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Recapping trades in the early Target Field era

There’s not much happening in the present, so let’s take a look at the ghosts of Twins past.

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

As we’re approaching Christmas this winter fall spring (?), not much has happened since the Twins signed infielders Jonathan Schoop and Ronald Torreyes. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to look back at some of the deals the organization has made in the Target Field era to see how well they’ve done. While I understand that Target Field officially held its first game in 2010, I figured I’d start the timeline when the Metrodome permanently closed its wind tunnels for baseball fans in late 2009.

Twins trade OF Carlos Gomez to Brewers for SS J.J. Hardy

Date: Nov. 11th, 2009

Analysis: The Twins soured on Gomez pretty fast after he joined the organization as part of the Johan Santana trade two years earlier. Essentially this trade was a swap of an excellent defensive center fielder coming off a disappointing offensive season for an excellent defensive shortstop that was also coming off a disappointing offensive season. I won’t talk much about Hardy here as the Twins shipped him out the following year, so instead I’ll focus on Gomez. While he did become a better player after leaving Minnesota, it still took two years of part-time play in Milwaukee before he broke out in 2012. His run from 2012-2014 was elite, hitting .277/.336/.483 (123 wRC+) with his trademark defense which led to him accumulating 15 fWAR over that time. Still, the Brewers were able to be patient with Gomez, while the Twins were perennial playoff contenders and needed more production in their lineup.

Fun Fact: Gomez had 30 bunt hits and laid down 67 bunts in 2008, his first season with the Twins. For comparison, Billy Hamilton’s single season career highs are 17 bunt hits and 52 bunts, both achieved in 2014.

Twins trade C Wilson Ramos and LHP Joe Testa to Nationals for RP Matt Capps

Date: July 30th, 2010

Analysis: I’m not sure there’s much more I can add to this trade that we don’t already know. The Twins already had Joe Mauer behind the plate with Drew Butera as his trusty backup, so the team felt Ramos was expendable as they went out to acquire a Proven Closer™. With Joe Nathan out due to Tommy John surgery, Jon Rauch stepped in and performed admirably but the Twins felt the need to upgrade the bullpen, so they went out and picked up a shorter Rauch. For what it’s worth, Capps was actually quite good in his first two months as a Twin. The problem was that the Twins felt the need to keep him around for an additional two years after that. Meanwhile, we all remember Ramos as having a potent bat at the catching position, but he’s actually been rather injury-prone over his career. Oh, and Testa never made it past Double-A. This was still a horrendous trade.

Twins trade RP Loek Van Mil to Angels for RP Brian Fuentes

Date: Aug. 27th, 2010

Analysis: You’ll most likely find Fuentes in the list of “Most Obscure Twins,” surrounded by other greats like Mike Fetters, Jaime Garcia, and Brian Dinkelman. The former Rockies closer, Fuentes held the same role with the Angels at the time of the trade. The Twins were content with Capps as the new closer though, so Fuentes settled in as a late-inning reliever over the final month of the season. He appeared in 9 games and didn’t allow a run and the Twins let him walk as a free agent after the season was over. As for Van Mil, he never appeared in a major league game and thus at 7’1” tall was unable to break Rauch’s record for tallest MLB player (6’11”).

Twins trade SS J.J. Hardy and IF Brendan Harris to Orioles for RP Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobsen

Date: Dec. 9th, 2010

Analysis: Speaking of horrendous trades that really don’t need to be recapped... Hardy came to Minnesota a year earlier and though his offense rebounded, it still wasn’t at the same level at his peak with the Brewers. This was partially due to a sore wrist suffered while sliding feet-first (!) into 3rd base, a nagging injury that never went away for Hardy. He was also judged as being a lesser defender than advertised, which was partially backed up by costing the Twins -5 defensive runs saved, though his UZR was still excellent and that DRS number was the only time he posted a negative DRS in his entire career. Add in that he didn’t provide enough speed for Ron Gardenhire’s lineup and Hardy was shipped out with Harris for a pair of relievers.

