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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Dissecting Terry Ryan

Will examines Terry Ryan’s record as Twins general manager.

In his nine seasons as the General Manager of the Minnesota Twins, Terry Ryan has earned a reputation for making shrewd trades on a limited budget. In fact, Ryan was named the 2002 Sporting News Executive of the Year for his hard work in assembling the first American League Central Division champions from Minnesota. His imprint is noticeable as several of the core players of the current team were acquired through trades such as Johan Santana, Kyle Lohse, and Cristian Guzman.

During the first half of his time as GM, Ryan made several trades that were perceived as salary dumps. However, the Twins position has changed during Ryan?s tenure to one of a struggling team with limited finances to a team a few pieces away from being complete. Has Ryan successfully transitioned along with the team? Was Ryan even that great in the first place? What I aim to do is analyze the trades which Ryan has made, and attempt to determine whether or not his reputation as an astute judge of baseball ability is well-earned. Thus, this will be divided into sections to illustrate when Ryan was making salary dumps and when he was trying to bolster an already solid team.

The Chair-Shufflers

There have been many times that Terry Ryan has made a trade simply to fill out a minor league roster. At the time the trade was made, there was probably very little chance that it would ultimately affect the Twins. Thus, these trades can be viewed as just merely rearranging the organization?s minor pieces (like backup double-A catcher). When reviewing these trades, one must note that just about every one of them was made after the 1999 season. This seems pertinent because the 2000 Twins, despite taking their lumps, were the first season in which many of the core players from the present team became regulars. It seems that even during their struggles, Terry Ryan may have seen a future in these players that he had not seen in his struggling teams from the mid-1990s.

 

  • June 8, 1995 ? Minnesota trades David McCarty to Cincinnati for John Courtright

 

McCarty, the supposed future of first base in Minnesota after Kent Hrbek, was traded after accumulating just three homeruns in over a full season?s worth of games. Since leaving the team, McCarty has been the prototypical journeyman and appeared in games for six teams (despite never appearing with the Reds). His best year was in 2000 as a member of the Kansas City Royals and he has been worth just 3.9 Wins Above a Replacement Player (WARP) in the eight and a half seasons since leaving the team. By contributing about .5 wins a season, McCarty is the definition of replacement level (which is terrible for being the 3rd overall pick in a draft). Courtright never appeared in the majors.

 

  • August 26, 1996 ? Minnesota trades Pat Mahomes to Boston for Brian Looney

 

Much like McCarty, Mahomes was a prospect that fizzled upon reaching the Twins. After several mediocre seasons, Pat Mahomes was traded after compiling a 7.20 ERA in 1996 with the Twins. Since that time, he has bounced around much like McCarty and had one above average year ? 1999 with the New York Mets. I must confess, I always had a soft spot for Mahomes and thought he was the answer at closer after the Rick Aguilera trade (more on that later), but his production left a great deal to be desired. Beginning in 1999, Mahomes has been slightly above replacement level, but bouncing around the league as the twelfth-man on several eleven-man pitching staffs. Looney never appeared in the majors.

 

  • August 30, 1997 ? Minnesota trades Darrin Jackson to Milwaukee for Mick Fieldbinder

 

Unlike Mahomes and McCarty, Jackson had already become a journeyman by the time he joined the Twins in the middle of 1997. After just 49 games, Terry Ryan traded Jackson to the Brewers. In the two years and one month of the rest of Jackson?s career, he posted 2.1 WARP. However, after his retirement Jackson has consistently been below replacement level as a color man on WGN. Fieldbinder never appeared in the majors.

 

  • August 3, 1999 ? Minnesota trades George Williams to Houston for Josh Dimmick

 

Williams returned to the major leagues after this trade, but as a member of the San Diego Padres and for just eleven games in 2000. In his brief stint as a Padre, he contributed 0 WARP. Dimmick never appeared in the majors.

 

  • December 7, 1999 ? Minnesota trades Chris Latham to Colorado for Scott Randall

 

After posting a .152 batting average in 138 at bats as a Twin, Latham was traded away. With Toronto briefly in 2001, Latham compiled 1.1 WARP and he returned to the majors briefly with the Yankees this season. Scott Randall finally reached the Majors with Cincinnati in 2003 and had a 1.63 WHIP and 6.51 ERA in 27 and 2/3 innings. He is already twenty-eight and has been in four different organizations.

 

  • July 31, 2000 ? Minnesota trades Mario Valdez to Oakland for Danny Ardoin

 

Valdez was 0.4 WARP in his brief time backing up Jason Giambi in Oakland in 2000 and 2001. Ardoin, on the other hand, was worth just 0.1 WARP as the Twins banishment of A.J. Pierzynski to the minors for his immaturity concluded.

 

  • July 3, 2001 ? Minnesota trades Hanley Frias to St. Louis for Larry Sutton

 

In their careers, Frias has combined to be 1.0 WARP while Sutton has been 1.2 WARP. Sutton?s seven game stint with Oakland in 2002 was the only time either of these players has been in the big leagues since the trade.

 

  • June 11, 2002 ? Minnesota trades Warren Morris to St. Louis for Seth Davidson

 

Morris was an adequate second baseman in 1999-2000, but completely redundant on a Twins team with Luis Rivas, Denny Hocking and Jay Canizaro all higher in the organizational pecking order. This season, he resurfaced on the Detroit Tigers (a team that actually performed worse than replacement players) and compiled a 689 OPS and 8.4 runs more than a replacement 2nd baseman. Davidson had an OPS of 675 in the Midwest League with Quad City last season.

