The transaction action around the Twins has slowed for the time being, and I’m quite sure it’s an unwritten rule that transactions don’t take place around the holidays so that front office types can enjoy rare moments of sanity around their families. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the most famous December transactions in club history (prior to this offseason).
To this point it’s the deal that nobody won. Worley got tattooed and then sent to the minors before being sent home, and Revere got hurt and didn’t live up to expectations even when he was healthy. May still could swing the deal in favor of the Twins, even if he just ends up a late-inning reliever type.
12/15/2011 - Signed Josh Willingham as a free agent
This is the biggest free agent contract handed out by the Twins prior to the Ricky Nolasco deal (3/$21).
Sometimes you just gotta ask yourself why. Why? Hardy’s been worth 10.3 fWAR in the three years since, while the Twins got 24.2 ugly innings out of Hoey, who spent last year in Indy Ball. Jacobson got obliterated with Colorado Springs (Rockies Triple-A) last year, and was almost equally bad while he was still in the Twins organization.
The 29-year-old Romero had grown discontent and was coming off a dreadful season as a middle reliever for the Twins when they shipped him to the Halos for Casilla, who immediately became the Twins best second base prospect. Unfortunately, Casilla never gained any traction and now is looking at his third big league organization in as many years in 2014.
To be honest I had forgotten this trade occurred in the offseason. I thought it was a deadline deal, but that was actually the swap that sent Castillo away to the Mets. Bowyer was a hard-throwing closer prospect who never panned out, and Tyler never made it above Double-A. Castillo was worth 3.5 fWAR in his year-and-a-half with the club, and started his late-career decline almost immediately upon leaving Minnesota.
12/15/2004 - Signed Terry Mulholland as a free agent
C’mon, you didn’t expect this entire thing to be serious, did you?
12/7/2004 - Re-signed Brad Radke as a free agent
I was in my first year of college and definitely remember breathing a sigh of relief when this contract got done. Radke was coming off of one of his very best seasons with the Twins, and at age 18 to me it was really important to see him stick with the club for the rest of his career.
Somehow Terry Ryan managed to sell high on a left-hander who had thrown just 17 innings the season before due to injury. Milton was worth 16.1 fWAR with the Twins -- with 15.8 coming over five full seasons prior to the injury -- but just 2.9 in the last five seasons of his career after being dealt. Silva had three very good seasons and one rather bad one with the Twins, while Punto hung on as a rather useful utility guy for seven years. Punto alternated good and bad years, collecting a somewhat surprising 11.1 fWAR in that time frame. Korecky is most famous for collecting a base hit in his only big league at-bat in a wild 12 inning game versus the Rangers.
Korecky actually got the win in that game, too.
12/13/1999 - Traded Jared Camp to the Florida Marlins for Johan Santana
Not sure what more needs to be said about this one. Santana is probably the best pitcher in franchise history, and all he cost was Jared Camp, who never pitched in the major leagues and had a 6.91 ERA in 27.1 Triple-A innings, and a big league roster spot for the entire 2000 season.
12/11/1995 - Signed Rick Aguilera as a free agent
For some odd reason the Twins decided to make the 34-year-old Aguilera a starter in his second go-round with the club. Predictably it flubbed, and the next year Aguilera reassumed the closer’s role. He held onto it for the next two-plus seasons before he was dealt to the Cubs in the Kyle Lohse deal.
12/5/1995 - Signed Paul Molitor as a free agent
Molitor signed with the Twins coming off a three-year run with the Blue Jays which involved winning a World Series title, a Silver Slugger, and a pair of All Star game appearances. The first year with Molly didn’t disappoint either, as he was again the AL’s Silver Slugger at DH while leading the AL in hits. The next two years were simply rather good, as Molitor rode off into the sunset as a 42-year-old.
12/17/1992 - Signed Dave Winfield as a free agent
Jack Morris was probably the first, with Winfield likely the second case of a Minnesota boy coming home to to play later in his career. And while he didn’t fly the coop like Morris did after just one season, Winfield wouldn’t retire a Twin after getting his 3,000th hit in September of 1993. After the 1994 strike, Winfield spent the 1995 season with the Indians, and had 130 completely forgettable plate appearances (.191/.285/.287). Winfield, like Molitor, was coming off a World Series crown with the Blue Jays and was the Silver Slugger at DH in 1992. However, by age 41 he just didn’t have a great deal left to offer and had two ho-hum seasons in Twinstripes before moving on. Winfield rarely, if ever makes appearances at Twins alumni get-togethers and I’m still not quite sure if there is a contentious relationship here or not.
