Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gone Young

Delmon Young went from hitting eighth for a fourth-place
team to hitting third for a first-pace team.
So many aspects to Monday's Delmon Young deal.  Let's start at the beginning.

The first trade: Bill Smith, the Twins general manager, takes a lot of Internet grief for trading for Young to begin with. He gets none from this corner, because I liked the trade — or at least the Young for Matt Garza portion — when it happened.

Remember: The Twins had just finished a disappointing 2007 season. Torii Hunter was going to leave as a free agent, Michael Cuddyer had had a mildly disappointing year and the rest of the outfield had done nothing. Young had a pretty solid rookie season and was just 21.

The problem I had with the trade was the Jason Bartlett for Brendan Harris exchange, and I was and am inclined to blame that more on Ron Gardenhire, who never seemed to buy Bartlett as a shortstop.

None of the six players involved in that trade are still with their acquiring team. Young hasn't become a star as anticipated, but neither has Garza. Garza and Young have had their moments, but consistency has eluded them.

The return: We don't fully know the return on this trade, because there's a player to be named involved.
What we do know is that Detroit accepted Young's contract, so the Twins save about $1.3 million there (which is probably more than sufficient to absorb any budget issues involved in signing draft picks Monday).

And they got Cole Nelson, a left-handed pitcher from Edina (native son bonus) whose numbers in High A ball this year aren't impressive.

But: He's 6-foot-7 and throws hard (Baseball America says he touches 95 with the fastball). He has, BA says, difficulty repeating his delivery (not uncommon for raw guys of that size) and that leads to control problems, and he's pitched much better since being shifted to the bullpen.

The odds are always against Class A relief pitchers making it in the majors, but there are worse players to take a chance on than a big lefty with velocity.

Young's future: He probably didn't have much of one with the Twins. I couldn't see the Twins keeping all three of their opening collection of corner outfielders (Young, Cuddyer and Jason Kubel) past this season. One, yes, two maybe, but not all three, not with Cuddyer and Kubel free-agent eligible and Young due a raise in arbitration.

Had Young remained through this season, the Twins were likely to non-tender him this winter, and he would leave for nothing.

Detroit sees him differently. Magglio Ordonez has been useless this season. The Tigers look at Young and figure: Even in a down year, he's more productive than Mags; even with arbitration this winter, he's cheaper than Mags; even with his awkwardness in the field, he's no real defensive downgrade from Mags.

For the Twins, Young was frustrating and excess. For the Tigers, he's fresh and an upgrade. And more than a two-month rental. He'll be there next season too.

The Twins future outfield: Figures to be very left-handed. Pencil Ben Revere in at left field and Denard Span in center. Assume the Twins re-sign one of the Cuddyer/Kubel pair but not both; that guy will split time between right field and either DH (Kubel) or first base (Cuddyer).

If it's Kubel, the Twins will have an all left-handed hitting outfield — and with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau inhabiting the middle of the lineup, the team will overly lefty. Which is a reason for Cuddyer to be a higher priority than Kubel.

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