Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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It's true: Twins got more for Francisco Liriano than Santana

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: April 24, 2013 - 1:31 PM

Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano were the main sources of the Twins' miracle comeback in the 2006 season. The run started from 25-33 in June and for two months, Santana and Liriano refused to lose. As we all recall, Liriano broke down in early August and wound up with Tommy John surgery during the offseason.

Santana was the hottest commodity on the trade market after the 2007 season. Legend has it, the Twins wanted both pitcher Jon Lester and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury as the keys to a trade with Boston. If the Twins had settled for one, and a package of others, it would have been a fine trade.

They didn't, Boston pulled away, and the Twins were left scrambling to make a deal.

That's the legend, anyway. There are Boston people who will tell you that there was never a chance the Red Sox were going to trade Ellsbury, much-anticpated in New England as a star of the future.

Whatever, the Twins wound up trading their two-time Cy Young Award winner to the New York Mets for center fielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra. The potential standouts in this group were said to be Gomez and Guerra, a large, hard-throwing righthander in the low minors.

Humber pitched a perfect game. It was last April for the White Sox. He had been released by the Twins in August 2009.

Mulvey was exchanged for Arizona reliever Jon Rauch on Sept. 1, 2009. Rauch had 21 saves for the Twins in 2010 before Matt Capps was acquired from Washington on July 29.

Some people feel as if Twins World would be a better place today if the Twins had ridden it out with Rauch and retained catcher Wilson Ramos.

The Twins invested two seasons in Gomez and then traded him to Milwaukee for shortstop J.J. Hardy. This would have been a crown jewel of trades for the Bill Smith administration, if the Twins hadn't decided Hardy was injury-prone and sent him to Baltimore for pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson.

The Twins waived Hoey after the 2011 season. They released Jacobson last summer. This wasn't the worst of it for the Twins. Trading Hardy was a percursor to signing Tsuyoshi Nishioka as his replacement.

Gomez has finally emerged as a productive, every-day player for the Brewers. Hardy has been a big asset for the Orioles -- including winning a Gold Glove last season.

Guerra hasn't made it to the big leagues. He was taken off the big-league roster last winter. He's now out for most of the season after surgery to remove a rib.

Let's summarize:

Humber and Mulvey won zero games for the Twins. Rauch was acquired from Arizona for Mulvey, but wasn't quite good enough to prevent the Twins from trading an excellent catching prospect -- CATCHING! -- for a replacement.

Gomez was a medicority, was traded for an asset, and then the asset was traded for nothing, and the replacement became a disaster in foreign recruitment.

And, the sole player left from the deal is a long shot to see the mound in the big leagues.

Liriano, the other super-duper lefty from '06. came back from the elbow surgery and went through four seasons with the Twins that aged manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson as much as four years in the White House age a president.

The Twins finally took any deal they could get -- sending Frankie to the division rival in Chicago for infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez last July 28. The winning decade was over, the Twins had hit hard times in the standings and with their fan base, and the expectations for this trade could not have been lower.

Guess what? Escobar is a serviceable utility player and could prove to be more than that. And Hernandez ... well, he's lefthanded, and while I don't think he's a starter, he has the look of a guy who could be in a big-league bullpen 15 years ago, still throwing his slider to lefty hitters.

Believe it or not, seven years after Santana and Liriano were the aces of the Great Turnaround, the Twins wound up getting less for a two-time Cy Young Award winner at the top of his game than they did for a discombobulated lefty who had become a failed starter.



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