Speaking of Harris, I think many of us forget that he was part of this trade. An infielder that was acquired as part of the 2007 Delmon Young/Matt Garza/Jason Bartlett trade, the Twins bought high after he posted a 107 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR for the Rays the prior season. However, Harris was merely adequate in 2008 (93 wRC+) and then was poor the next two seasons (77 and 22 wRC+), and thus his inclusion was almost as if the Twins were pairing a league-average shortstop with a terrible backup infielder.

League-average shortstops are worth quite a bit. Terrible infielders aren’t worth anything. What the Twins got in return was a dumpster fire. Looking back at Hoey’s numbers, there was no reason to desire him for any reason. At the time of the trade, he was nearly 29 years old, never had success in the majors, and couldn’t throw strikes. Working in his favor was that he was tall (6’6”) and averaged 95 MPH with his fastball. What the Twins got out of him was a 5.47 ERA and 13 walks against 14 strikeouts in 24 23 innings. Meanwhile, Jacobsen isn’t even searchable on FanGraphs anymore, which probably tells you everything you needed to know about him.

Compounding the awfulness of this trade was that Hardy was replaced one week later by Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who had a 38 wRC+ and -2 fWAR in roughly 70 games.

Fun Fact: Jim Hoey is older than Matt Capps by 8 months.

Twins trade OF Delmon Young to Tigers for RP Lester Oliveros

Date: Aug. 15th, 2011

Analysis: Oh, Delmon Young. The Twins were sure that they had acquired a future star, but instead they received another disappointment. He stopped being a good defender almost instantly after joining the Twins, which may have coincided with his shift from right field to left in order to accommodate Michael Cuddyer. I also dubbed him the worst .290 hitter that I’ve ever seen, as it felt that every single he hit in his career was a 12-hopper into center field. Young did put together a 120 wRC+ in 2010 for the Twins and had his moments with the Tigers and Orioles, but he’ll be remembered more as a poor-hitting shoulda-been DH that once struck a minor league umpire with a thrown bat and bellowed anti-Semitic remarks on the streets of New York City.

Oliveros was a hard-throwing righty that always put up good numbers in the minors but never put it all together in the major leagues.

Fun Fact: Young had 14 stolen bases for the Twins in 2008 as a 22-year old. He also was worth -52 defensive runs saved for his career.

Twins trade SP Francisco Liriano to White Sox for IF Eduardo Escobar and SP Pedro Hernandez

Date: July 29th, 2012

Analysis: I couldn’t end this on a bad note, so I dug a little further until I found this trade. Initially it looked like a “get whatever we can” swap, one where it was clear that Liriano would never get back on track unless he had a change of scenery. His 2006 Tommy John surgery derailed his career and though he managed flashes of brilliance in 2010 with the Twins and 2013-2015 with the Pirates, he will always serve as a reminder of what could have been.

With Liriano struggling, the Twins managed to get back a pair of young players. Hernandez garnered 12 starts for the team in 2013 but didn’t do much of anything as a soft-tossing lefty. Meanwhile, Escobar had a poor start to his career prior to the trade as he mustered a 52 wRC+ over his first 104 plate appearances, and then he had a Nishioka-esque 37 wRC+ in 14 games after joining the Twins. His 2013 season was better but still not inspiring as he had a .236/.282/.345 triple-slash (71 wRC+) in 66 games. Nevertheless, the Twins were persistent with him and eventually it paid off, as he hit .261/.311/.431 (98 wRC+) from 2014 until he was traded to the Diamondbacks in late July this past season. The fact that Escobar evolved from a light-hitting middle infielder into a slugger capable of popping 30+ doubles and 20+ home runs has to be considered a win for the Twins organization and credit should be given to the scouting department and/or the coaching staff for tapping into his potential.