The Scott Stahoviak Era (September 1994-2000)

While Scott Stahoviak was not a Twin for the duration of the time the team struggled, he played long enough to scar the memories of their fans. He is the perfect example of why this team struggled as he was a highly touted college player that turned into a tremendous flop with a team in dire need of help. If you prefer, this could also be the Matt Walbeck Era.

Regardless, during this time period, from the day Ryan was promoted to replace Andy McPhail through the end of the 2000 season, the Twins were consistently a bottom-dwelling team relying on retreads and prospects. Seeing no hope, Carl Pohlad rarely granted Ryan permission to increase the payroll for players not born in the state of Minnesota. Thus, the Twins seemed doomed to continue to struggle for a long, long time. Because of this context, the trades Terry Ryan made during this era must be judged both in their ability to lower the Twins payroll and their young prospects that would be acquired in the hopes that some would be able to stick as bona fide Major Leaguers.

 

  • July 6, 1995 ? Minnesota trades Rick Aguilera to Boston for Frankie Rodriguez and J.J. Johnson

 

As Rick Aguilera was approaching free agency, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox and provided excellent relief work for the second half of the season. For thirty innings, Aguilera was very good as the Red Sox closer and helped pitch them into the playoffs. In return, the Twins received two young prospects. J.J. Johnson never panned out, but Rodriguez was widely heralded and immediately joined the Twins. Rodriguez pitched decently in his two and a half seasons with the Twins and provided another league average starter in the rotation. However, his miserable 1998 caused the Twins to give up on him and he has bounced around ever since. While Rodriguez threw fairly hard, he had trouble maintaining a strikeout rate above 5 per 9 innings. Thus, he was living dangerously and a likely bet to collapse.

Rather than just analyzing this trade straight-up, one must remember that the Twins re-signed Rick Aguilera after the 1995 season (in the misguided belief that he could be a starting pitcher). Thus, they turned three months of Rick Aguilera into two and a half league average innings until the roof caved in on Rodriguez. In his career as a Twin (including 1998), Rodriguez was a combined 52 Runs Above Average.

Verdict: Even, Aguilera helped pitch the Red Sox into the playoffs while the Twins got a league-average pitcher (better than many who they were trotting out to the mound during this time) for the next three seasons.

 

  • July 7, 1995 ? Minnesota trades Scott Erickson to Baltimore for Scott Klingenbeck and Kimera Bartee

 

Scott Erickson was also in the final year of his contract in 1995 when he was traded to Baltimore, just the day after the Aguilera trade. After two and a half poor seasons with the Twins (20-36 record and ERA+ in each season of 85, 89 and 79), Erickson realized his talent with the Orioles and lowered his ERA by more than a third just in the conclusion of 1995. Erickson has stayed with the Orioles since the trade and pitched through arm troubles recently. Before suffering the injury, Erickson was valuable as an innings sponge that was always providing league average work. In fact, Erickson was 199 RAA with the Orioles through the 1999 season. His 2000 and 2002 seasons, however, have been poor as he pitched around severe arm troubles and was very ineffective.

In return for Erickson the Twins received two decent prospects. Scott Klingenbeck joined the Twins immediately but was atrocious. In his two seasons with the team, he pitched in 28 games with an 8.30 ERA in 77 innings. The Twins gave up on him in April of 1997 and he briefly pitched for the Reds the next season. After the conclusion of the 1995 season, Bartee was picked by the Detroit Tigers in the Rule V Draft and never played an inning as a Twin. After remaining in the majors in 1996 as a Rule V pick, Bartee has bounced around and was most recently in the majors with the Rockies in 2001. For his career, he has been worth 0.7 WARP.

Verdict: Terrible, in exchange for a league average starter Ryan acquired 77 innings of awful pitching. While Erickson was pitching poorly with the Twins, surely at least one Major League caliber player could have been acquired for a twenty-seven year old starting pitcher who had once won twenty games in a season.

 

  • July 31, 1995 ? Minnesota trades Kevin Tapani and Mark Guthrie to Los Angeles for Ron Coomer, Greg Hansell, Jose Parra and Chris Latham

 

At the trade deadline, Terry Ryan completed his third high-profile trade of the 1995 season, sending Tapani and Guthrie to LA for a cast of unknowns. Throughout the rest of his career, Tapani was consistently pitching at a level just over 20 RAA. Guthrie has also been slightly above average since the trade. In fact, he was excellent in 2002 with the Mets. As a breathing left-handed pitcher, Guthrie has a chance to remain in the Majors for a few more years, but he has already bounced around to eight different teams.

In return, the Ron Coomer was the only player involved in the trade to ever be an All-Star (and I mean that as a criticism of the structure of the game). Coomer produced about 15 WARP in his five-plus seasons with the Twins and was one of the more consistent Twins in the late-1990s, bouncing back and forth between third and first base. Greg Hansell spent one season in the Twins bullpen and was basically a replacement level pitcher before moving on to the Brewers organization. Much like Hansell, Jose Parra also provided replacement level pitching to the Twins and was also discarded after the 1996 season. Chris Latham played as a Twin in parts of three seasons as both a September call-up and fifth-outfielder. He was worth 0.1 WARP before being dumped to Toronto in a previously mentioned trade.

Verdict: Poor, the Twins traded a solid starting pitcher and decent left-handed reliever for Ron Coomer and a cast of replacement players. Coomer was one of the Twins’ few offensive weapons in the late 1990s despite being below average for his position. Parra, Hansell and Latham were essentially useless to the Twins and their spots could have just as easily been filled by minor league veterans.

