While they aren’t exactly known for their wheeling and dealing style, the Twins have actually made a number of moves throughout the years. As is the case with most franchises, some of these trades have been impactful while others are easily forgotten. What the vocal minority of Twins Twitter doesn’t want to admit, though, is that we’ve seen some pretty big trades over the past 20 years. Most of the big trades came earlier in the century, but with our recent struggles you can’t exactly blame the front office for not taking any big swings in the trade market.
Before we get to the list, here are a few ground rules for this exercise. This list only includes trades made after the calendar flipped to 2000, so many of you longtime Twins fans might notice arguably the best trade in franchise history missing. More on that later. The rankings on this list account for a combination of WAR and general impact on the team. I’m a firm believer that you can’t quantify a player’s impact on the clubhouse and team’s psyche. For the purposes of WAR calculations in this, I look at the WAR received during the incoming player’s tenure with the Twins compared to the total WAR given up throughout the rest of the outgoing player’s career. And the final rule is that this list is entirely for fun and certainly not anything else. I’d love to hear your rankings and best trades in the comments. In the continued absence of baseball, we should all have some fun conversations to relive some of the glory days of our beloved Twinkies.
Without further ado, let’s get to the top trades of the century.
5. Bartlett for Buchanan
Date: July 12, 2002
Twins receive: Jason Bartlett
Twins trade: Brian Buchanan
WAR difference: +5.6
This certainly wasn’t the sexiest trade at the time. Minnesota, with a plethora of outfielders on the roster, traded good ol’ Brian Buchanan to the San Diego Padres for a minor league shortstop named Jason Bartlett who was just 22 at the time. While he didn’t make an immediate impact, Bartlett did go on to have a successful run with the Twins appearing in 321 games over parts of four seasons. Buchanan, on the other hand, appeared in 203 games over the next two and a half seasons before fizzling out of the majors entirely. As we all know, Bartlett’s best years came after we (regrettably) flipped him to Tampa Bay, but he contributed enough for this trade to be considered successful especially when you compare him to Buchanan’s stats. It definitely wasn’t a sexy or glamorous trade, but it was a savvy baseball decision that paid dividends for years to come.
Side Note: My only memory of Buchanan in a Twins jersey was a fateful game against the Cleveland Indians on August 8, 2001. As a young boy just starting to fully understand and appreciate baseball, I watched Buchanan go 0-5 and achieve the dreaded Golden Sombrero.
4. Odorizzi for Palacios
Date: February 17, 2018
Twins receive: Jake Odorizzi
Twins trade: Jermaine Palacios
WAR difference to date: +4.8
The jury is still out on this one, but the early returns have been fairly strong. Minnesota acquired Odorizzi after a decent 2017 campaign with the Tampa Bay Rays. After back-to-back strong seasons in 2015 and 2016, Odorizzi took a slight step back in 2017. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some initial concerns about the trade. He had some ups and downs in his first season in Minnesota, ultimately ending the season with a 4.49 ERA and a 7-10 record over 164.1 innings pitched. He responded with a really nice 2019 campaign where he posted a 3.51 ERA and earned his first career All-Star Game appearance. After accepted the Twins’ qualifying offer this off season, Odorizzi and the Twins are hoping for more of the same if and when the 2020 season finally happens. Meanwhile, Palacios will turn 24 this summer and still hasn’t make a single appearance in the majors. That isn’t to say he’ll never contribute in the majors, but so far the Twins have received two above average seasons of Odorizzi in return for a player who still hasn’t advanced past AA ball.
3. Stewart and Gassner for Kielty
Date: July 16, 2003
Twins receive: Shannon Stewart and Dave Gassner
Twins trade: Bobby Kielty
WAR difference: +2.2
Just over a year after the Bartlett trade, the Twins made another deal to shake things up in the middle of the season. This time, they brought in another outfielder in return for Bobby Kielty. The Toronto Blue Jays sent Shannon Stewart and a player to be named later, who turned out to be pitcher Dave Gassner. Kielty was a very productive player for the Twins. There’s no denying that. But the addition of Stewart was a monumental boost for the 2003 Twinkies. At the time of the trade, the Twins were in the midst of a season-long 8-game losing streak and fading fast in the standings at 44-49 and 7.5 games out of first place in the division. What happened next can’t only be attributed to Stewart, but the trade paid off in a big way. From that point on the Twins finished the season 46-23, including an 11-game win streak in late September that put the division race to bed. For his part, Stewart posted a .322/.384/.470 slash line with 11 HRs and 47 RBIs after coming over and finished 4th in MVP voting for the season. He went on to spend three more very productive seasons with the Twins before leaving for the Oakland Athletics in free agency prior to the 2007 season. Gassner made two starts for the Twins in 2005 and we never heard from him again. Kielty bounced around the league for a few more years before making his final appearance in 2007. Stewart’s overall impact on the 2003 team alone made this trade a win, but his stint with the franchise was enough to make this trade a personal all-time favorite of mine.
