Monday, November 28, 2011

Dissecting the Bill Smith era: The Young-Garza trade

Almost all of Delmon
Young's value with the
Twins came in 2010.
When: Nov. 28, 2007
What: The Twins sent RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett and RHP Eduardo Morlan to Tampa Bay for RF Delmon Young, INF Brendan Harris and OF Jason Pridie.
Values: Garza has earned 44 win shares and 11.9 WAR (wins above replacement) since the trade; Bartlett 64 WS and 13.9 WAR; Morlan has yet to play in the majors. Young has earned 52 WS, 1.3 WAR; Harris 19 WS, -0.2 WAR; Pridie 4 WS, 0.3 WAR. The three players Tampa Bay received have earned 108 win shares and 25.8 wins above replacement since the trade; the three players the Twins got earned 75 WS, 1.4 WAR. None of the six remain with the same team.
Twins motivation: Plugging outfield holes.

When Bill Smith inherited the general manager's job in September 2007, he faced two large and obvious issues: The pending free agency of Torii Hunter and Johan Santana's walk year.

Connected to the Hunter issue was that the 2007 Twins had a gaping hole in left field. Since it was quite obvious that the Twins were not about to meet Hunter's price, Smith was looking at two vacancies in the 2008 outfield.

Young was an intriguing trade target -- young, strong, he had hit .288 and driven in 90-plus runs as a 21-year-old in 2007. He appeared fully capable of living up to his status as the No. 1 overall pick in 2003.

Garza was also a first-round draft pick with intriguing talent. The Twins had a surplus of young starting pitchers and a shortage of usable outfielders; Garza and Young were the obvious cornerstones of the trade.

Brendan Harris washed out as
a second baseman early in 2008
and spent his Twins tenure
shuffling between third base,
shortstop and the bench.
But Young was not only a former first pick but somewhat more accomplished in the majors already. The Rays needed something more -- and that something more turned the trade in their favor.

I have always believed, reading between the lines, that Ron Gardenhire was never sold on Bartlett as his shortstop. He was reluctant to play Bartlett and only installed him in the lineup in 2006 when then-GM Terry Ryan gave him no choice by dealing away veteran Juan Castro. In 2007, Bartlett committed a string of costly early-inning errors down the stretch that helped bury the Twins' final chances of getting back into the race.

It was the exchange of shortstops -- Bartlett for Harris -- that made this a plus trade for Tampa Bay. Garza for Young is even enough to justify given the needs of the Twins at the time; Pridie and Morlan are essentially irrelevant. But Harris' defensive deficiencies -- which were evident in the defensive metrics at the time -- kept him from becoming a regular with the Twins. And the Twins haven't had a 100-game shortstop season since dumping Bartlett.

Neither Young nor Garza have so far truly lived up to expectations. Both were traded within the past year, and there are reports that the Cubs are shopping Garza around.

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