins have done a fairly above average job of drafting from 2000 to 2006.
But unlike the Yankees or Red Sox, the Twins have never had the payroll to be able to go out and sign big name free agents to gargantuan contracts or even to pick-up upper-tier players via trade. They have, however, been incredible at stealing players in trades; these players were valuable contributors to the Twins success throughout the early-middle part of the 2000s.
Let's start in 1999, when the Twins pulled off one of the biggest steals of the time period: the Marlins traded Johan Santana and cash to the Twins for Jared Camp. Camp ended up being a failed prospect who never posted a 3.0 K/BB above High A ball. In fact, his best season was in 1999 for the Kingston Indians in A+ ball where in 54 innings with a 1.98 ERA and a 9.7 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9. He would struggle with his control the rest of his minor league career. Something tells me the Marlins could've used Santana in the early 2000s. Imagine that rotation with Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett and Santana in the prime of their careers.
The other blockbuster rip-off in favor of the Twins is perhaps one of the worst trades of all time, considering how long the Giants had the player they traded for -- Twins send A.J. Pierzynski and cash to the San Francisco Giants for Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. Pierzynski played with the Giants for one season, while Nathan went on to be one of the best closers in all of baseball, Liriano still has a chance to be outstanding and Bonser played an integral role in Minnesota's no-flash, no-thrills supporting cast around their drafted stars.
A few other pretty good trades were: Erik Milton to the Phillies for Carlos Silva and Nick Punto; Brian Buchanan to the Padres for Jason Bartlett; J.C. Romero to the Angels for Alexi Casilla; Mark Hamburger to the Rangers for Eddie Guardado; and Bobby Kielty to the Blue Jays for Shannon Stewart and Darren Grassner. So, the conclusion here is that the success of the Twins was in large part to their ability to make great trades to complement their home-grown talent.
The Twins have gotten away from that in recent years. The return on Santana was very poor, and they got ripped off by the Rays in the Delmon Young trade, only receiving marginal prospect Cole Nelson, who is still 22 years old but hasn't gotten past Class A yet.
Still, the Twins have continued drafting well, getting a huge haul in 2006 that included Danny Valencia, Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and could've included J.D. Martinez, who they got in the 36th round but didn't sign. You may recall he is currently performing very well for the Astros right now. Other notable prospects they drafted but failed to sign are: Adam Lind in 2003 (eighth round), and Yonder Alonso in 2005 (16th round).
So given the still fairly recent success of the Twins drafts, they still are a good franchise, but given the fact that they have traded poorly in recent memory, coupled with the restrictions on payroll that the Mauer contract has caused, it might take the Twins a couple years to get back into being a force in the AL Central.