Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Magic 8-Ball Answers: The Tampa Bay Trade

OK, it's happened. And even if it wouldn't have, we could still talk about it. After all, this is the internet! If we're going to be lambasted by corporate media, we might as well have some fun with this stuff, right? And if we're going to be consulting our dubious sources we had better include Mattel's omniscient fortune teller. Enlighten us, oh dark one!

Q: Should I be excited about this trade?
A: Without a doubt.

And that's true whether you're a Twins fan or a Rays fan.

If you're a Twins fan, you came out with the best player in the trade, which isn't likely to happen again this offseason. Delmon Young is the kind of talent that can almost never be traded for - young, cheap and limitless. For instance, Young is more desirable than any player who has been mentioned in a possible deal for Johan Santana. You could make an argument that he is more desirable than any of the packages being offered. He's that good. If you can't get excited about getting Young, you probably also sleep in on Christmas morning.

Which doesn't mean this was a steal for the Twins. In fact, they probably come out a little behind on the deal in talent. On most GM's desirability scale, the players (including contracts, etc.,) probably rank like this:

1. Delmon Young
2. Matt Garza
3. Jason Bartlett
4. Eduardo Morlan
5. Branden Harris
6. Jason Pridie

I suspect I'll catch some grief for Harris' rank, but you need to recognize that prior to his performance this test he was viewed as Nick Punto without the glove. Over the last year, he looked considerably better that that, but so did Punto at this time last year.

What's more, the pieces the Rays receive fit their puzzle better than that Twins. This move give them the top-of-the-rotation starter they need, upgrades their shortstop both offensively and defensively, leverages their surplus of outfielders, and makes room for stud prospect Evan Longoria if Akinori Iwamura replaces Harris at second base. That franchise can sit on their hands for the next four months.

Q: Does this trade mean a trade for Johan Santana is more likely?
A: Cannot predict now.

Yesterday you heard both sides of the argument. One side would say if the Twins trade Garza, they couldn't afford to also trade Santana. Another side would say that the Twins traded Garza because interested teams were mostly offering pitchers.

But the bottom line is that this trade doesn't tie their hands either way. They currently still have a surplus of young pitching. Whether or not they trade Santana depends on what kind of offers they get for Santana, and nothing else.

However, they're sure going to be making some additional moves, because the pieces they received don't fit together too nicely. Delmon Young, despite playing 29 games in center field, is nothing more than insurance for the spot. He doesn't have the speed for the position. Branden Harris, despite playing 89 games at shortstop is thought of as a below average fielder at second base, let alone shortstop.

With this trade, the Twins essentially filled their DH position and opened up on in the infield. They still have plenty of work to do.

Q: Did the Twins blink at the last minute in this trade?
A: Signs point to yes.

Mid-afternoon yesterday this trade included Juan Rincon instead of Eduardo Morlan. But last night reports came out saying that the Rays had held up the deal due to concerns about Rincon's elbow and the deal was finalized shortly thereafter with Morlan in his place. Just yesterday Baseball Prospectus ranked Morlan as the fourth best prospect in the Twins system, and he'll likely play a role in the Rays bullpen in 2008. He could become dominant.

There may be some gnashing of teeth about this late change, and I'll agree that this is a slightly worse trade for the Twins. But it isn't a difference maker.

For starter, Rincon is better than you think. He finished fairly strong last year. Yes, his strikeout rate isn't what it used to be, but that's the case will all pitchers who have been in the league a few years. It's a reliable indicator for young pitchers coming into the majors. It isn't as effective judging veteran pitchers.

Also, even without Morlan, there is plenty of young talent to plug into the bullpen. The young starters that the Twins will have in AAA this year will still provide plenty of fuel for this year's bullpen, even without Morlan. And Rick Anderson and Ron Gardenhire have consistently shown that building a strong bullpen is something they can consistently do.
Finally, the $4 million that Rincon will cost next year isn't going to hurt the Twins offseason plans. The Twins still have $20 million to spend this offseason, and another $13.5 million if they move Santana. For a team that is allergic to long-term deals, that's an enormous amount of money.

