Minnesota Twins: Reflecting on the Shannon Stewart Trade

With the trade deadline approaching and still no activity to report from the Minnesota Twins camp, it got me thinking about some of the better trades the team has made in the past.

Sure, the acquisitions of Joe Nathan, Johan Santana and even Luis Castillo were some of the better trades made over the past 15 years or so but perhaps the one that made the biggest impact was a trade that took place in season.

The year was 2003 and the Minnesota Twins were playing the Oakland Athletics on July 17 and sat 8 ½ games behind the first-place Kansas City Royals.

Things weren’t looking that great for the reigning American League Central champions.

Then the Minnesota Twins pulled off a trade that sent Bobby Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for lead-off hitter Shannon Stewart.

At the time, it didn’t seem like a game-changing trade but what Stewart brought to the Twins and their lead-off spot was some much needed veteran leadership and stability.

His first game was anything but amazing as he went 0-for-5 in the Twins’ 6-2 win over the A’s.

However, that was just a slow start to an otherwise brilliant campaign in a Minnesota Twins uniform.

Stewart proceeded to hit .322 with six home runs and 38 RBI’s and eventually finished fourth in MVP voting after leading the Twins from 8 ½ games back to Central Division champs.

At the time of the trade, the Twins were 44-49 but after the Stewart trade finished 46-23, winning the division with a 90-72 record.

Unfortunately the Twins were eliminated in the first round by the New York Yankees, the team who would eliminate them a total of four times from 2003-10.

Still, the trade was one of pure genius as the Twins gave up a mediocre asset to nab someone who was in the final running for the AL MVP award.

I’m not sure anyone was aware Stewart would go on to have the kind of season he would have with the Twins but either way the trade was absolute brilliance.

At the time the Twins were using any combination of Chris Gomez and Jacque Jones as their lead-off hitter.

Neither player was fully capable of that role as they did not fit the prototypical mold.

Stewart’s patience at the plate, speed and ability to make contact made for a perfect match as the No. 1 hitter in a lineup featuring the likes of Torii Hunter, Doug Mientkiewicz, A.J. Pierzynski and Corey Koskie.

This trade may never be viewed as one of the greats in Major League Baseball history but for the Minnesota Twins, it provided one of the key sparks that led to one of six division titles over nine seasons.