The first ever trade between the Twins and the Tampa Bay (then) Devil Rays occured on November 28th, 2007. The most recent occurred this past week. While the history between the two teams is not long, there are some noteworthy moves, and some which can be simply forgotten. For all that, there shouldn’t be a single trade for the Twins to look back on with regret.
That first trade was the biggest, as a six-player deal sent ripples through both organizations that can still be felt today. From Minnesota’s end, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Cuban minor-league reliever Eddie Morlan were sent to Florida. The return was Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie. Morlan topped out at double-A, but the other five players all had substantial MLB careers. The best of the buch was Garza, who developed into a long-tenured starter, and was the 2008 ALCS MVP for Joe Maddon’s World-Champion Rays squad. Still, Tampa only received Garza’s services for three seasons, before flipping him to the Cubs for a huge package, the trade tree from which continues to benefit the Rays to this day. Bartlett also spent three years in a Rays uniform, including his lone all-star season. The Twins could certainly have used his services, considering the way their shortstop woes would work out, but you can’t have predicted that. Tampa would also eventually trade Bartlett for a package of prospects.
On the Twins’ side, Delmon Young never quite worked out, but was a coup to obtain at the time. The 2003 first overall pick was only 22 years old when Minnesota traded for him, and was viewed as the future of baseball, coming off a season where he was second in Rookie of the Year voting. He played for the Twins for four seasons, including one that drew MVP votes. A 2011 trade to Detroit brought back pitchers Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros, and its not Delmon’s fault that neither of those guys had much of a MLB career. Young is also the source of one of the all-time great Twinkie Town memes. Brendan Harris was a valuable utility man for the Twins for a couple seasons, before his inclusion in the infamous J.J Hardy for Jim Hoey trade to clear a role for Tsuyoshi Nishioka.. Again, not his fault that is one of the worst trades in team history. Jason Pridie appeared in 11 games for the Twins, and that’s about all that needs to be said about that.
It would be eight years before the Twins and Rays would engage in another trade—this one a deadline deal to bring a much-needed “proven closer” to the Twins. Kevin Jepsen (I see you wincing) moved from Tampa to Minnesota, and was actually very good in 2015. His 29 post-trade appearances saw a total ERA of 1.61 and he posted career bests in K/9, BB/9, H/9, and WHIP. Unfortunately, this convinced the Twins they could rely on him in 2016. Instead they should have made him a pioneering Solar-naut. Completing the trade from Minnesota were pitchers Alexis Tapia, who topped out at high-A, and Chih-Wei Hu, who made 11 total MLB appearances.
The next trade between the two teams was the final disposition of Oswaldo Arcia’s Twins career, in 2016. Arcia would end up playing for four total MLB teams that season, and never again appear in the bigs. All things considered, “cash considerations” was a pretty decent return here.
Arguably, the Twins were the big winners in the next trade between these two teams as well. They sent a then-promising MiLB shortstop in Jermaine Palacios to Tampa, and received Jake Odorizzi in return. Palacios appears to have stalled in Double-A, and is back in the Twins’ organization, having signed as a minor league free agent this winter, he is assigned to the Wichita Wind Surge. Jake Odorizzi was one of the most reliable arms on the 2018 and 2019 Twins, and represented the latter squad in the all-star game. Injuries wrecked his 2020, yet its hard not to consider this trade an absolute success for Minnesota.
The Twins purchasing the contract of minor league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker from Tampa in 2018 is just a footnote mentioned for the completionists, and that brings us to the final trade.
Nelson Cruz is a two-month rental for Tampa, and Calvin Faucher is a low-tier prospect. Meanwhile both Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman have back-of-the-rotation floors. Unless both prospects are total and complete busts, which is unlikely, the Twins won’t lose this trade either.