Minnesota Twins and Bill Smith
So, I read an article on-line recently giving a review of the 11 biggest moves made by Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. Obviously the impetus for the article was the Red Sox epic collapse in September which led to Boston missing the playoffs. The article concluded with the proposition that, despite all of the accolades that have been bestowed upon Theo, he really has not done a great job as general manager (I think the conclusion was that only 2 of the 11 moves qualified as “successes”).
Well, the article got me thinking about my hometown Twins and, more specifically, about the absolute disaster that was the 2011 season. It also got me thinking about how the Twins ended up losing nearly 100 games in a season that followed one in which the team won nearly 100 games. The more I thought about it, I thought that it might be reasonable to conclude that the results (of lack thereof) actually started long before this season and, more specifically, with some of the moves that have been made (and not made) by the Twins general manager, Bill Smith.
As I reviewed Smith’s transactions in the four seasons since be assumed the general manager post, two things became clear to me. First, Smith’s moves have been less than stellar (ok, as a Minnesota homer, I am trying to be somewhat judicious with my comments – the moves were terrible). Second, the Twins demise in the 2011 season actually began at least a few seasons before that (and there is a significant risk that it will continue into the foreseeable future). Take a look at the following information and see if you agree.
November 28, 2007 – Traded Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Received Brendan Harris, Jason Pridie and Delmon Young.
Absolutely hated the deal from almost the moment it was made. Bartlett was a good young shortstop, which has been an annual sore spot for Twins fans since Greg Gagne retired. Had a couple of good seasons with the Rays and went to one World Series.
Garza was a potential top-of-the-rotation starter who blew gas. Was an ALCS MVP for the Rays and has been generally ok (but up-and-down) for the Rays and Cubs. Still would look good as a Number 3 or Number 4 in the Twins rotations.
When the Twins got him, Young was a brooding, petulant cry-baby who had been suspended in the minor leagues for throwing a bat at an umpire. Tremendous upside potential, but highly unlikely to ever reach that potential. Had one good half-season with the Twins in 2010. Otherwise, ridiculously maddening on and off the field.
Intentionally omitting any reference to or analysis of Harris and Pridie. Enough said.
Grade = D+
December 13, 2007 – Signed Adam Everett as a free agent.
Who? Thank god this experiment lasted only one season.
Grade = D-
December 14, 2007 – Signed Mike Lamb as a free agent.
I’m sorry, who? Thank god this experiment lasted only one-half of a season.
Grade = F
February 2, 2008 – Traded Johan Santana to the New York Mets. Received Deolis Guerra (minors), Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.
This trade has been analyzed to death. It was, without question, an unmitigated disaster. Although Santana has been average (at best) and very injury-prone with the Mets, at the time the trade was made, he was the best pitcher in major league baseball. To receive in return two re-tread pitchers (one or both of whom had already had Tommy John surgery) and two prospects in the mold of Delmon Young (tremendous upside potential, but unlikely to ever realize it) was just a joke. What makes this trade even more maddening is to compare how bad it was when made (and what it has now turned out to be) to how good the other reported possible deals were (namely, Ian Kennedy, Philip Humber and Melky Cabrera from the Yankees or John Lester, Jed Lowrie and others from the Red Sox). Even if we had gotten one or two of the other players from the Yankees or Red Sox in exchange for Santana, this trade goes from an unmitigated disaster to almost palatable.
Grade = F (unless there is some school out there that offers grades below F)
February 12, 2008 – Signed Livan Hernandez as a free agent.
All things considered, not a terrible signing. Pitched ok for a couple of months and then was dealt at the trade deadline to Colorado.
Grade = C
August 25, 2008 – Traded Mark Hamburger to the Texas Rangers. Received Eddie Guardado.
Guardado did practically nothing after the trade and was released immediately after season. Hamburger, a Minnesota native, worked through the minor leagues and made his major league debut this season for the World Series-bound Rangers. Looks like he could be a stalwart in the Rangers bullpen in the near future. Would look pretty good in the Twins bullpen, wouldn’t he?
Grade = C-
December 11, 2008 – Resigned Nick Punto.
Important signing. Have always been a Punto fan. Sure, it is irritating that the guy apparently has glass hamstrings and gets hurt every month, but was also a guy who could be depended upon to pick it at any position in the infield and have tough at-bats. Clearly a locker room leader. Appears to have taken on the same role with the World Series-bound St. Louis Cardinals.
Grade = B
February 21, 2009 – Signed Joe Crede as a free agent.
Initially liked the signing. Hit a bunch of homers (and not much else) through the first month of the season. Then predictably got hurt and never really recovered.
Grade = C-
July 19, 2009 – Signed Mark Grudzielanek as a free agent.
Had not been good since he was a Montreal Expo, was released less than a month later. Not much more to say.
Grade = F
August 7, 2009 – Traded a player to be named later to the Cleveland Indians. Received Carl Pavano.
Pavano was nails for the stretch run in 2009. Was only Twins starter who looked like he belonged on the field with the Yankees in 2009 ALCS. After being re-signed in offseason, was also workhorse of staff in 2010. Provided stability at top of the rotation. Would be even better if the Twins ever got a legitimate Number 1 and Number 2 starter.
Grade = A-
August 28, 2009 – Traded a player to be named later to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Jon Rauch. The Minnesota Twins sent Kevin Mulvey (September 1, 2009) to the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete the trade.