 

  • August 29, 1996 ? Minnesota trades Dave Hollins to Seattle for David Ortiz

 

Dave Hollins played well for the Twins at third base in 1996 and was traded right before the August deadline to the Seattle Mariners. With the Mariners, he posted a .314 EQA but in just 113 plate appearances. He then spent two years with the Angels and has briefly appeared with the Blue Jays, Indians and Phillies in the past few years. He has been worth 7.5 WARP since he left the Twins.

David Ortiz was acquired as a twenty-year-old slugger in Single-A and began destroy the ball after entering the Twins organization. He was promoted from Single-A all the way to the Major Leagues in 1997 and was able to hold his own during his September tryout against big league pitching. His work ethic and sloppy defense caused him to bounce back and forth between the majors and minors the next few seasons before he finally stuck in 2000. In the next three years, Ortiz was a solid member of the Twins but frequently missed time with many injuries. The Twins declined to offer him arbitration after 2002, and he has become a beloved member of the Red Sox this past season. As a Twin, Ortiz contributed 10.2 WARP, and he was 44.1 Runs Above a Replacement Player this past season.

Verdict: Good, Ryan was able to acquire a low-level prospect that blossomed immediately after joining the Twins. While Ortiz never had a complete season until finally leaving the team, he was a solid contributor for several seasons, beloved in the clubhouse, and much more valuable than one more month of Dave Hollins.

 

  • August 14, 1997 ? Minnesota trades Greg Colbrunn to Atlanta for Mark Lewis

 

Serving as a platoon partner for Scott Stahoviak, Colbrunn was mediocre as a Twin before being traded in August. He joined the Braves during the pennant race and had fifty-eight plate appearances for them down the stretch. It was not until 1999, when Colbrunn joined Arizona, that he developed into a very useful bench weapon and he was worth 8.3 WARP during his four seasons with the Diamondbacks. As a Mariner this year, Colbrunn was frequently injured and badly misused and was just 2.8 RARP. Mark Lewis never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Even, Colbrunn did not really develop into an offensive force for another two seasons and did not have a role in Minnesota anyway. While Lewis did not pan out, Ryan made the correct decision in flipping Colbrunn for a prospect.

 

  • August 20, 1997 ? Minnesota trades Roberto Kelly to for Seattle Joe Mays and Jeromy Palki

 

Just like in the previous season, Terry Ryan executed a trade with Seattle in August in which he dumped an impending free agent for a prospect. In this case, Roberto Kelly went to the Mariners and produced a 298/529/328 line in 129 plate appearances which culminated in 1.3 WARP. After the 1997 season, Kelly played two years with the Rangers posting 4.6 WARP and left the majors after 27 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2000.

Joe Mays has spent the past five seasons primarily with the Twins and his production has ranged from terrible (2003) to outstanding (2001). From 1999-2002, Mays went 34-47 but posted an ERA ten percent better than league average. In 2003, Mays pitched with an injury ultimately leading to Tommy John Surgery and was awful providing 2.1 runs worse than replacement level. However, before this season he was worth 145 Runs Above Replacement Level. The other prospect, Jeromy Palki, has never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Excellent, Ryan was able to turn one month of Roberto Kelly into an above average Major League pitcher. While Mays has struggled the past two years, he was exceptional when healthy back in 2001. That year he was one of the top ten starting pitchers in all of baseball.

 

  • September 5, 1997 ? Minnesota trades Greg Myers to Atlanta for Steve Hacker

 

As the backup catcher on a non-contending team, Greg Myers did not have great job security. Realizing that Myers was a very replaceable commodity, Terry Ryan traded him to Atlanta for a prospect. Myers had just ten plate appearances with the Braves and was ineligible for the postseason because he was acquired after the August 31 roster deadline. Myers was worth 6.2 WARP between the 1998 and 2002 seasons as he has bounced around the league like many other backup catchers. However, he caught fire last season in his return to the Blue Jays and was worth 28 more runs than a replacement catcher while hitting 307/502/374. In return for Myers, the Twins received Steve Hacker who never reached the majors.

Verdict: Even, Ryan traded a very expendable commodity for a prospect that did not happen to work out. Myers? career renaissance happened occurred with his fifth team since leaving the Twins so they were not the only ones to pass on him.

 

  • February 6, 1998 ? Minnesota trades Chuck Knoblauch to the New York Yankees for Brian Buchanan, Cristian Guzman, Eric Milton, Danny Mota and cash

 

There was a great deal of bitterness when Chuck Knoblauch forced a trade to New York prior to the 1998 season. In return for Knoblauch, the Twins received four players who had not played in the Major Leagues, although some had a great deal of potential. With the Yankees, Knoblauch won three World Series and was 14.6 WARP in his first two seasons. However, in 2000 everything fell apart as Knoblauch?s normally proficient defense completely collapsed. He was unable to throw the ball to first base and his range also decreased dramatically. Not only did his defense deteriorate, but his offense also declined as he lost a great deal of slugging percentage. After moving to left-field in 2001 (and being pelted with hotdogs by Twins fans), Knoblauch left the Yankees and played one season with the Royals before leaving baseball. After the trade, Knoblauch posted 20.9 WARP.

Three of the prospects the Twins received have become steady contributors to Major League rosters. Eric Milton, the most highly rated prospect, has become a league average starting pitcher. Through 2002, his ERA was virtually the same as the league average during his career. The highlight of his career was his no-hitter in 1999, while the biggest low-point was his injury problems during the last eighteen months as he has tried to hide injuries several times. For his career, Milton has been 182 Runs Above a Replacement Player.

