Last week, I compiled a list of the best trades of the century for the Minnesota Twins. It’s always fun to reminisce on some of the better moments in our team’s history. However, as Minnesota sports fans, we’re just gluttons for punishment. So I decided to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and explore some of the (many) whiffs we’ve made on the trading block. Large and small, the Twins front office has shipped out everything from All-Stars and Cy Young winners to fan favorites and others who have gone on to contribute elsewhere. Unless you turn on the “Force Trade” mode in your favorite baseball video game, you can’t win every trade you make. But looking back on it, it feels like the Twins have come out on the wrong side of history more times than we’d like to admit.
Unfortunately, there were plenty of candidates to make this list so there will be some memorable ones left off. I’d love to get your thoughts on the order and any omissions here. Now let’s take a walk down memory lane and languish in some really regrettable moments in franchise history.
5. Span for Meyer
Date: November 29, 2012
Twins trade: Denard Span
Twins receive: Alex Meyer
The fifth spot on this list was a real barnburner, but the Span trade narrowly beat out the decision to send J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris to the Baltimore Orioles for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. At the time of the trade, Span was a known commodity and the heir apparent to Torii Hunter in center field. Hardy had a down year in his lone season in Minnesota, so that trade felt a little more justifiable at the time. Span had been groomed to replace Hunter and gave us five good seasons before the trade. He was already a fan favorite and had the number and defense to back that up. But in their desparate search for pitching help, the Twins shipped Span off to the Washington Nationals for Alex Meyer. Meyer was a first-round pick in 2011, so the pedigree was there. That never translated to big league success, though. The Twins got a grand total of 6.1 innings out of Meyer before offloading him onto the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. Span, meanwhile, went on to have a long and successful career. Last year, in his 11th season, Span managed to produce a 2.1 WAR season while hitting .261 across 137 games for the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners. Meyer was released by the Angels in 2018 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since.
4. Testa and Ramos for Capps
Date: July 29, 2010
Twins trade: Joe Testa and Wilson Ramos
Twins receive: Matt Capps
Ouch. This one didn’t look great at the time and it hasn’t aged particularly well, either. Joe Testa was a minor league pitcher who never made the bigs, but Wilson Ramos was the crown jewel of this trade. At the time of this trade, Ramos was a highly-regarded prospect and still just 22 years old. Admittedly, he was stuck behind a then-27-year-old Joe Mauer, but he was being groomed as Mauer’s replacement behind the plate for years to come. On top of that, Mauer never caught more than 75 games in a season after the 2010 season, so playing time wouldn’t have been hard to come by for Ramos. He has since been to two All-Star Games and spent 10 years as a reliable above-average catcher at worst. Meanwhile, the Twins haven’t really had a solid answer at catcher until 2019 arguably. Yes, Kurt Suzuki put together a few good years in a Twins uniform, but he was never billed as a long-term solution at the position. In return for Ramos, the Twins received Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals. Capps spent five up-and-down years with the Pittsburgh Pirates before seemingly putting it together with the Nationals in 2010. The initial returns looked promising as Capps pitched to the tune of a 2.00 ERA in 27 games after coming over. He was never able to match that production again, though, struggling through two more seasons with the Twins before hitting free agency after the 2012 season. He’s signed on with a few more teams since then, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since his last appearance with the Twins in 2012.
3. Escobar for De La Trinidad, Duran and Maciel
Date: July 27, 2018
Twins trade: Eduardo Escobar
Twins receive: Ernie De La Trinidad, Jhoan Duran and Gabriel Maciel
Maybe it’s recency bias, but this trade really stings as a Twins fan. The Twins were 48-53 heading into game action on July 27 and 7 games out of first place in the division. After 2017’s surprise Wild Card berth, the 2018 season was a disappointment to most. Escobar was in the midst of his best season with the Twins after finding his offensive stroke. On top of his on-field contributions Escobar also provided plenty of entertainment and a constant smile, endearing himself to fans across Twins Territory. But the front office shipped him off at the deadline to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a trio of prospects. Escobar didn’t exactly light it up to finish 2018 after moving to Arizona. But in 2019 he mashed to the tune of a .831 OPS with 35 home runs and a major-league leading 10 triples. Tough to argue with that type of production. Imagine adding those numbers to the Bomba Squad. Yikes!
De La Trinidad, Duran and Maciel obviously haven’t made it to the major leagues yet, so we can’t fully judge this trade. But none of them are exactly making waves in the minor leagues. Duran enters 2020 as Baseball America’s 96th-ranked prospect. So there is some hope that he may turn into a contributing factor some day. But to give up a high-powered and versatile offensive weapon like Escobar for the possibility of one prospect working out hurts.
