In a move that has been a long time coming, the Twins finally got rid of disgruntled lefty reliever JC Romero, sending him to the Angels in return for minor league infielder Alexi Casilla. With all due respect to my associate, who posted below with his analysis of the trade, I would like to voice my disagreement with his opinion that the Twins got the short end of this swap.
I'm happy with this move, if only because I was sick of Romero's despicable lack of control and almost amazing inability to hold inherited runners on base in any situation, not to mention the fact that he was taking up a couple million dollars of salary which could be used to sign a free agent DH.
It's true, Casilla doesn't appear to fill any immediate needs. He is a second baseman with good speed who still appears to be a couple years away from making an impact at the Major League level. He spent the first month and a half of last season in Double-A and Triple-A, putting up unimpressive numbers in both, before being knocked down to Single-A for the remainder of the year and doing pretty well. In 78 games there, he hit .325/.392/.409 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI. Perhaps most notably, he was 47/59 on stolen bases attempt, showing that this guy is a potential monster on the basepaths. He also looks to have some patience at the plate, something the Twins sorely need. In 366 at-bats last year (all levels combined), Casilla struck out only 40 times while walking 34 times.
At only 21 years old, Casilla can be taylored as the eventual replacement to recently acquired Luis Castillo. Keep in mind that, at age 30, Castillo isn't exactly young for an infielder whose game is based on speed. To me this looks like another heady move by Terry Ryan that will hopefully pay off down the road. It didn't look like such a smart manuever several years ago when he shipped Brian Buchanan to the Padres for mediocre infield prospect Jason Bartlett, but it was looking a lot smarter a couple years ago when Bartlett hit .330 in Triple-A and last year when he was the starting shortstop for the Twins on opening day, while Buchanan turned into a minor league castaway.
The problem with this move is that it opens up a hole in the Twins bullpen. There are no obvious candidates to fill the left-handed specialist role. There are a few decent, but old, options on the free agent market (35 year-old Alan Embree, 40 year-old Buddy Groom, 39 year-old Chris Hammond), and no lefty in the Twins' minor league system appears prepared to make the leap to handling the pressure associated with the role. With all that said, I'd say there is a strong possibility that we will see Francisco Liriano in the bullpen next season.
Romero jumps into an interesting situation in Anaheim. If he can put it together and eliminate the walks, and his problems last year were indeed the result of him being unhappy with his situation here as he says they were, the Angels will have a formidable bullpen, with Romero and Scot Shields setting up for stud closer Francisco Rodriguez.