Cristian Guzman made the Twins roster as a twenty-one year old shortstop in 1999. By 2001, he was driving the ball to the gaps and using his incredible speed to leg out triples. He was easily the Twins? MVP during the first half of 2001. However, he has been maddeningly inconsistent since an injury suffered in July 2001. While he can be a productive shortstop for stretches at a time, he frequently will give away at bats and look absolutely clueless at the plate. For 1999-2002 he was worth 9.7 WARP, but this year he was barely above replacement level. Brian Buchanan was another of the Twins? gazillion corner outfielders and was traded to San Diego during the middle of the 2002 season. He was a good right-handed bat off of the bench and provides excellent power. This year he was worth 10.8 runs more than a replacement player and is a good option to have on the bench. Danny Mota has never reached the majors, and the cash was obviously helpful to poor, old Carl Pohlad who was struggling to get by.

Verdict: Excellent, Terry Ryan turned one regular Major Leaguer into three contributors to the team that surprised baseball during 2001. As Knoblauch declined, three players for whom he was traded helped post the first winning season in Minnesota in nearly a decade. As Rob Neyer noted while praising the Knoblauch trade, “f Knoblauch hadn?t wanted out of Minnesota, the Twins wouldn?t have made their oh-so-surprising run for the division title.”

 

  • De July 31, 1998 ? Minnesota trades Orlando Merced and Greg Swindell to Boston for John Barnes, Matt Kinney and Joe Thomas

 

At the trade deadline in 1998, Terry Ryan traded two veteran role players to Boston for prospects. Greg Swindell had revitalized his career as a quality relief pitcher with the Twins while Orlando Merced was solid left-handed bat for a fourth outfielder. Since the trade Merced has been worth 4.6 WARP with four different teams. Swindell pitched decently for the Red Sox down the stretch and signed with Arizona after the season. He was seventy runs above replacement level since the trade and retired after 2002.

Matt Kinney was an occasional member of the Twins starting rotation in 2000 and 2002. Both times he was just below league average, but above replacement level. Last year, the Twins traded him to Milwaukee. With the Brewers this year, Kinney started off well but then struggled during most of the season. He ended the year 4.6 runs below replacement level but did provide 190 innings for the team. John Barnes played for the Twins briefly in both 2000 and 2001 as an extra outfielder. Joe Thomas has never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Even, Terry Ryan was able to trade two former cast-offs for prospects. He was probably not going to resign either player anyway, so he basically traded two-months of both for potential replacements for them. While John Barnes did not work out, Matt Kinney was a promising pitcher who left the organization in a roster-crunch.

 

  • August 25, 1998 ? Minnesota trades Mike Morgan to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Downs

 

Mike Morgan was traded right before the August trade deadline and was miserable in his return to the Cubs. As a Cub he had a 7.15 ERA in 22 and 2/3 innings before leaving that off season. Morgan then spent a year in Texas before joining Arizona through 2002. In that time, he was 34 runs above replacement level. Scott Downs was in the Twins? organization for nine months before returning to the Cubs in the second Rick Aguilera trade.

Verdict: Even, Mike Morgan still had a little mileage left on his arm but the Cubs did not benefit from it. Scott Downs was not in the Twins? organization long enough for him to make an impact.

 

  • May 21, 1999 ? Minnesota trades Rick Aguilera and returns Scott Downs to the Chicago Cubs for Kyle Lohse and Jason Ryan

 

After a brilliant start to the 1999 season, Rick Aguilera was traded by the Twins for a second time. He pitched well in 1999 as a semi-closer with the Cubs and was their full-time closer in 2000. During his time with the Cubs, Aguilera was 25 runs above replacement level and he retired after 2000. Scott Downs was also returned to the Cubs, and he pitched in their rotation during 2000. He was barely above replacement level and has not appeared in the majors since that season.

Kyle Lohse was just twenty when the trade occurred and he went 3-18 in AA in 2000. However, he joined the Twins in mid-2001 and has not returned to the minors. He was overmatched during his first year, but he has become a quality major league starter. While he still is wildly inconsistent, he has been league average, and thirty runs above replacement level, in each of the past two seasons. The future looks bright for Lohse as he is just twenty-five, has already been league average and has not been overworked or abused by Ron Gardenhire. Jason Ryan pitched briefly with the Twins in 1999 and 2000 and was six runs above replacement level in sixty innings for his career.

Verdict: Excellent, Kyle Lohse has been extremely valuable to the Twins the past two seasons while Aguilera has been out of the league for three years. While Downs and Ryan have basically washed each other out, Lohse has easily had more value as a solid starting pitcher of a contending team than Aguilera had as a closer for a fledgling team.

 

  • August 31, 2000 ? Minnesota trades Midre Cummings to Boston for Hector de los Santos

 

After being release by Boston at the end of Spring Training in 1999, Cummings signed with the Twins. Nine years after being the Twins? first-round pick, he finally made his Minnesota debut that season. The next year he was a respectable fourth outfielder and left-handed pinch-hitter providing 1.1 WARP. At the waiver deadline, the Twins traded him to Boston for Hector de los Santos. Cummings had just 52 plate appearances in the big leagues after that trade split between the Red Sox and Diamondbacks while de los Santos has never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Good, even though de los Santos never panned out, Terry Ryan was able to get a prospect for a role player. What makes it even more remarkable is that he managed to trade Cummings back to the same team that released him just one season earlier.

