Friday, November 30, 2007

The Departed

The title of this post is more than just a reference to one of my (and Mosvick's) favorite movies of all time. It's a reference to the three players the Twins lost in Wednesdays blockbuster swap with the Tampa Bay Rays.

There will undoubtedly be much analysis over the next weeks and months of the players the Twins received in this trade: Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie. There will be plenty of that here, too, but for today I think it's important to take a look at the players who have exited the Twins' organization. Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan were Twins property on Tuesday, and now they aren't. What are the possible repercussions of losing these players? How will the team absorb the losses? What is the overarching effect?

Make no mistake, this is not a Terry Ryan type trade. Ryan traded A.J. Pierzynski when he had Joe Mauer waiting in the wings. He traded Bobby Kielty when he had a surplus of outfielders. There are a lot of adjectives that could be attached to Ryan's general style when it came to player transactions, but "risky" would certainly not be one of them.

The rookie GM Bill Smith hasn't been on the job for two full months yet, and already he's stepped out and made a move that is riskier than any Ryan made during his lengthy tenure. Smith was dealing from a surplus by trading a pair of pitching prospects, to be sure, but Garza was the only young pitcher in this organization with ace potential written all over him (aside from Francisco Liriano, who is of course a huge question at this time). Meanwhile, Morlan was the only player in the Twins' minor-league system that seemed to be a legitimate candidate to take over the closer role upon Joe Nathan's likely departure following the 2008 season (that is, if he isn't traded this winter). Bartlett was a good defensive shortstop with speed and a solid approach at the plate -- that's a valuable thing to have in this league.

What is it that compelled the Twins to trade these players? Surely the fact that the Rays wanted them had a lot to do with it, but I think the reasoning goes deeper. For whatever reason, Garza and Bartlett never seemed to be held in particularly high esteem by this organization. Both were held back in the minors by inferior veterans at one time or another. Twins coaches were frequently quoted in the papers with criticisms of the attitudes of both players. Bartlett lacked "leadership," and Garza was not "mature" enough to pitch at the big-league level. Indeed, both players have posted major-league numbers that can be viewed as disappointing in relation to what they did in the minors.

Garza has a great chance of becoming an outstanding major-league starter. He throws hard and possesses good secondary pitches. Yet, he always seemed tentative about throwing anything other than his fastball, and in 2007 his control -- which was stellar in his breakout 2006 campaign -- took a turn for the worse. If Garza becomes more comfortable with his breaking pitches and his changeup, he could team up with Scott Kazmir to give the Rays a formidable top of the rotation. If he doesn't, this will look like a good trade from the Twins' perspective.

I don't buy into the organization's criticisms of Bartlett and I think he'll end up being a pretty good player in Tampa Bay. He was a great hitter for three seasons in Triple-A, and he showed what he was capable of in the big leagues in 2006, when he hit .309/.367/.393. With that being said, I don't think Bartlett will be much more than an adequate hitter with a good glove and the ability to swipe a base. Of course, that could be much more than the Twins are able to field at shortstop next season.

As I stated in yesterday's post, Morlan is where I start to go sour on this deal. Selected in the third round of the 2004 draft, Morlan cruised his way through the lower levels of the Twins' minor league system while usually posting an exceptional ERA and always striking out more than a batter per inning. Morlan has the ability to hit triple-digits on the radar gun, and his stuff is electric. He finished last season with a short stint in Class-AA New Britain, where he would have started the 2008 season. Ideally, Morlan could have been pitching out of the Twins' bullpen by the end of next season; unfortunately, he's now Tampa Bay's property.

Losing a few of these players could come back to haunt the Twins. That's something that never happened to Ryan, which is the nature of a low-risk operation. Then again, who knows... perhaps Garza will flop in Tampa and Morlan will fizzle out in the high minor leagues. For whatever reason, the Twins seem to have a sense of things like this when trading their own players. Pierzynski had a major drop-off in his one season with the Giants, seeing his OPS drop by over 100 points from his last season with the Twins. Travis Bowyer, whom Ryan traded to the Marlins two years ago in exchange for Luis Castillo, experienced immediate shoulder problems and hasn't pitched an inning of professional baseball since he left the Twins.

Twins fans might be frustrated if they see Garza leading the Rays rotation with Morlan closing games for them in a few years. But one thing that we never really learned with Ryan around is that you have to give up talent if you want to give it back. Smith wanted Delmon Young, and he was going to do what it took to make him a Twin.

As Frank Costello said: "No one gives it to you. You have to take it."

