Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dissecting the Bill Smith era: The other 2008 trades

What: Craig Monroe, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in what Baseball Reference describes as a "conditional deal."
When: Nov. 13, 2007
Value: 3 win shares. -0.8 WAR before being released in August
Twins motivation: Outfield depth.

This was Bill Smith's first transaction as general manager, and it was flawed in two crucial aspects.

First, he apparently misunderstood the finances and didn't realize that by acquiring Monroe directly from the Cubs he couldn't offer Monroe as low a salary as he had intended. Second was what I call Craig Monroe Syndrome: Monroe had always hit the Twins well, and the Twins mistook that for an indication of his talent. They didn't comprehend that the rest of the league got him out.

At least he didn't cost the Twins anything. No "player to be named" was ever named.

R. A Dickey: Now a rotation
cornerstone with the Mets
What: Traded RHP R.A. Dickey to Seattle for C Jair Fernandez
When: 3-28-08
Value: Fernandez has not reached the majors; Dickey had 3 win shares and 0.4 WAR with Seattle before being released.
Motivation: minor league catching depth

A rather involved series of transactions here. The Twins had signed Dickey, who was in the process of converting himself into a knuckleballer, to a minor league deal just before the winter meetings. The Mariners then took Dickey in the Rule V draft. As opening day approached, Seattle traded Fernandez to the Twins for the rights to Dickey, which allowed the M's to send him to the minors.

Fernandez was a Class A catcher at the time; he has bounced around the Twins minor league system since, always as a backup. He became a minor league free agent last month.

Seattle released Dickey after the 2008 season; the Twins signed him again, and released him after 2009. He has since emerged as a reliable starter with the Mets. The Twins were a little too early on him.

What: Claimed INF Sergio Santos on waivers
When: 5-16-08
Value: None as a minor league infielder
Motivation: ?

Sergio Santos in 2008 was an infielder who couldn't hit but had a strong arm. The Twins picked him up apparently with the notion of converting him to pitching, but he was unwilling to make the switch, and the Twins cut him loose. The White Sox picked him up for 2009, convinced him late in the season to try pitching, and he ended 2011 as their closer.

As with Dickey, right idea at the wrong time.

What: Claimed LHP Craig Breslow on waivers
When: 5-29-08
Value: Six win shares, 1.1 WAR that season with Twins; 23 win shares, 4 WAR from 2008 to now.
Motivation: Bullpen depth

A good pickup by the Twins, negated to a degree by Ron Gardenhire's inexplicable unwillingness to let him pitch in game situations.

What: Sold RHP Livan Hernandez to Colorado in a waiver deal
When: 8-6-2008
Value: Three win shares total for season, -1.7 WAR for season.
Motivation: Making room in the starting rotation for Francisco Liriano.

The Twins signed the rubber-armed veteran to anchor their rotation in the wakes of the Garza and Santana trades. By midseason Liriano had started pitching well in the minors, and Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins had established themselves as more effective than Hernandez.

The Twins over the years have taken outside criticism for this kind of early-season veteran use. I think it's unfair. Signing a Hernandez, a Ramon Ortiz, a Sidney Ponson is only partly hoping for a surprise. It's also buying time for a younger pitcher to mature or rehab in the minors.

"Everyday Eddie"
Guardado ended his
career in spring
training 2010
with the Nationals.
What: Traded RHP Mark Hamberger to Texas for LHP Eddie Guardado
When: 8-25-08
Value: Hamberger made his major league debut in September 2011, earning one win share and no WAR. Guardado pitched seven mostly ineffective innings for the Twins.
Motivation: Bullpen help.

The Twins were chasing the White Sox; the bullpen was thin; Gardenhire, for some reason, wouldn't use Breslow; Guardado, despite a badly frayed shoulder, was having a good season with Texas.

The Twins gave up a Class A arm who hadn't even been drafted for the veteran. This one could begin to backfire big time, as Hamburger has pushed his way to the majors.

What: Sent RHP Brian Bass to Baltimore in a conditional deal
When: 9-5-08
Value: He has had 4 win shares and -0.5 WAR since the deal.
Motivation: Addition by subtraction.

As with the Monroe deal, no player to be named was ever named.

1 comment:

  1. Great coverage. Thanks for covering all the detail. For the most part, Smith made a number of small trades that gave up MiLB filler for bullpen help.

    It's the major trades that did him in... but I totally forgot about the Guardado trade.