 

  • September 9, 2000 ? Minnesota trades Hector Carrasco to Boston for Lew Ford

 

After the roster deadline was set, the Twins traded Hector Carrasco to the Red Sox. With Boston, Carrasco pitched just 6 and 2/3 innings while allowing 21 of the 40 batters he faced to reach base. In return, the Twins received Lew Ford who has not stopped hitting since joining the organization. In his first year with the Twins, Ford was 8.6 Runs Above Replacement Level despite receiving just 82 plate appearances. He looks like a good bet to be at least a above-average fourth outfielder for the next several seasons.

Verdict: Excellent, Terry Ryan absolutely robbed Dan Duquette in this trade. While Carrasco pitched much worse than expected with the Red Sox, he still was a fairly replaceable spare part. Lew Ford continues to develop into a better player and Terry Ryan basically acquired him for free. What makes the trade even better is that the Twins promptly resigned Carrasco after he was released by the Blue Jays the next March.

The Competing Era (2001-present)

A funny thing happened in April 2001. The Twins started winning games and jumped out into first place of the American League Central Division. While they stumbled and dropped to second place in the second half of 2001, the Twins have been playoff contenders for each of the last three seasons. Thus, Terry Ryan?s job completely reversed. Instead of dealing away his more accomplished players for prospects, Ryan was now asked to acquire the missing pieces from a playoff contender.

 

  • July 28, 2001 ? Minnesota trades Mark Redman to Detroit for Todd Jones

 

A year after winning twelve games as a rookie, Mark Redman was traded to the Tigers for Todd Jones. After starting nine games early in the season for the Twins, Redman was injured and did not return in 2001 until after the trade. His slow recovery frustrated several players and Manager Tom Kelly and he did not seem to be a well-liked member of the team. Despite posting an abysmal 8-15 record with the Tigers in 2002, Redman was 41 Runs Above Replacement and this season he was 33 more RARP with Florida. He also has reached a World Series before any other member of the 2001 Twins.

Todd Jones pitched 19 and 1/3 innings for the Twins down the stretch in 2001 as a reliable right-handed reliever while LaTroy Hawkins was wilting under the pressure of being a closer. After the season he signed with the Rockies and was very durable and useful in 2002 as a reliever with the Rockies. This season, however, Jones was awful as he was five runs below replacement level with Colorado before being released. He then joined the Red Sox and was basically a replacement level reliever.

Verdict: Bad, Terry Ryan traded a very valuable commodity for something much less valuable. While Redman had rubbed some of the Twins brass the wrong way, there was no reason to overcompensate for LaTroy Hawkins? meltdown by acquiring a middling middle reliever. Additionally, Redman made starts in 2002 and 2003 than Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Joe Mays.

 

  • July 30, 2001 ? Minnesota trades Matt Lawton to the New York Mets for Rick Reed

 

Q) What would be the best way to improve a team struggling offensively, but with three quality starting pitchers? A) Trade your best offensive player for another starting pitcher. Ok, so there may be some slight revisionist history in that description, but that basically summarizes Terry Ryan?s trade at the trade deadline in 2001. While Matt Lawton was definitely overvalued by most Twins fans at the time, the last thing the team needed to do was to acquire an aging, control pitcher that passes time as a hypochondriac.

To be fair, Rick Reed was the team?s most consistent starting pitcher in 2002, but he was terrible down the stretch in 2001. Overall, he?s been 58 RARP since the trade, but he has managed to alienate most Twins fans. Matt Lawton went to New York and promptly aged ten years. He has suffered from nagging injuries the past two years and his on-base and slugging percentages have dropped dramatically since his time on the Twins.

Verdict: Even, this trade helped kill the Twins slim playoff chances down the stretch in 2001 as Reed pitched poorly. However, his solid 2002 and Lawton?s continued injury problems are making the trade look a little better in hindsight.

 

  • July 16, 2003 - Minnesota trades Bobby Kielty and a Player to Be Named Later to Toronto for Shannon Stewart

 

At the time, this trade looked very bad from the Twins? perspective. They were trading two fairly similar players, but losing the younger and cheaper option. However, Shannon Stewart arrived in Minnesota and electrified the lineup as he taught some of the players the value of patience. In fact, he was so good that some national columnists even suggested that he was the American League Most Valuable Player.

While Stewart was playing well in Minnesota, Bobby Kielty had an awful second half in Toronto. In August, for example, he hit just 164/284/325. However, he is still under contract for the next four seasons and will continue to provide patience and moderate power.

Verdict: Good, Shannon Stewart was exactly the player needed to jumpstart the Twins in the second half of the season. While chemistry is often overvalued or mocked, there can be little doubt that the Twins started playing much better after the trade (although the pitching was much better as well). Stewart was 13 RARP as a Twin while Bobby Kielty was actually two runs below replacement level with the Blue Jays. If Kielty can bounce back from his miserable second half, this trade will slowly swing towards the Blue Jays favor.

 

  • August 31, 2003 ? Minnesota trades a PTBNL (Juan Padilla) to the New York Yankees for Jesse Orosco

 

Believe it or not, the Twins actually acquired Jesse Orosco to strengthen the team down the stretch. Orosco has barely been above replacement level since 1999, but this year he was awful. Despite having a no-trade clause, Orosco managed to pitch for three different teams this season. Combined he was more than eleven runs below replacement level and really should just retire.

Verdict: Terrible, there is absolutely no reason to trade anyone with a pulse for Jesse Orosco at this point in his career.

The Others

There trades fall into several categories, but none of the three that have already been covered. For example, there are several trades in which the Twins were simply out of roster spots and wanted to restock the farm system with their extra players. There are also trades in which the team traded a prospect away straight up for another prospect.