12/4/1992 - Re-signed Kirby Puckett as a free agent
Puckett reportedly had suitors in Philadelphia -- who wasn’t sure they had the money to offer him anyway -- and Boston before ultimately deciding to return to the Twins on a deal that made him the highest-paid player in the game. That distinction lasted a week, when Rickey Henderson also signed for $3 million. By the end of that offseason, Mark Langston, Mark Davis, Dave Stewart, and Will Clark would all sign for a higher AAV. Nonetheless, Puckett would remain a Twin for life.
12/6/1989 - Re-signed Kent Hrbek as a free agent
T-Rex was wooed by Boston, Seattle, and Detroit, all of whom reportedly made offers in excess of the five-year, $14 million deal Hrbek eventually signed. Hrbek said it was "what he wanted all along," but that he was "on pins and needles after a couple of days" waiting to get a deal done.
The kicker was Hrbek’s line later in the story:
"I think everybody was surprised. Ron Simon, my agent, was surprised. (Twins GM) Andy Macphail was surprised. (Twins owner) Carl Pohlad was surprised. Kent Hrbek was surprised."
12/4/1989 - Drafted Shane Mack from the Padres in the Rule 5 draft
Mack was very awesome for a very short period of time with the Twins. From 1990 to 1994, Mack was worth 17.9 fWAR, and only three of those five seasons can really be considered full-ish seasons. Then he sort of fell off the face of the earth. What a shame.
12/14/1982 - Signed Darrell Brown as a free agent
The is only important because he’s who Mr. Puckett ‘Pipped’ the centerfield job from.
12/8/1980 - Drafted Don Cooper from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft
Cooper’s time with the Twins was unremarkable -- 1-6 in 70 innings between 1981-’82 with a 5.14 ERA and more walks than whiffs -- but he did end up becoming a pretty good pitching coach for the White Sox, whom he’s worked for since July of 2002.
12/10/1969 - Traded Dean Chance, Bob Miller, Graig Nettles, and Ted Uhlaender to the Indians for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams
Chance won 20 games for the Twins in 1967 -- and threw the second no-hitter in club history that season -- while Nettles went on to have a 22-year big league career with six different teams. Uhlaender had an eight-year career as a centerfielder, but the last three years of his career -- after leaving the Twins -- were no better than the five he spent with the club. Miller was a former bonus baby who worked primarily in relief for the Twins for two years, and ultimately spent 17 years total in the big leagues. His two years with the club were sandwiched pretty much in the middle of it all.
Tiant was a flamboyant young right-hander who already had a 20-win and a 20-loss season to his credit, and only ended up lasting a year with the Twins. Tiant was a pioneer in a sense, as his strikeout numbers -- which routinely were above 7.0 in those days -- were well above the league average numbers of the time. Williams went 10-1 with a 1.99 ERA for the Twins in 1970, and then was to the Cardinals the next September.
12/2/1966 - Traded Pete Cimino, Jimmie Hall, and Don Mincher to the Angels for Dean Chance and PTBNL (Jackie Hernandez)
And now one can see that Chance was also a December acquisition, with the Twins giving up Hall -- a pretty good power-hitting outfielder -- and Mincher -- ditto Hall but at first base -- as well as Cimino, a decent reliever who was out of the game by 25. In fact, Cimino is better known for scoring 114 points in a high school basketball game back in 1960. Hernandez was a poor hitting shortstop who hung on in the big leagues for nine years despite just a .526 career OPS.
12/4/1964 - Traded Gerry Arrigo to the Reds for Cesar Tovar.
The Twins sold high on Arrigo, a reliever coming off a very good season to get Tovar. Arrigo would go on to have one more solid season as a starter for the Reds in 1968, but was otherwise a non-entity after leaving the Twins. Tovar, on the other hand, was a 2.0 fWAR or better player for seven-straight seasons from 1966 to 1972 before moving onto the Phillies. In 1968, Tovar played all nine positions in one game for the Twins against the A’s on Sept. 22.