Christensen: It's too bad selling low has been Twins' MO

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 31, 2012 - 7:07 AM

To acquire a front-line starting pitcher, they might have to trade one of their top position players.


Many people think the Twins traded too long to deal Delmon Young and others, and therefore got little in return.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Twins have terrible timing these days, and that's not a reference to the batter's box. The front office keeps making trades from a position of weakness instead of strength.

J.J. Hardy for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Delmon Young for Lester Oliveros and Cole Nelson. And now, Francisco Liriano for two White Sox prospects who, in a best-case scenario, will become the next Nick Punto and Brian Duensing.

With the nonwaiver trade deadline coming at 3 p.m. Tuesday, the Twins need a better crystal ball.

In Liriano's case, General Manager Terry Ryan actually did well under the circumstances. Liriano is two months from free agency and was 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA in early May.

When he makes his White Sox debut against the Twins on Tuesday at Target Field, Liriano could pitch eight shutout innings with 16 strikeouts. He also could be showering by the third.

The Twins should have seen this coming. Actually, some did see it coming. After the 2010 season, there were people inside the organization who felt strongly that Liriano should be traded.

The lefthander had finally started fulfilling the promise he showed as a rookie in 2006, before Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. He went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 2010. He was two full seasons from free agency.

Insiders say the Twins and Blue Jays discussed a deal that would have swapped Liriano for lefthander Ricky Romero. The Yankees offered righthander Ivan Nova and infielder Eduardo Nunez. Some Twins officials would have been happy with either move, knowing Liriano's potential to hit rock bottom again.

Then-GM Bill Smith didn't pull the trigger, and last year, with his shoulder barking, Liriano went 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA. Considering how badly he struggled in the first two months of this season, the return package from the White Sox wasn't terrible.

Eduardo Escobar was a major league utility player before the trade and could become a starting shortstop, pushing Brian Dozier to second base. And lefthander Pedro Hernandez could become a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter.

But fans are understandably disappointed. Twins starting pitchers entered Monday ranking last in the American League with a 5.57 ERA, and there is very little help coming from the top three levels of their farm system.

The Twins could have avoided this with better foresight. Like Liriano, they miscalculated with Young. After two disappointing seasons, Young finally produced in 2010, batting .298 with 21 homers and 121 RBI. Instead of selling high, the Twins watched him hit four homers and 32 RBI in 84 games before trading him to the Tigers off waivers last August.

Branch Rickey always said you should trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late. In recent times, the Twins have been guilty of both. They were late with Liriano and Young and early with Hardy, Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza.

This trend must stop. The Twins need to decide if they are going to be serious contenders next year -- and the answer is probably no -- and then start planning accordingly.

Ryan says he will listen to offers for anybody, and teams have asked about Denard Span, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham. All three are under contract for next year, but the Twins need to consider moving all three of them. If not now, then definitely over the offseason.

Maybe it sounds preposterous to trade Willingham now, in the first year of a three-year, $21 million deal, when he has 27 home runs and 78 RBI. But he is 33 years old, and his trade value never will be higher. He dealt with back issues earlier in his career, and it's always a concern that he will wrench it again on one swing.

Sometimes you have to make unpopular choices. Last winter, Oakland let Willingham leave via free agency and traded away three All-Star pitchers -- Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey -- but the returns have made the A's surprising contenders this year.

There aren't many ways to land front-line starting pitchers, and the Twins have shown very little interest in paying for it on the free-agent market. Trading Willingham might be the only way to get it.

The Twins should consider selling high soon. As they have shown, it doesn't always pay to wait.

Joe Christensen •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)


New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 90 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the Twins contact Joe Maddon about their managing job?

Weekly Question