November 29, 2007

Twins acquire Delmon Young from Rays

As I posted yesterday, the Twins and Rays have now agreed on a deal which would center around outfielder Delmon Young of the Tampa Bay Rays and pitcher Matt Garza of the Minnesota Twins.

This shouldn't sound too new to any readers as I've mentioned this deal a few times on this blog over the course of the off-season. Although, I never mentioned any other players being involved in a deal. At least, nobody specific.

The deal is now a 6-player swap which will also bring the Twins infielder Brendan Harris and outfielder Jason Pridie. In return the Rays will receive short stop Jason Bartlett and relief pitcher Eduardo Morlan.

The original deal was the same, except the Twins were sending Juan Rincon instead of Eduardo Morlan. But the Rays were discouraged with Rincon's arm injury, which resulted in the Twins sending Morlan in his place.

Obviously, the original deal is more appealing from the Twins standpoint as Juan Rincon's numbers have dropped significantly over the last few seasons. But either way, the Twins didn't let a minor league pitcher stand in the way of acquiring a very good offensive talent in young, which gives me some optimism for this off-season with new GM Bill Smith, that's something that I don't see happening if Terry Ryan were still the GM.

Delmon Young was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2003 with the first overall pick in the draft. After only a 3-year stay in the Rays minor leagues, Young finally made his major league appearance as a 20-year-old in 2006. Young was hit by a pitch in his first major league appearance. After striking out in his second at bat, he hit his first major league home run.

There may have been some motivation to why Young was hit by a pitch in his first at bat. Earlier in the season, Young was involved in a situation in which after he was ejected in a AAA game, he tossed his bat at the home plate umpire which resulted in him receiving both a 50-game suspension and a bad reputation throughout baseball. And since being promoted to the majors, he hasn't really shined away from being "immature" after many disagreements with Rays management, which could be the reason why the Ray's dealt him.

Regardless of the bad reputation, Twins fans should be ecstatic about the potential that Young brings to our lineup. His minor league numbers show that he is very capable of putting up insane numbers which could one day lead him to the hall of fame.

Level      G      PA       AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS     HR     RBI
A         131     513     .320     .386     .536     .922     25     155
AA        52     228     .285     .303     .447     .750      6      28
A         84     330     .336     .386     .582     .968     20      71
AA        86     342     .316     .341     .474     .815      8      59

As you can see, even with Young's "Demons" in his head, he still has a ton of upside and could give the Twins a reliable bat to place between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the order for possibly the next decade or so.

A little problem with this deal for the Twins is that it still doesn't give them a reliable player to put in center field to replace Torii Hunter, who signed a 5-year $90 million with the Los Angeles Angels last week. Young has experience of playing center field, but his lack of range and powerful throwing arm would probably best be served in left field or right field. And with Michael Cuddyer already in right, it looks like left is the most likable spot for him.

As for the other players we received, Brendan Harris is a pretty good hitter who will probably serve as our second baseman to begin 2008. I'd say short stop, as that's what he's played most of, but the Twins like having a player with a lot of range at that position, and unfortunately Harris doesn't posses the range of a guy like Nick Punto or Alexi Casilla. In fact, his career zone rating of .755 at short stop is significantly lower than Punto's .850 ZR at short stop. If the Twins can acquire one more bat, I honestly wouldn't mind seeing Punto in the lineup as our shortstop. The 27-year-old Harris hit .286/.343/.434 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI's last season in 521 plate appearances for the Rays.

Jason Pridie might be a player that some of you have heard of before. And you're probably correct. Pridie was selected by the Twins in the 2005 MLB Rule V draft. But after he didn't make the team out of Spring Training, he was returned to the Rays. In 2007, Pridie split time between AA and AAA. In AAA he 10 home runs with 39 RBI's in 245 plate appearances. As a 24-year-old outfielder, Pridie will probably serve as the teams 4th or 5th outfielder, if he makes the team out of ST. The move could mean the Twins will non-tender Craig Monroe which would make him a free agent.

Matt Garza was sent packing after just 3 years in the Twins system. The Twins drafted him in the first round of the 2005 draft out of Fresno State. After pitching 108.1 innings for the Bulldogs in '05, he pitched an additional 75.2 with the Twins between Elizabethton and Beloit. After starting the 2006 season in Fort Myers, he quickly excelled through the Twins organization up to the Major Leagues. As a 23-year-old in 2007, Matt Garza frustratingly started the season in AAA Rochester. After a few months of whining and mediocre pitching, he finally made his way to the Twins rotation and actually proved to be a fairly good pitcher for the Twins down the stretch. He has a very good fastball, with a pretty good 12-6 curveball. His biggest flaws are that he too has had his moments of immaturity and he needs to really work on his off-speed poitches if he wants to develop into a potential #2 starter for the Rays.

Bartlett had a rocky season for the Twins in '07 after he played a very important role in the Twins playoff-run in 2006. He hit .265/.339/.361 in 510 plate appearances. He also tied Ryan Braun for the most errors in the league with 26. He has very good range, but needs to work on routine plays and his accuracy with his throws. But I think that he'll be a fine addition to the Rays. Although, he will probably have to switch positions at some point as the Ray have top-prospect Reid Brignac most likely starting next season in AAA. So he should be arriving in Tampa at some point next season, which would most likely result in Bartlett moving to second base, as long as he has his defensive woos worked out.

Morlan is probably the biggest problem with this deal for the Twins. At just 21-years-old, Morlan was on the fast track to potentially become an important player in the Twins bullpen around the time they open the new stadium. The Twins are now rumored to possibly be willing to trade closer Joe Nathan before next season, because he is set to become a free agent after the season. With this deal, the Twins dealt away one of the top relief pitchers in baseball and potentially their future closer. I don't want to whine about us trading a pitcher, because we've all been asking for it for a few years, but I just don't know how it could go from Juan Rincon to Eduardo Morlan. I'm just not sure how that worked out, unless the Rays thought that Rincon's value is higher than it actually is. We may never know.

Even with this big trade, I know people are still wondering what this means for a potential Johan Santana trade. And my response is this: Nothing. This deal does absolutely nothing for the Twins in a potential Santana trade, except it raises the priority of pitching being involved. The Twins may now being more willing to trade Santana for more pitching, instead of more offensive talent. I'm sure they'd like to acquire a center fielder, and I'm sure they still will, but it makes pitching the #1 priority in a trade. With the Red Sox and Yankees seeming to be the front-runners to land Santana, the price for him may go up which could result in one of the following:

A) The Twins get a boat load from the Yankees including (possibly) Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera and one of Jose Tabata or Austin Jackson. It could also lower their stance of holding onto both Joba Chamberlain and Robinson Cano.


B) The Twins get a boat load from the Red Sox (possibly) including Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and perhaps one of Jed Lowrie, Jon Lester or Manny Delcarmen.

Of course, any of these are the high-end in terms of return, but I could see one of the teams driving the price up that high.

If the season opened today, I see our lineup as follows:

CF - Jason Tyner
2B - Brendan Harris
C - Joe Mauer
RF - Michael Cuddyer
1B - Justin Morneau
LF - Delmon Young
DH - Jason Kubel
3B - Brian Buscher
SS - Nick Punto

Of course, the big question marks are still at center field and third base, but at least this deal gives the Twins at least one hole filled in either DH or CF. It'll just depend on where the Twins choose to play Young. And by the way, I don't feel Young will bat 6th for very long, I actually see him and Cuddyer switching. But I don't think anyone would be surprised to see Cuddyer start next season in cleanup.

Tomorrow, I will further speculate the Joe Nathan and Johan Santana trade rumors.