Twins' failure to rip off Rays alters Central

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Star Tribune
  • July 4, 2009 - 1:05 AM

Matt Wallace is a citizen journalist covering the Detroit Tigers minor leagues in the blog "Take 75 North.'' In December, the Tigers traded outfielder Matt Joyce to Tampa Bay for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson.

Wallace had monitored Joyce's progress through the Tigers system and was not pleased with the decision to give up Joyce. His view was carried under the headline, "Tigers trade Joyce for Rays' Edwin Jackson; Front office checked for head wounds."

Wallace wrote that generally he would wait for a deal to be official, but would make this exception: "I want to give my thoughts before I read anyone else's because I feel it will be more therapeutic for my rant to be unaffected by the world outside my mom's basement.

"On the Tigers' end, they're shipping out Matt Joyce ... an excellent outfielder; he's also a power-hitting lefthanded bat ... Jackson is a hard-throwing starter with bad control and a puzzling inability to strike batters out.

"You want to hear something truly horrifying? His 4.88 FIP last season is perilously close to Nate Robertson's 4.99."

Apparently, FIP stands for Fudge I'm Pathetic among bloggers, since Joyce has played 11 games for the Rays this season and again is back in Durham, N.C.

As for Jackson, he will take a 6-4 record and the American League's second-best ERA -- 2.49 -- into this afternoon's start against the Twins.

Central-leading Detroit upped its margin to four games over the Twins with an 11-9, 16-inning victory that lasted into Saturday morning. Kevin Slowey put the Twins in a 6-0 hole, they came back to gain extra innings, regained a tie with a run in the 14th and lost to a Tigers rally off R.A. Dickey in the 16th.

A key reason the Tigers are the team being chased is they did what tradition dictated when making a trade with the Rays: robbed 'em.

Tampa Bay came into existence with the expansion draft in November 1997. The Rays took Bobby Abreu, an outfielder from Houston, early in the draft, then traded him to Philadelphia for shortstop Kevin Stocker.

Stocker was released a couple of years later. Abreu has played another 12 seasons, with 244 home runs and 1,105 RBI since Tampa Bay traded him.

The Rays spent more than a decade trying to equal the futility of that deal. They might have matched it finally by trading Jackson for the second coming of Gabe Gross.

Tampa Bay wasn't a complete washout in making trades. It did send worn-out starter Victor Zambrano to the New York Mets for lefthander Scott Kazmir on July 30, 2004. The trade forced Steve Phillips to make the transition from Mets general manager to ESPN genius.

That deal aside, the expectation remained that trading with Tampa Bay was a fruitful pursuit. The Twins took the plunge on Nov. 28, 2007, with the first meaningful transaction for the Bill Smith regime.

The original deal had pitchers Matt Garza and Juan Rincon and shortstop Jason Bartlett going to the Rays for outfielders Delmon Young and Jason Pridie and infielder Brendan Harris.

The Rays saw how far the hook was set and refused to take Rincon. If the Twins had backed off right then, Detroit would have come to the Dome chasing them, not the other way.

The Twins agreed to substitute minor league pitcher Eduardo Morlan for Rincon. Morlan has progressed slowly for the Rays, and so what?

The Twins still had Rincon. They released the reliever in midseason of 2008 and were stuck with most of his $2.475 million salary.

On Friday, the Twins reached the halfway point of the second season since the trade was executed. Young was the designated hitter against lefthanded rookie Luke French.

Delmon had three hits -- including his third home run -- and perhaps moved back ahead of flailing Carlos Gomez in the bumper-car race to be the Twins' third outfielder.

Whatever the momentary triumph, the Twins were fleeced by Tampa Bay. They received a serviceable shortstop (Harris) and a disappointing outfielder (Young), while giving up an All-Star candidate (Bartlett) and a power arm (Garza) that would have topped off a deep starting staff.

Such a staff is something Tampa Bay possessed, before making the horrific trade with Detroit that could wind up determining the finish in the AL Central.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30-9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. •

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