The Twins used a franchise-record 49 players in 2016, broke that record a year later by suiting up 52 players, then outdid themselves once more by fielding 54 players in 2018. In fact, eight of the top biggest rosters utilized by the Twins have been active in the past eight seasons.
With more Twins than ever, it follows that there are more former Twins around the majors than ever before.
A record 45 players who once played for Minnesota wore a different major league uniform in 2018. That’s not counting another 16 in minor league ball with another organization, seven more in independent ball, and 10 former Twins playing professionally in another country.
But if the quantity of ex-Twins is higher than ever, the quality is another matter. Those 45 former Minnesotans combined to contribute only 9.1 wins above replacement, as calculated by Baseball Reference, or one win less than Mike Trout by himself. Half of that value came from Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks, whose .248 average, 27 homers and 79 RBI would easily earn him the title of Former Twins of the Year, if such a thing existed.
Hicks was understandably, if regrettably, traded by former Twins general manager Terry Ryan after the 2015 season in an effort to cash in some of the team’s outfielding depth to acquire a long-term catching solution. But if John Ryan Murphy never developed in Minnesota (though he did hit nine homers for the Diamondbacks this year), Hicks has grown into a borderline star in Yankee Stadium, where he usually bats at the top of the order for a playoff team.
And here’s the irony of trading Hicks for a catcher: The only other former Twins who registered more than two wins of WAR last season were both catchers.
Kurt Suzuki, whose tenure in Minnesota included an All-Star appearance at Target Field, posted a 2.1 WAR for the Braves in 2018 while starting 83 games behind the plate. And Wilson Ramos, whose Twins career amounted to seven games in 2010 before he was traded to Washington for closer Matt Capps, contributed 2.7 WAR to the Rays and, after a midseason trade, the Phillies, the fourth time in his career he’s had a solid two-win season.
The 21 hitters who got into at least one game for a new team in 2018 combined to bat .247, with 168 homers and 600 RBI. Players like Toronto’s Kendrys Morales, Seattle’s Denard Span and Boston’s Eduardo Nunez — the only position player besides Brian Dozier who is still active in the postseason — had decent seasons at the plate, though nothing approaching their former levels.
Former Twins pitchers, though? There’s a lot less value there. The 24 pitchers who made at least one major league appearance in 2018 combined for a 4.99 ERA, and though they won 50 games (led by Bartolo Colon’s seven), they also lost 60 (led by 12 apiece by Colon and Francisco Liriano). Pat Neshek, at 38 the oldest ex-Twin still active except for Fernando Rodney, had five saves for the Phillies to lead the group, and Liam Hendriks, though a reliever who pitched only 24 big-league innings this year, made history by becoming the first “opener” to start a postseason game when he pitched the first inning of Oakland’s wild-card loss to the Yankees.
The most effective pitcher by far, however, was a Twin until July 27. Ryan Pressly made adjustments to his curveball upon arriving in Houston and went on the hottest streak of his career, allowing only two earned runs in 23⅓ innings, a 0.77 ERA that came with 32 strikeouts and only three walks.