Twins-Rays trade may yet pay dividend
- Article by: SID HARTMAN
- Star Tribune
- May 10, 2009 - 12:44 AM
Righthander Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett were big stars for Tampa Bay last season, as the Rays made it to the World Series after acquiring the two players in an offseason trade from the Twins.
The two continue to perform well for Tampa Bay, which has won seven of 10 games after a slow start to the season.
The trade also sent pitcher Eduardo Morlan to Tampa Bay, while the Twins received outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and outfielder Jason Pridie.
There was a lot of enthusiasm among fans and the media when the Twins acquired Young, but not long into the season, the second-guessing started, as he wasn't hitting for power and Harris lost his job at second base, while Garza and Bartlett were helping the Rays go from last to first place in the American League East. Young and Harris didn't seem an adequate return in the trade.
Still, while the Twins might be a better team with Garza and Bartlett, Young and Harris have started to contribute.
Harris hit a three-run homer Friday and is hitting .300 after going 0-for-4 in Saturday's 9-6 victory over Seattle. He started at shortstop again Saturday in place of the slumping Nick Punto and also has seen action at second and third base this season.
Young has yet to hit for a lot of power with the Twins. However, before going 0-for-4 Saturday, he was hitting .455 in May and is getting a chance to play more than he was at the start of the season. And it's worth noting that, though he has a reputation for swinging at the first pitch, in the first seven games of the month he took the first pitch in 16 of 24 plate appearances, and of those 16 first pitches he took, 14 of those were balls, so perhaps he has learned to become a more disciplined hitter.
However, the trade still looks like it's in Tampa Bay's favor.
After going 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA last year and being named the MVP of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, Garza is 3-2 with a 3.51 ERA this year, and he is averaging only one baserunner per inning (17 walks and 24 hits in 41 innings pitched). He also has 36 strikeouts. He pitches against the Red Sox tonight on national television.
Bartlett is hitting a sizzling .351 with four home runs -- one off his career high of five, set in 2007 with the Twins -- and 12 RBI. He also had six stolen bases in seven attempts, and after hitting ninth in 2008 he is now getting a chance to move up in the lineup. Last year, even though his offensive numbers were modest -- .286 with one homer, 37 RBI, 48 runs and 20 stolen bases -- the Rays named him their team MVP for the outstanding defense he provided at shortstop.
You wouldn't expect Twins General Manager Bill Smith to say he made a bad deal. But when the trade was made, Smith received a lot of accolades.
Smith certainly can end up looking good if Young, who now is hitting .288, and Harris can continue to swing hot bats.
Smith said he didn't want to give up Bartlett, but since Harris was involved in the trade, he decided to make the move.
"I have no regrets about making the deal," Smith said. "Young is 23 years old with a great future."Jottings
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