 

  • December 11, 1996 ? Minnesota trades Matt Walbeck to Detroit for Brent Stentz

 

After over three years of watching Matt Walbeck prove that he was the definition of a replacement level catcher, the Twins signed Terry Steinbach to bring him home to Minnesota. At this point, Walbeck became expendable and was dealt to the Tigers. He has bounced around since the trade and never stuck with any organization for a long time. Brent Stentz has never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Even, after signing Steinbach, Terry Ryan moved Walbeck because he knew that he was expendable. While Walbeck has bounced around with several teams, he has at least proven that he can fill the “switch-hitting backup catcher” role in the Majors whenever a team has that need.

 

  • December 12, 1997 ? Minnesota trades Rich Becker to the New York Mets for Alex Ochoa

 

Both the Mets and Twins grew frustrated with the lack of development shown by their young outfielders and decided to swap them. After looking like a very promising player in 1996, Becker?s career went into a nosedive and he had just two seasons of 200+ plate appearances after the trade. He produced 5.4 WARP after the trade and could probably provide a .350 OBP for a team as a fifth outfielder next season. Alex Ochoa, on the other hand, has never had the big year like Becker?s 1996. However, he continues to find teams willing to employ him as a backup outfielder and he won a World Series with the Angels in 2002. He has been worth 13.6 WARP since the trade.

Verdict: Even, Ochoa has been the more productive player since the trade and he is the one still in the league. However, the team gave up on him quickly and he has never reached the potential many envisioned from him.

 

  • November 16, 1998 ? Minnesota trades Dan Naulty to the New York Yankees for Allen Butler

 

After three decent, but injury plagued seasons in middle relief for the Twins, Dan Naulty was traded to the Yankees for a prospect. Naulty pitched in just thirty-two games for New York but was eleven RARP before being traded to the Dodgers. He has been out of the big leagues since 1999, and Allen Butler has never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Even, the Twins wanted to continue their youth movement in 1999. Thus, Naulty was the odd-man-out and Terry Ryan traded him for a prospect. Neither really had much of a career after the trade.

 

  • December 14, 1998 ? Minnesota trades Alex Ochoa to Milwaukee for Darrell Nicholas

 

After one poor season with the Twins, Alex Ochoa was traded to the Brewers. He proceeded to have the two best years of his career to that point. Darrell Nicholas never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Bad, the Twins and Terry Ryan gave up on Alex Ochoa way too early, and he was much better the next two seasons than the young Chad Allen, Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter.

 

  • December 13, 1999 ? Minnesota trades Jared Camp to Florida for Johan Santana

 

The Twins worked out a deal with Florida before the Rule V draft and paid the Marlins to take Johan Santana for them with the first pick. Then, they traded Jared Camp, the player they took with the second pick, with the money for Santana. Talk about a bargain. Santana has developed into one of the best young pitchers in baseball and has been worth 82 RARP the past two seasons. Jared Camp, on the other hand, has never appeared in the majors.

Verdict: Excellent, this is definitely one of the shining moments of Terry Ryan?s career and of the scouting ability of the Twins. Santana is now one of the most valuable commodities in the game and the Twins were able to get him for very little.

 

  • July 15, 2000 ? Minnesota trades Butch Huskey and Todd Walker to Colorado for Todd Sears

 

Todd Walker?s defense was so bad that some of the Twins? starting pitchers asked Tom Kelly not to start him when they pitched. He feuded with Kelly and was sent to Triple A before the trade. Since the trade he has been 12.1 WARP, and this year was 21.6 RARP while batting second for the Boston Red Sox. He was outstanding in the postseason this year, as well. Butch Huskey was added with Walker because he did not really have a role with the Twins. He hit 348/565/432 in 2000, but has not been in the majors since.

Todd Sears got lost in the shuffle among the many Twins minor league first basemen as he was passed by Doug Mientkiewicz on the depth chart. This season he finally was given an opportunity and played fairly well in May, but he was too similar to Mientkiewicz to have a role on the Twins.

Verdict: Even, something had to be done about Todd Walker as he had no future in the organization. Terry Ryan really made the best of a bad situation by getting a solid prospect. The reasons behind this trade are similar to Billy Beane?s John F. Mabry trade in 2002, but the result was not nearly as good.

 

  • March 28, 2001 ? Minnesota trades Chad Moeller to Arizona for Hanley Frias

 

Despite having a gaping black hole at catcher throughout 2000, the Twins suddenly found themselves with a plethora of options during Spring Training the following season. After A.J. Pierzynski and Tom Prince earned the two spots with the Twins, Matt LeCroy was pegged as the Triple A catcher. This left Chad Moeller without a role in the organization and the Twins flipped him to Arizona at the end of the spring. In exchange for Moeller, the Twins received utility infielder Hanley Frias as insurance after Jay Canizaro tore his ACL. Frias spent the first-half of the year in Triple A waiting for an injury to Denny Hocking or Jason Maxwell before being traded in an aforementioned deal. Chad Moeller has received more playing time each season with Arizona and hit a respectable 268/435/335 in 2003.

Verdict: Even, the Twins had no room for Moeller and traded him to fill an organizational weakness. While Moeller may have provided better production than Tom Prince, the Twins did not want to use two inexperienced catchers in 2001. This trade would actually slot a little better if there was a level between even and poor.