2. Morlan, Bartlett and Garza for Harris, Pridie and Young
Date: November 28, 2007
Twins trade: Eddie Morlan, Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza
Twins receive: Brendan Harris, Jason Pridie and Delmon Young
Another trade that aged rather poorly for the Twins. After Terry Ryan stepped down as GM in September of 2007, Bill Smith stepped in to take the job. As a young Twins fan at the time, I was excited at the prospect of adding a former first-overall pick in Delmon Young. But we all know how that tale played out. Young never lived up to his billing as a franchise player while Garza and Bartlett both went on to have very productive stints with the Tampa Bay Rays. Bartlett put together an All-Star campaign in 2009 during which he hit .320 with 30 stolen bases. Garza was the really painful part of this trade, though. He started 15 games in his age-23 season with the Twins in 2007 and posted a 3.69 ERA that year. He went on to have a long and productive career as an above-average starter and innings eater. We all know how much trouble the Twins have had finding reliable starting pitchers over the past decade or so.
The return for the Twins was the really disappointing part of this trade. Harris was a replacement-level player during his three seasons in Minnesota and Pridie went hitless in his four at-bats in a Twins uniform. I think we all remember Delmon, though. The gem of this trade that never panned out. Young wasn’t a complete disaster, but he never lived up to the high expectations we placed on him. His best year came in 2010 when he posted a triple-slash of .298/.333/.493 with 21 home runs and 112 RBI. He never touched those numbers again, though. Not to mention his defense was always an adventure, to put it nicely. There’s no doubt Ron Gardenhire lost more than a few hairs from dealing with Delmon. The front office finally gave up on him in 2011, trading him to the Tigers for pennies on the dollar. To rub salt in the wound, we had to watch Garza spend most of his 12-year career as top-of-the-rotation starter and finish with a 4.09 career ERA.
1. Santana for Gomez, Guerra, Humber and Mulvey
Date: February 2, 2008
Twins trade: Johan Santana
Twins receive: Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey
No surprise here as the front office got fleeced by the New York Mets prior to the 2008 campaign. Also very impressive that Johan was the headliner in arguably the best and worst trades in franchise history. Within months of the Garza trade, Smith was at it again by shipping off another high-quality starting pitcher. Only this time it was a bona fide ace and franchise icon. Santana was just a month shy of his 29th birthday and still one of the top pitchers in baseball. Already a two-time Cy Young Award winner, there was no shortage of suitors for Santana’s services at the time. The problem, though, is that Smith once again picked the wrong package in return for Santana. Johan spent four seasons in the Big Apple giving the Mets elite production in three of those years and still serviceable production in his final year. None of the players the Twins got in return ever panned out in Twins jerseys.
GoGo was the headliner of the package that came back and he showed flashes of the talent that led many to consider him as a top-tier five-tool prospect. Unfortunately, he never got enough time to put it all together in Minnesota. He brought plenty of excitement and flair but never got enough time to figure out how to tap into his tantalizing potential. Just two seasons after acquiring GoGo, Smith flipped him to the Milwaukee Brewers for J.J. Hardy in yet another trade that didn’t work out. The rest of the return was even more disappointing. Guerra never appeared in a game for the Twins and Mulvey only made two appearances, giving up 4 earned runs in just 1.1 innings of work. Humber, another former first-round pick, only made 13 forgettable appearances in a Twins uniform before leaving in free agency following the 2009 season. Even Humber found some modicum of success after leaving Minnesota. He pieced together one decent season with the Chicago White Sox in 2011 before throwing possibly the most random perfect game in baseball history during a 2012 season that he would finish with a 6.44 ERA.
As I mentioned a few times above, J.J. Hardy comes to mind in some regrettable trades. The decision to trade for him in the first place didn’t look all that bad. He was a former All-Star who had shown the ability to hit for average and power. But of course he didn’t do either thing very well in his lone season in Minnesota before being traded and flourishing again in Baltimore the very next year. Really, the Twins were 0-for-2 on Hardy trades.
The Aaron Hicks trade is another example of a player finally putting it all together after leaving the organization. He’s put together some solid seasons for the New York Yankees while John Ryan Murphy never made a mark for the Twins.
Kyle Lohse never exactly dazzled in a Twins uniform, but he was another starting pitcher traded away who went on to have a long and successful career elsewhere. The return for him? Zach Ward who never made the majors.
And if you’re looking for something more recent, the Sam Dyson trade of 2019 really blew up in our faces. We didn’t give up any big-name prospects luckily. But we pretty much gave away three minor leaguers for free. So that doesn’t look too great, either.
Once again, I’d love to get your thoughts. I know looking back on our history can be painful, but let’s hear what you think. Drop some trades in the comments that make you cringe when thinking about them.