Q: What do you think of Bill Smith so far?
A: Outlook good.

The man has some balls, that much is clear.

You never see a trade like this. Trading young talent for young talent is a challenge trade, virtually designed to get a guy fired. If Garza becomes a stud and Young tears up his knee, Smith is dead meat. Ditto if it goes the other way for Tampa Bay's executives.

And this is an aggressive move in other ways. By moving Garza, it's clear that Smith is more open to moving surplus talent at one position than Ryan was. He traded that asset which the organization has traditionally fawned over (starting pitching) and got back something that the organization needed (offense) even though it meant downgrading their defense. On this team, swimming upstream like that looks a lot like leadership.

And maybe more impressive is that we're again seeing a creative solution. By moving Bartlett, it looks like Smith recognizes surplus talent even when it isn't obvious to others. After all, for the last two years, Nick Punto has fielded like a shortstop and hit like a shortstop. Now he likely IS a shortstop, where he's not a liability. With him around, Bartlett became expendable, for the right player.

And Delmon Young looks an awful lot like the right player.

OK, that's it for tonight. I think I could write about 2000 more words tonight on this trade, but the 8-Ball is tired. Instead, I'll suggest that you head over to and check out the Twins Blogs and News feed in the lower left-hand corner. There will be lots of good stuff by people that deserve your attention. And I guarantee you'll get your fill of great info and Twins takes.


Kyle Eliason said...

Define mentioned... would you take Young over Kershaw?

Scott said...

My Baby tolerates me, so I told her about this trade. She said, "They got preddy and young? That's really good!"

Anonymous said...

After all, for the last two years, Nick Punto has fielded like a shortstop and hit like a shortstop.

Not to be contrary, TG, but Derek Jeter, Jose Reyes, and Miguel Tejada are shortstops. I don't think Nicky hit like any of them the last couple of years. I get your point, but for me Bill Smith's first offseason as GM will be a failure if it means we end up with Punto in the starting lineup again in 2008. He's a utility infielder, and only has value to this or any other team in that role.

Kyle Eliason said...

Or how about Hughes?

John said...

Kyle - I will always take an elite young hitter who hasn't proved much yet (Young) over an elite young pitcher that hasn't proved much yet (Hughes). And it isn't even close on Kershaw. The guy has something like 29 innings at AA. TINSTAAPP

John said...

twayn - but the point is that Punto isn't a liability at shortstop. Sure, he is if he hits like he did last year, but that was crazy and completely off any trend. That doesn't mean the Twins don't still need to get a reliable hitter at third base. But I'll still give credit to Smith for recognizing that he had two SS on the roster and trading the one with more market value.

Anonymous said...

Punto's a replacement level hitter, even at SS, and he's an average, maybe slightly below average defensive SS who will make a couple of web gems per year to make people think he's a great defender. Punto's not any more valuable at SS than he would have been at 2B. (Also, Punto hit the way he did last year in large part because he was injured--which is another problem with Punto.)

Kyle Eliason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kyle Eliason said...

TINSTAAPP and all, I think there are some concerns with Young. If a player has tremendous physical gifts but lacks plate discipline the line between Puckett/Guerrero and Mondesi/Patterson isn't all that wide. A bias that I certainly share is to expect uniform development and progression from young players, but Young's showing of recent does throw up a small warning flag, especially considering that the Twins aren't going to be the franchise that gets concerned about someone's walk rate (even though they should, within reason).

walter hanson said...

great a long line of thought wiped out by sign in requirements.

Young will get plenty of RBI's just because he will bat fourth or sixth around one of the M and M boys.

The question is what will Smith do with the Hunter money now that Hunter is gone.

Sign a big time free agent (a move which Terry Ryan never did)

Sign Santana to a long term contract. Between him and Hunter isn't that over twenty million. The money in theory is there right now!

Sign the rest of the team to long term contracts before they become expensive: Justin M, Michael C, Young, Liranio, etc.

That will do the most to tell how the team is going to last beyond 2008.

Walter Hanson
Minneapolis, MN