 

  • July 12, 2002 ? Minnesota trades Brian Buchanan to San Diego for Jason Bartlett

 

One of Ron Gardenhire?s first proclamations as manager was that Brian Buchanan was his everyday right-fielder. However, the emergence of Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty quickly forced Buchanan into a part-time role in 2002 before he was traded near the All-Star break. For San Diego this season, Buchanan hit 261/452/345 as a fourth outfielder and lefty-masher. His 943 OPS against lefties will probably help him bounce around the majors for awhile, but his future as a starting outfielder does not look promising. In return, the Twins received minor league shortstop Jason Bartlett. Bartlett posted a 805 OPS with New Britain while stealing 41 bases and may supplant Cristian Guzman or Luis Rivas in the Twins middle infield within two years.

Verdict: Good, Ryan traded a very redundant player in Buchanan for a promising prospect that appears to have a decent shot at a Major League job within two years.

 

  • November 15, 2002 ? Minnesota trades Matt Kinney and Javier Valentin to Milwaukee for Matt Yeatman and Gerard Oakes

 

Both Matt Kinney and Javier Valentin appeared with the Twins before their return to decency in 2001, but they spent most of 2001 and 2002 languishing in the minors. As the Twins were trying to set their 40-man roster after 2002, they did not have room for either of Kinney or Valentin and traded them to Milwaukee rather than risk losing them in the Rule V. Kinney pitched 190 innings for the Brewers and had a 4.20 ERA before an abysmal September dropped his season nearly a whole run to 5.19. With Tampa Bay, Valentin had a 222/356/254 line in 142 plate appearances that was well below replacement level for a catcher.

In Single A Fort Myers, Matt Yeatman started 25 games and had a 5.16 ERA in 129 innings. He struck out 7.0/9 innings and walked 4.5/9. While Yeatman is still just twenty-one, he needs to improve his control to have a major league career. Oakes, on the other hand, had an absolutely miserable season with Single A Quad Cities. He had a 9.45 ERA while walking 10.1/9 innings and striking out 5.7/9. His future looks pretty bleak, but stranger things have happened.

Verdict: Bad, neither Yeatman nor Oakes appear to have much of a future with the Twins. Kinney, however, logged a full season in the Brewers rotation and should remain there for a few seasons. There is a very good chance Javier Valentin will have a more productive Major League career in the long run than either of the two prospects.

 

  • September 9, 2003 ? Minnesota trades Todd Sears to San Diego for Alex Garcia

 

Much like the Buchanan trade, Terry Ryan traded Todd Sears to the San Diego Padres when it was evident that he had no role in the Twins organization. Sears found himself sandwiched on the depth chart at first base between Doug Mientkiewicz and Justin Morneau while also competing with Matt LeCroy and a glut of young outfielders for at bats. Garcia is another young middle infielder and posted a 650 OPS with Single A Eugene in 2003. He had just 218 plate appearances and is not likely to ever contribute at a major league level.

Verdict: Bad, in this case Ryan held onto Sears for too long and finally settled for a poor offer. It was no secret that Sears had no role in Minnesota, but he would probably have fetched more in return if he had been traded in May or June when he was producing off of the Twins? bench. Instead, Ryan waited until it was abundantly clear that Sears served no purpose in Minnesota.

 

  • November 14, 2003 ? Minnesota trades A.J. Pierzynski and a PTBNL (or cash) to San Francisco for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and Francisco Liriano

 

Fact: At some point before the 2005 season Terry Ryan had to trade A.J. Pierzynski. Thus, Ryan followed the Branch Rickey advice and traded A.J. a year too early rather than a year too late. It would be very surprising to see if Joe Mauer could replicate Pierzynski?s established level of production in 2004, but that is not one of the important points of the trade. The key issue is by holding onto Pierzynski, several things could have happened and most of them were bad. The worst case scenario would be if Pierzynski suffered a major injury, thereby eliminating his trade value. This is not particularly likely given his durability, but given his position (and love of blocking the plate) it is not entirely out of the question. The most probable outcome, however, is that Ryan would have a surplus of catchers next season and every team would be able to capitalize on his weak trading position. By making the trade early, Ryan was able to extract more concessions from the Giants.

In looking at the three players received, Nathan is a slightly less productive version of LaTroy Hawkins but will still be a solid right-handed reliever for the Twins. However, the two prospects are particularly intriguing because they both have received some hype in the past. While neither had a particularly successful 2003 campaign, I am willing to defer their evaluation to the Twins scouting department. After all, peruse the earlier trades in this article and look especially at Ryan?s acquisitions of young pitching. After Ryan?s initial struggles in the Erickson and Tapani trades, he has done an outstanding job of acquiring prospects from the lower-levels of the minor leagues and then having them turn into league average starting pitchers. Matt Kinney, Eric Milton, Joe Mays, Kyle Lohse, and Johan Santana were all acquired by trade within the last six years and only Milton had a great reputation.

Verdict: Good, Ryan pulled the trigger on the trade at an opportune moment and he and his scouting department have earned my confidence in their ability to scout minor league pitchers with their past performance. Pierzynski would not have lasted more than another season anyway, so Ryan did a good job of maximizing his gains.

Conclusion:

It took several years, but Terry Ryan finally had his first good trade in 1996 when he acquired David Ortiz for Dave Hollins. However, after that trade, Terry Ryan really did a great job of acquiring young prospects for veterans. In most of the trades he was trading a player that was barely worth more than a non-roster invite at the beginning of spring training which makes getting anything of value exceptional. In the Knoblauch and second Aguilera trade, Ryan acquired players who would become above average Major Leaguers and very solid contributors to the contending Twins teams of the past few seasons. Any GM that can turn a month of Roberto Kelly, Hector Carrasco or Orlando Merced into a major league player deserves some commendation for his work.