2. Punto, Silva and Korecky for Milton
Date: December 3, 2003
Twins receive: Nick Punto, Carlos Silva and Bobby Korecky
Twins trade: Eric Milton
WAR difference: +18.4
This was another masterpiece of a trade for Terry Ryan and Co. in 2003. After being limited to just three starts in 2003 due to injuries, Ryan decided to send Milton to the Philadelphia Phillies for a package of Punto, Silva and a player to be named later (Korecky). Milton led the Phillies in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts in his lone season with them despite posting a 4.75 ERA and giving up a league-leading 43 home runs. He left for the Cincinnati Reds in free agency after just one season and led the majors in home runs and earned runs allowed in 2005. Punto and Silva both proved to be solid contributors during their time with the Twins. Neither player exactly blew anyone away with their stats, but they both enjoyed successful runs with the team. Punto is perhaps best known as an integral part of the famous Piranhas era of the Twins in the early 2000s. He was a staple in the lineup from 2004-2010 and always kept things entertaining with his head-first slides into first base, among other things. Silva produced his best season in 2005 with a 3.44 ERA across 188.1 innings pithed, but never managed to replicate that level of success. Korecky never really panned out, but as a throw-in we can’t have expected much to begin with. Once again, this wasn’t a sexy trade but the overall contributions from Punto and Silva helped define the small-ball Piranha Twins. Coupled with Milton’s flameout after leaving the organization and this trade can only be deemed a success.
1. Liriano, Nathan and Bonser for Pierzynski
Date: December 3, 2003
Twins receive: Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser
Twins trade: A.J. Pierzynski and Cash
WAR difference: +5.6
This trade was Terry Ryan’s best trade of the century and it’s not particularly close. You could even make an argument that this is the best trade in franchise history and I’d be willing to listen. Personally, I’m still partial to the Johan Santana trade, but this is a 1A and 1B situation in my opinion. The Twins shipped Pierzynski off to the San Francisco Giants in order to make room for a young, up-and-coming catcher named Joe Mauer. In return, we only received our most exciting starter since the aforementioned Santana and possibly the greatest closer in franchise history. Even Boof contributed one solid season and some fun memories. Anyone remember Boof Lite? Nathan, the franchise leader in saves, made four All-Star appearances in his seven seasons in Minnesota and even finished in the top-5 in Cy Young Award voting twice. Did he give us sweaty palms and crippling anxiety plenty of times? Sure, but he almost always pulled out the save for us. As for Liriano, he had the world at his feet until elbow problems derailed an exciting start to his career. He never ended up becoming the bona fide stud we all expected him to be, but he was an above-average starter at worst. Not to mention, he spun one of the strangest no-hitters we’ve seen. Our friend Cooper Carlson beautifully walked us through that day here. While he never lived up to the initial sky-high expectations placed upon him, Liriano has gone on to have a long and successful career.
As for Pierzynski, he spent the next 12 years in the league with varying degrees of success. He also went on to build up quite the reputation for himself as baseball’s bad boy. As Twins fans we were able to avoid the embarrassment of having to claim him as one of our own during those years. He had some especially memorable (and less than sporting) moments during his tenure with the Chicago White Sox. The South Side Sox page put together a list here of some of his extracurriculars on the basepaths. The chicken wing to get out of a rundown and draw an interference call was a truly next-level punk move. All that aside, this trade was still an absolute coup for the franchise. Flipping a disposable catcher for Liriano and Nathan, and freeing up time for a franchise icon in Mauer will live on in Twins lore for a long time.
As I mentioned above, flipping a minor leaguer in Jared Camp, who never made it to the big leagues, for Johan is arguably the best move in franchise history. This fell just before the scope I used, though, so it didn’t qualify for my list. That trade officially went through on December 13, 1999.
The trade for Kenta Maeda looks good on paper, but obviously it’s far too early to tell if that is a success or not. It’s a bigger splash than we’ve seen from the Twins in awhile, but only time will tell how that pans out.
Trevor “IAmTrevorMay” May is finally establishing himself as one of the top relievers in the game. But we had to give up Ben Revere in that trade that also netted us the Vanimal Vance Worley.
Hopefully baseball comes back soon so we can stop making these lists and get back to writing about actual things, but I am also compiling a list of worst trades of the century that I may put out depending on the response to this post. Let us know in the comments what your top trades are and how you’d organize this list. Like I said above, this was all about starting a conversation and seeing what everyone else thinks.