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.

hide

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 • jchristensen@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 12:05 PM
Detroit
Philadelphia 12:05 PM
Houston
St. Louis 12:05 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12:05 PM
Tampa Bay
NY Yankees 12:05 PM
Pittsburgh
Chicago Cubs 2:05 PM
San Francisco
Los Angeles 2:05 PM
Chicago WSox
San Diego 2:05 PM
Seattle
Cleveland 2:05 PM
Cincinnati
Milwaukee 2:05 PM
LA Angels
Oakland 2:05 PM
Chicago Cubs
Texas 2:05 PM
Kansas City
Colorado 2:10 PM
Arizona
NY Mets 4:05 PM
Washington
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Niagara 4:00 PM
Siena
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 8:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 31 1st Half 1:19
(22) Syracuse 34
Saint Louis 12 1st Half 14:31
VA Commonwealth 7
Saint Peters 10:45 AM
Rider
UNC-Asheville 11:00 AM
Liberty
UNC Greensboro 11:00 AM
(17) Chattanooga
Michigan State 11:30 AM
Michigan
Arkansas 12:00 PM
Ole Miss
Manhattan 12:30 PM
Niagara
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Richmond
Virginia 1:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Campbell 1:00 PM
Winthrop
Jacksonville St 1:00 PM
Belmont
Morgan State 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Furman 1:15 PM
Samford
Oregon 1:30 PM
Washington St
Indiana 1:55 PM
(23) Rutgers
Pepperdine 2:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Auburn 2:25 PM
(18) Texas A&M
Morehead St 3:00 PM
Tennessee St
George Mason 3:30 PM
Saint Josephs
Western Carolina 3:30 PM
East Tenn St
Arizona 4:00 PM
UCLA
Texas State 4:00 PM
Appalachian St
TX-Arlington 4:00 PM
Georgia Southern
SC State 4:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 4:30 PM
Coppin State
Portland 4:30 PM
Santa Clara
Norfolk State 4:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 4:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Nicholls
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Radford
Georgia 5:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Marshall
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
ULM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:30 PM
Miss Valley St
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close