The lopsided blockbuster trades in Minnesota sports history are etched in our minds forever. On the plus side: the Twins’ haul for A.J. Pierzynski. On the minus side, only one name is needed: Herschel Walker.
Sometimes, though, it’s the less appreciated or unheralded trades that wind up having a sneaky impact. With one in particular in mind, let’s take a spin through six of the best examples from the past 20 years (note: this doesn’t include the deal that netted Johan Santana in 1999 since that was essentially a swap of Rule V draft picks). I’m also sure I missed some good ones. Please send your suggestions my way.
Sam Fuld for Tommy Milone: This was the classic footnote nonwaiver trade deadline move in 2014. The Twins traded Fuld — a spare outfielder — for Milone, at the time a 27-year-old pitcher with some MLB-level accomplishment but seemingly limited upside. Fuld had been waived by Oakland in April; the Twins picked him up and flipped him back to the A’s for Milone three months later. And in return, they ended up with a pitcher who might be their most consistent starter over the past three months of 2015.
Cal Clutterbuck for Nino Niederreiter: In the 2013 offseason, the Wild swapped a known commodity in Clutterbuck — a low-line, good checking forward — for an unknown in Niederreiter, a 20-year-old prospect who had stalled with the Islanders. It seemed like a decent, if unremarkable gamble at the time. After Niederreiter’s 24-goal season last year, it seems like outright theft.
Francisco Liriano for Eduardo Escobar: Liriano was a jewel form the aforementioned Pierzynski trade, but when dealt by the Twins in July of 2012, he was an impending free agent and he was a mess. The Twins seemed desperate to get someone — anyone — for him. What they got, in addition to long-forgotten Pedro Hernandez, was Escobar – who entered Tuesday with the third-best slugging percentage (yes, better than even Troy Tulowitzki) of any MLB shortstop with at least 300 plate appearances.
Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the No. 5 overall pick: Miller and Foye have both had nice NBA careers, but it’s astounding that even in conjunction with one another they were enough for the Wolves to land the 2009 No. 5 overall pick. The Wolves used that pick on Ricky Rubio. Even if the jury is still out on Rubio and the Wolves infamously whiffed on Steph Curry with back-to-back picks in that draft, the swap still needs to be properly appreciated.
Yohan Pino for Carl Pavano: Pavano had slogged through four injury-ravaged seasons with the Yankees from 2005-08 and had a 5.37 ERA with Cleveland when the Twins traded Pino for him in August of 2009. He ended up giving Minnesota some huge starts down the stretch as they clawed back to win the division, and then was a bulldog in 2010 and 2011 at Target Field.
Brad Johnson for first-, second- and third-round picks: Yes, this happened. In 1999, the Vikings traded Johnson — a capable QB but a classic game manager even at his best — for three high draft picks. The No. 1 pick turned into Daunte Culpepper. Imagine that trade happening today.