Not a bad trade at all. Rauch was a good 7th or 8th inning reliever in 2009. Stabilized closer role in first half of 2010 when Joe Nathan went down.
Perhaps more importantly, trade got rid of Kevin Mulvey, bringing Twins one step closer to erasing all memories of Johan Santana trade.
November 6, 2009 – Traded Carlos Gomez to the Milwaukee Brewers. Received J.J. Hardy.
The good part was ridding the team of one of its most maddening players (leaving just one – Delmon Young) and the last reminder of the Johan Santana trade.
The bad part was getting a very talented, but very injury-prone player in Hardy. Was clearly affected by injuries in 2010 and played was just (or slightly-below) average. Still, should have been re-signed in the offseason.
Grade = C-
December 7, 2009 – Signed Carl Pavano as a free agent.
Great move. See above.
Grade = A-
January 26, 2010 – Signed Jim Thome as a free agent.
Absolutely love it. Signed to be occasional DH and left-handed pinch hitter, pressed into more regular duties because of Morneau injury and produced at ridiculously-high level. Also great clubhouse presence. Plus, Thome’s Paul Bunyan commercial was one of the best ever.
Grade = A+
March 21, 2010 – Twins sign Joe Mauer to 8-year, $184 million extension
Twins were certain between a rock and a hard place. Hometown hero, three-time batting champ and reigning American League MVP was one year away from free agency and in the same season as the Twins open the best field in baseball, Target Field. Public would have gone berserk if Mauer was traded or allowed to leave via free agency. But committing $23 million per season to catcher who plays (at most) 140 games per year was probably not the best use of resources. If this past season is any indication of what the future holds, this signing will go down as one of the worst ever in the history of baseball. Right now, I would be hard pressed to refuse a swap of Alex Rodriguez’s contract for Mauer’s contract – which says something. To be determined.
Grade = Inc.
April 6, 2010 – Signed Jason Repko as a free agent.
Given the glut of outfielders on the roster, a non-impact move. Provided some defensive highlights in 2010, but not much offensively. Does have perhaps the biggest hitch in his swing of any major leaguer – sometimes funny to watch.
Grade = D
July 29, 2010 – Traded Joe Testa (minors) and Wilson Ramos to the Washington Nationals. Received Matt Capps and cash.
Unless the cash received from the Nationals it was about $30 million (nope, it wasn’t), trade was a disaster. Capps was above average for the last two months of 2010. Was absolute toilet in 2011 after Twins re-signed him for about $7 million. Couldn’t even be trusted in blow-out situations.
Twins sorely needed Ramos to catch this seasons when Joe Mauer came down with a nearly-terminal case of vaginitis. Now that conventional wisdom is that Mauer’s days as a catcher are numbered, Ramos had the potential to be the Twins backstop for 6-8 years.
Grade = D-
August 27, 2010 – Traded a player to be named later to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Received Brian Fuentes.
Not a bad trade-deadline deal. Was very good out of the pen for one month. Probably could have used him in the bullpen in 2011.
Grade = B
November 1, 2010 – Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, Nick Punto, Jon Rauch granted Free Agency.
Needed every one of these guys this year. Should have tried to keep at least a couple of them. Didn’t keep any of them. We sucked.
Grade = F
December 9, 2010 – Traded J.J. Hardy, Brendan Harris and cash to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Brett Jacobson (minors) and Jim Hoey.
Horrible trade. Was horrible when made. Got progressively horribler each time Hoey couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn or got his tits lit. Oh, and by the way, Hardy hit 30 bombs and committed only 6 errors for the Orioles. The horriblist was that we had to endure Niskioka. Enough said.
Grade = F
December 16, 2010 – Purchased Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Chiba Lotte Marines.
Any way we got a money-back guarantee? One word – toilet. Would have a tough time hitting in the Park National League.
Grade = F
January 14, 2011 – Signed Jim Thome as a free agent.
Ridiculously good move. Very productive slugger who was about to pass 600 career homeruns. Great guy, great teammate, great hitter. No brainer. Actually shed a tear when he was traded. See below.
Grade = A
January 19, 2011 – Signed Carl Pavano as a free agent.
Very good signing. Needed a veteran to continue to stabilize the rotation. Pitched ok, but received terrible run support.
August 15, 2011 – Traded Delmon Young to the Detroit Tigers. Received a player to be named later and Cole Nelson (minors). The Detroit Tigers sent Lester Oliveros (August 16, 2011) to the Minnesota Twins to complete the trade.
Last vestige of the Bartlett/Garza trade now gone. On the bright side, got rid of a perpetual headache who didn’t seem interested in much of anything, including staying in shape and getting better as a baseball player. On the down side, didn’t get a hell of a lot in return for someone who dominated American League pitching just a season earlier.
Hopefully, the Minnesota kid (Cole Nelson) will ease the pain of the Twins jettisoning of Hamburger a couple of years ago. We’ll see.
Grade = D
August 25, 2011 – Traded Jim Thome to the Cleveland Indians. Received player to be named.
Hated it. Absolutely hated it. Loved having Thome on our team and not sure he will be coming back. Too bad.
Grade = F
Well, there you go. Take a look at these transactions and grades and see what you think. Again, just one man’s opinion.
Submitted by: The Pull-Tab King