Les Knutson: It makes sense to keep the Twins together
MINNEAPOLIS -- As a firm believer in the value of team chemistry and an avid supporter of “old school” loyalty, I am pleased that the Minnesota Twins held on to who they have and did not trade away any of their current players as the deadline for “improving” passed at the end of July.
I know lots of fans wanted to make a deal in hopes of upgrading the roster and getting a big-time player who could help win the 2019 World Series. You know, kind of like how Herschel Walker was the missing piece of the puzzle that was going to launch the Minnesota Vikings to a Super Bowl title back in 1988.
Well, I was not a fan of making a deal. I like how the Twins have done things this year. The off-season acquisitions have all worked out great. Nelson Cruz has been tremendous. C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez have all contributed. Bringing up Luis Arraez has been a huge boost. Lefties Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are pitching well, as is newly-acquired reliever Sergio Romo.
Romo appears to fit the mold of this year’s team with his spirited enthusiasm. Sam Dyson came on board with an injury and has not been sharp -- yet. But he may. If he does, it will turn out to be another shrewd move that is working out in 2019.
I was skeptical about making any huge deals because I have been haunted by past trading blunders. Let’s look at a few.
Starting with last year’s all-time worst, which was dealing away the ever-popular and oh-so-versatile Eduardo Escobar. After playing so well with the Twins last season, Escobar was traded -- for a couple of prospects -- to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was trade bait because Miguel Sano was finally ready and we all know that the whole franchise supposedly depended -- for so long -- on the much-awaited potential of Sano and Byron Buxton. True, both of these guys are getting better. But there is so much more to the Twins than just Buxton and Sano.
Oh, how’s Escobar doing in Arizona? After driving in seven runs, including hitting a home run against former Twins’ star Brian Dozier (who was pitching in the late innings of a blowout game for the Washington Nationals), Escobar has 88 RBI -- second-best among all 30 major league teams (trailing only Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell who has 89) -- and one ahead of the great Mike Trout’s 87. Imagine if the Twins still had Escobar?
The year before, while still in the hunt for the 2017 American League Central Division title, the Twins beat the trade deadline -- much to the chagrin of players and fans -- and dealt away closer Brandon Kintzler (an All-Star that summer) to the Nationals. Three seasons ago, during the 59-win 2016 season, the Twins traded away All-Star shortstop Eduardo Nunez to the San Francisco Giants. Things worked out good for Nunez, who last October earned a World Series championship ring with the Boston Red Sox.
Last summer, after trading away Escobar, the Twins sent reliever Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros. Pressly pitched well in the 2018 post-season and was an All-Star in 2019.
That’s just a few of the recent trades that have been bad. What about Aaron Hicks? Similar in style to Buxton, Hicks has become a bona fide star with the New York Yankees. Just when he was finally getting really good, the Twins (on November 11, 2015) dealt him away for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. Who got the better deal in that trade?
The Twins have had a history of bad deals. Remember, both David Ortiz (released after the 2002 season) and Graig Nettles (traded to the Indians on December 10, 1969) were both with Minnesota before becoming repeat All-Stars elsewhere --- Oritz many times recently with the Red Sox and Nettles (six times) with the Yankees during the ‘70s and ‘80s.
How many other former Twins have excelled after being traded?
The list goes on and on. I say it’s time for the Twins to stop being a farm team for the rest of the majors and keep their own guys together. Let this current bunch of proven players continue striving to win -- which, in 2019, they have been doing way more often than not.