Unfortunately, his record since 2001 in trades specifically designed to bolster the team is not nearly as good. The recent Shannon Stewart trade definitely paid dividends, but otherwise he has not been very good. In one trade, he crippled an already struggling offense in order to further boost the already solid starting rotation. In the other two, he acquired relief pitchers who had no impact on the team and who could have been had for much less than he offered.

Finally, there are the trades that do not really fall into a rebuilding or contending category. Most of these trades involved some roster shuffling or trading from organizational strengths to full weaknesses, but there was one notable exception. The trade for Johan Santana after the 1999 season will always be considered one of Ryan?s shrewdest acquisitions. Not only did Houston not have room for Santana, but the Marlins also passed on his rights for the mere sum of $50,000. It is almost mind-boggling that one of the best young pitchers in baseball could be acquired for such a small sum, and Ryan should be lauded for the trade.

Thus, Terry Ryan has accumulated a great resumé as a rebuilding General Manager. When he has a lot of room to maneuver in his trades, he has acquired many players who have developed into solid Major Leaguers. For example, David Ortiz, Joe Mays and Cristian Guzman were all plucked from the low minors and have all had periods of extended success in the majors. However, Ryan has not done a great job of addressing the needs of the Twins midseason in an attempt to help push the team to the postseason. The longer the Twins remain a viable contender in the American League Central, the more chances that he has to improve his poor track record. One factor that may help Twins fans remain optimistic is that it took him three years to begin making good trades when trading his veterans. Now that he has had three years presiding over a contending team, it is possible that he will adapt and improve in that role as well.

 

WillYoung Posted: November 19, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Damon Rutherford Posted: November 19, 2003 at 03:58 AM (#614025)
Congrats, Will, on what I believe is your first Primer article. Why do fans of the Twins write such lengthy ones?
   2. Nick S Posted: November 19, 2003 at 03:58 AM (#614028)
To keep beating this to death . . .

Twin's Opponent's cumulative winning %:
Pre All-star break: 50%
Post All-Star Break: 43%

   3. ColonelTom Posted: November 19, 2003 at 03:58 AM (#614029)
Whatever happened to Butch Huskey? The guy didn't have a position, but he had some pop. (I suspect he'd still be a better hitter than, say, Raul Ibanez...)
   4. Walt Davis Posted: November 19, 2003 at 03:58 AM (#614030)
It wasn't Shannon teaching "some of the players the value of patience" that lead to a Twins turnaround, it was the pitching.

Yes and no.

Twins RA/g, pre: 5.01
Twins RA/g, post: 4.23

That's a difference of .78 r/g.

Twins RS/g, pre: 4.63
Twins RS/g, post: 5.36

That's a jump of .73 r/g. Their overall numbers weren't much different, but the production was. Probably just bad luck early, better luck late.

Still, the Twins improved equally on both sides in the second half.

On the article, I think it's quite good but I do have a few problems with how some of the trades were evaluated.

Basically, when you're evaluating a limited payroll team like the Twins, it doesn't always make sense to evaluate a trade based on how many wins a player produced after leaving that team. For example, the Twins were not going to hold onto Knoblauch or Erickson or Tapani no matter what. While on the one hand, how that player did subsequently gives you some idea of what kind of return Ryan "should" have been able to get, on the other hand it doesn't matter much at all, all that matters is how much payoff did the Twins get.

Or to put it more simply, when we evaluate a new trade, we usually try to look at it from both teams' perspectives. But in evaluating Ryan, all that's important is the Twins' perspective. I think some of these trades, especially some of the "even" ones are being evaluated from both teams' perspectives.

For example Aguilera for Rodriguez and Johnson. The Twins gave up a couple months of Aguilera for 2.5 years of league average starting plus the chance that Johnson would be something plus whatever cash they saved not paying Aguilera for two months. To me, that's a pretty clear win from the Twins' perspective.

Another criticism is that money isn't addressed often enough in these trades. For example, from a quality of play aspect, Lawton for Reed has worked out fine, even good, for the Twins. But the Twins also paid Reed $20 M over those 2.5 seasons. That makes this a pretty bad trade for the Twins.

My final "criticism" isn't a criticism, just a suggestion for future work: a fuller evaluation of Ryan requires looking at drafts and minor-league development, contract extensions, etc. Probably Ryan's biggest problem has been in the contract area. Radke, Milton, and Reed have all been quite expensive and only Radke has been worth the money. The Torii Hunter contract is hardly a bargain, nor was the Jacque Jones contract (not that it could be very damaging either). Releasing Ortiz and keeping Mientkewicz (who hit well this year) has worked out fine so far, but let's see if he avoids stepping into the trap of tying up Mient.

These sorts of decisions will play an increasingly larger role in whether the Twins can maintain their success, assuming Pohlad keeps the purse strings pretty tight. Who to non-tender, who to take to arbitration, who to sign longer-term, who to try to sign through a year or two of FA will be the key questions in determining whether the Twins can maintain their success.
   5. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: November 21, 2003 at 03:59 AM (#614068)
The thing about the Kielty trade is that he was extremely redundant on the Twins. How many corner OF prospects do you need? I suspect he has one of the lower upsides of those guys as well. Regardless, I don't believe they will miss him at all, even though he is a useful player.

So, it comes down to whether you think Shannon Stewart would outproduce Kielty over the second half of the season. They are pretty similar players, but it isn't unreasonable to think Stewart was more likely to help the team. Then, after the season, he's gone, and one of the many other young guys the Twins have take that spot on the roster.

So maybe Toronto did very well with this trade, but I don't see how it was bad for the Twins, unless you think they could have gotten something more for Kielty (like someone who plays the middle IF).

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