10 comments:

Matthew said...

Three agreements:

1.) "The Departed" is one of my favorite movies as well. An incredible flick.

2.) The only thing that hurt me was the addition of Morlan. But overall, love the addition of Young.

3.) It is great to see a GM go out there and make something happen. I was skeptical at first and thought he was a Ryan clone. Thank you Mr. Smith for proving me wrong!

- Twins Killings

Dan said...

Nice write up. Overall I think its a positive trade for both sides. I think it may boost some morale with the players who are coming back, and some times change is refreshing.

Maybee you could help me understand this potential Boston deal. Personally I think the Twins would be stupid to take it. It would be a huge score for Boston, trading pieces they don't even need like a back up center fielder who they are going to get rid of anyway. That should not be how the pending Santana trade goes down.

I'm actually for getting Crisp, but for a minor leaguer, or just thrown in the deal centered around someone Boston actually does not want to get rid of. To me, that would be the whole point of trading for someone like Santanas caliber.

I hope the Twins brass realized that they would be getting taken advantage of big time if they agreed to that.

Atleast, well, according to rumor the Yankees appear ready to include Hughes and Cabrera and maybee even another starter.

Nick N. said...

Maybee you could help me understand this potential Boston deal. Personally I think the Twins would be stupid to take it. It would be a huge score for Boston, trading pieces they don't even need like a back up center fielder who they are going to get rid of anyway. That should not be how the pending Santana trade goes down.

I don't imagine that the latest rumored Red Sox package (Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, prospect) is the best they will offer. If it is, well, it's not that bad. Crisp is a reasonable replacement in center field, while Lester (though not ideal) has the potential to be a very solid left-handed starter in the major leagues. The centerpiece of that proposed deal though, is Jed Lowrie. A very good shortstop prospect with plate discipline and some power, he could make Twins fans forget about Jason Bartlett.

Naturally, I'd prefer that any deal with the Red Sox include Clay Buchholz, because I think it's important to get another top-flight pitching prospect in the organization with Garza gone. That's why if the Yankees are offering Hughes as a part of a decent overall package, you've got to go with that. It's also why the Mets don't interest me much.

Anonymous said...

who do you consider the best trading partner for the twins, given all the rumors flying around? i'd hate to see johan with the yankees, but i like hughes. i would prefer him to go to the dodgers though. i think he would be more successful there and i like the prospects they have to offer. it seems like they are more interested in trading for miguel cabrera though.

Nick N. said...

who do you consider the best trading partner for the twins, given all the rumors flying around?

The Dodgers have always been my preferred trading partner, but they don't seem to be too seriously interested. If they are, they're hiding it well. Their GM, Ned Colletti, said in an interview that he didn't want to trade a bunch of the team's young talent and he'd be fine going into next season with the team mostly intact as it is. Whether that's true remains to be seen.

The Yankees and Red Sox could both offer a very enticing package, but one of them is going to have to pony up and back off of their "untouchable" statements. The Mets don't interest me much. The Mariners could be intriguing if they are actual bidders, which I somehow doubt.

Beau said...

Is Neshek not considered a legitimate replacement for Nathan? He didn't even give up many homers last year (less than one per nine innings), so he doesn't even have that knock against him.

I'm not too worried about he ended the year last year, as the tool overused him and Neshek's oft-cited rubber arm became less rubbery.

Nick N. said...

I'm hesitant about trading Nathan and throwing Neshek into the closer role. In part because of Neshek's drop-off in the second half, and in part because Neshek is still relatively inexperienced, but mostly because it thins out the bullpen. Even if Neshek is an effective closer, the rest of the Twins' bullpen looks like this: Guerrier, Rincon, Reyes. Rincon and Reyes are question marks, who knows if and when Crain will return. There's a good chance a guy like Blackburn or Perkins will work out of the bullpen, but these guys aren't tested late-inning power relievers.

My stance is this: remove Nathan and the Twins' bullpen is no longer a strength. I'm of the opinion that a team like the Twins needs a strong bullpen to be successful.

Anonymous said...

the Twins will find a closer where you least expect it. They have a history of doing it. Who thought Rick Aguilera would be a domanant closer.

LaTroy Hawkins sucked the wind out of the stadium when he took the mound in the first inning of a game when he was a starter. He was pretty ok as a closer

Joe Nathan was a setup man. I remember when the Twins announced he was going to be the closer, there were questions about could he make it

Im not as worried about trading a potential 'closer of the future' because the Twins seem to find a closer

James

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