Josh Willingham: Twin. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Point/Counterpoint – Trading Josh Willingham


Point  – The Twins should not trade Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham is a big, strong man.  He likes to hit home runs.  Home runs are fun to watch.  Home runs also help teams win baseball games.  The goal of baseball is to win.  Therefore, Josh Willingham helps the Twins win games.  It isn’t rocket science.  Rocket science is hard.  Ok.  Basically, the Twins need to field a team that plays Major League Baseball.  Winning a baseball game is going to be tough for the 2013 Minnesota Twins, but that goal only gets tougher without Willingham.  Without Willingham, the Twins have one good hitter (Joe Mauer), two decent hitters (Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit) and about a billion question marks (Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Darin Mastroianni, Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, Eduardo Escobar, etc).  Willingham makes the team better, which I thought was the goal of having an MLB team.

The Twins signed Willingham to a really good contract before the 2012 season.  Willingham makes 7 million dollars per season, which is a huge bargain.  Why would the Twins want to give another team that same bargain?  Why would the Twins give a potential foe a great player at a great price?  If Willingham helps the Twins win games, he could help them lose games if playing for another team.  In addition, it seems that Willingham is too old to bring back a good prospect in a trade.  Why would the Twins just give away a good player at a good price?  Can’t the team rebuild with Willingham?

Wait,I guess the Twins should trade Josh Willingham… if they like having no fans.  He hit 35 home runs last year, for a franchise that doesn’t give their fans a lot of power hitters.  The Twins finally find a great power hitter for the fans to love, and now they want to trade him away?  The Twins already traded two fan favorites in Denard Span and Ben Revere.  If they also trade Willingham, the team may not get to play in front of large crowds at their fancy new stadium.  Fans aren’t going to constantly wait for a good team, especially when the front office is trading away all their best players.  How does that make the team better?

Counterpoint – The Twins should trade Josh Willingham as part of their rebuilding process

Josh Willingham might be a fun player to watch, but that doesn’t mean he can help this team make the playoffs in 2013.  Willingham was outstanding last year (at the plate) and the team still lost 96 games.  The reality is that the Twins need pitching a lot more than power.  If Willingham can be used to acquire another pitcher with upside, the Twins need to make that trade right now.  This off-season has been characterized by trading outfield depth for future pitching help.  Alex Meyer, Vance Worley and Trevor May could contribute to this team through the end of the decade.  Willingham should be able to bring back a player like those three.

Some will argue that Willingham should be kept because he can help in 2013 AND 2014.  Reality regarding 2014 is starting to set in.  The pitchers with the greatest chance of turning this franchise around (Meyer, Gibson, May, Berrios) aren’t going to be helping this team win championships in 2014.  None of those names will be ready to be anything more than just bodies, and Berrios won’t be ready for years.  That being said, those pitchers could be contributing in a big way by 2015 and 2016.  Willingham could be retired by then, for all we know.  This team can’t waste this trade chip, thinking about 2014.

Fans may be initially upset when Willingham is traded, but fans have fairly short memories too.  Within the last 5 years, the Twins have traded Johan Santana, and let the very popular Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer leave via free agency.  Willingham has been a Twin for one year.  I am pretty sure that fans will forget about him, if the Twins get something good in return.  In addition, the Twins have plenty of young talent in the outfield.  Trading Willingham could open a spot for a player like Oswaldo Arcia, who appears to be on the verge of becoming a valuable corner outfielder, who currently has no place to play in the Twins’ outfield.  A Willingham trade just makes sense.

Counterpoint #2 – The Twins should hold on to Josh Wilingham but trade him in the middle of the 2013 season

Josh Willingham should not be traded this off-season.  The Twins have already made two great trades, but are unlikely to pull off a third at this point.  Willingham is a great hitter, but not much of a fielder.  He also is getting older.  In addition, he is coming off his best season.  There are enough questions about Willingham to keep teams from giving away great prospects even to acquire a great hitter with a great contract.  A good start to 2013 could change all of that.  If Willingham can be as good in the first half of 2013 as he was in 2012, he could fetch a better return.  There is risk involved, but it is worth keeping him around to find out what he could get at the 2013 trade deadline.

If the Twins trade Willingham now, 2013 will be a failure.  Odds are, the Twins would trade him for a prospect, who will not be able to help in 2013.  The lineup would get significantly worse.  The prospects that are currently in the system might not be ready to contribute and are very unlikely to give the Twins what Willingham gave them in 2012.  The Twins can’t punt 2013 before 2013 starts.  While their chances of contending are unlikely, they have to see what happens in the early parts of the year.  They can always trade Willingham once they find out that 2013 is lost.

Sure, there are young, promising players ready to replace Josh Willingham.  One popular choice is Oswaldo Arcia.  Arcia is 21 years old and dominated AA after being promoted halfway through last year.  He might be ready, but why not give him more time in the minors?  If the Twins rebuilding process is going to be a long one, why start Arcia’s free agency clock during a lost season?  If Arcia dominates AAA in 2013, he can simply be called up in August or September, coinciding with a mid-season Willingham trade.  If my guess is correct, Willingham will fetch a greater return and Arcia will be a Twin for one year longer.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

What are some other factors to consider when thinking of a Willingham trade?

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  • Joel Thingvall

    The Twins have to look long-term at Morneau and Willingham. Will one or the other become more of a DH in 2014 (and beyond). If you don’t have even an inkling of resigning either for the long-term, then they are trade chips to make the team better in the long-term. Keeping one or the other depends on which of the two you wish to keep in your system. The DH who can play OF or the DH who can play 1B. Doumit is the long-term DH for now, who can also catch. But he isn’t a fulltime DH.

    • Brad Swanson

      This is a really good point. I honestly feel that Willingham would be a DH on a good team in 2013. His defense is really bad, but looks ok by comparison with our previous nightmare in LF (Delmon). With so many promising OF coming up, Willingham doesn’t have much if a spot in the field. He might transition to DH well, actually.

    • http://twitter.com/BaseballPirate Paul Pleiss

      I like Joel’s thinking here, save either Morney or Willy for a long term DH, veteran bat. Would also be nice to have a big bat on the bench if Mauer or someone else is taking a rest and hitting DH. I really liked when Thome was that guy for the Twins, nice having a legitimate threat who can come in and crush balls. And I think waiting for the deadline to trade either of the two is the right move, more leverage, more track record for Morneau to reestablish himself and for Willy to prove 2012 was a bit of a fluke.

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  • mk

    i’ll say this, you gotta figure that twins would have rather moved willingham than span or revere. both span and revere were under control long enough to be contributors once twins rebuild to point of being competitive. that tells me that the potential returns for willingham were less than what was offered for span and revere.