Trade talk: Stewart swap showed club can deal

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2007 - 11:04 PM

But Terrry Ryan is more cautious now, especially with pitching prospects.

Baseball's trade market has changed since then. Then again, so have the Twins.

But four years ago, with the Twins fading in the standings and in need of an offensive spark, they made just the kind of move many believe they need now.

On July 16, 2003, they acquired Shannon Stewart from Toronto for Bobby Kielty and a player to be named.

The turnaround was remarkable. The Twins overtook Kansas City for another division title, and Stewart finished fourth in American League Most Valuable Player voting.

Now, with Twins fans clamoring for General Manager Terry Ryan to strike another bold move, history shows how unique the Stewart situation was, offering lessons why the Twins haven't made those gambles every year.

Ryan was reluctant to discuss this topic. With another July 31 trade deadline approaching, the last thing he wanted was to sound boastful at a time that can be very humbling for a GM.

"It's amazing the reactions you get to different acquisitions," Ryan said. "Sometimes they work beautifully, and sometimes there's no difference. Sometimes it's a mistake, and we've probably been in every predicament."

Inside the deal

The Stewart deal was no mistake, and it certainly wasn't made with a sudden impulse. The Twins had glowing scouting reports on him dating back more than a dozen years.

A first-round pick of the Blue Jays in 1992, Stewart emerged as a leadoff man with speed and power, stealing 51 bases and hitting 12 home runs in '98. The Twins actually tried acquiring him in 2001.

By 2003, Stewart was a pending free agent making $6.2 million, and leg problems had robbed him of his speed. In mid-July, he had stolen only one base, while batting .294 with seven home runs.

But Larry Corrigan had spent years as Ryan's top American League scout, while then-assistant GM Wayne Krivsky covered the National League. Corrigan followed Stewart as a high schooler and knew Stewart's makeup.

"He certainly had some positive things to say about Shannon," Ryan said.

Maybe Stewart wasn't the same player. But he was 29 and could still hit.

"We were looking for somebody at the top of our lineup, and Shannon obviously fit that bill," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "A guy who could go deep into counts and all those things. It was a definite need -- another professional hitter."

The perfect storm

As the trade talks with Minnesota intensified, Toronto was 49-46 and third in the AL East, nine games behind the New York Yankees.

J.P. Ricciardi was in his second year as Toronto's GM. He had previously served as Billy Beane's top assistant in Oakland and developed the same appreciation for players with a high on-base percentage.

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