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The Coalition for Reason's Final Thoughts On the Francisco Liriano Trade

So long, Frankie.
So long, Frankie.

Everything about baseball is long term. When players are drafted the odds are they won't see the Big League club for three to six years, possibly longer. Even once a player reaches the Majors, their progression arc can last years. The seasons themselves last for six months. Seven including the post-season. Nine including spring training. It can be easy to get lost game-to-game, because for those six months teams play six days a week. Games last three hours.

Baseball is long term. The only kind of immediate gratification there is in the entire sport is a walk-off hit.

For the Twins, right now everything is about the long term. There is no hope for a late-season push to the playoffs in 2012, and there are just too many holes for this team to seriously compete for October in 2013. So we get excited about the future. We keep close tabs on Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks and others. That's part of the reason we talk so much about guys the Twins could potentially trade away, because it's all working towards that bright future we all want to believe in.

So when one of those players is dealt, and it's for a return that isn't nearly as attractive as we thought it would be, we're disappointed. I think that's natural.

But the speculation was all ours. To paraphrase the nobleman Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

That's probably a bit melodramatic, but in our case it gets the point across. If we're disappointed in what the Twins got from the White Sox in return for Francisco Liriano, there's no point in blaming Terry Ryan for that fact. We set our own expectations, and then expected not just the Twins but the rest of baseball to think the same way we did.

Our expectations were not reality.

When a character in a play makes a mistake, it's not always the decision they made in Act III that is to blame. Sometimes it's the decision made earlier in the show. Blaming Ryan for the quality of players he received from Chicago misses the point. Once the decision to trade Liriano was made, the Twins were committed. The question instead should be: did Terry Ryan and the Twins make the right decision in choosing to trade Liriano? Because that question, at least, is debatable.

What isn't debatable is whether or not the Twins got back the best they could. Not only because we can never really know the answer to that question, but also because common sense dictates that, if we have to guess, they probably did get the best they could. Baseball teams do not like to trade within their own division. Therefore, if another package that was in any way similar or superior was offered, Ryan and the Twins most certainly would have jumped at that chance.

But they didn't take another offer; they stayed inside the AL Central. And to assume that there was a better offer available is akin to assuming somebody offered an obviously superior package on which the Twins blindly passed.

I think it's fair to say that, after all the rumors that flew around, there was a market for Liriano, but the truth is that while there was a market nobody held him in the esteem in which we held him. So I'm not about to sit here at tell people that they can't be disappointed in what the Twins got in return for Liriano. I'm disappointed, too.

But there's a line between that, and choosing to blame Terry Ryan when there isn't any blame to be had. The fault is in ourselves. If there's any debate to be had about this deal it's whether or not the Twins did the right thing by dealing Liriano at all, because there certainly are a few questions:

  • Would the Twins have offered Liriano the roughly $12.4 million, one-year contract necessary in order to gain compensation for his departure?
  • If offered that deal, would Liriano have declined it, granting the Twins a compensatory draft pick? Or would he have accepted, and sucked up a good deal of the resources available to the Twins next winter?
  • If he would have accepted, would we have believed that to be a wise use of resources? Would Liriano have been worth $12.4 million?

Remember how we felt when the Twins traded Luis Castillo a few years ago? Even though the circumstances are different, I think how we feel right now is at least a bit similar. We held Castillo and Liriano in high esteem, for their own reasons. And we were disappointed in the return, too.

Which brings be back to a question I asked last night: Can a trade still be bad if what you end up with, while disappointing, was the best available offer?

Captain Picard once told Data that it was possible to do nothing wrong and still fail. I don't think that the decisions to trade Castillo or Liriano were necessarily bad decisions. Maybe they were just no-win scenarios. Sometimes those scenarios exist. And as good as he is, Terry Ryan is no Captain Kirk.

Liriano was talented. He was also an enigma with a history of mechanical issues, injuries, and an infuriatingly adept talent at getting inside his own head. Maybe, just maybe, if that's what the rest of baseball saw in him, then maybe it's us that missed something. Not Terry Ryan.

Finally, just for laughs: the White Sox think they can make Liriano better. Whatever they do, it might actually work. For a while. Good luck, Don Cooper.