With today being the MLB trade deadline, it seemed a good time to rank the top deadline deals in Minnesota Twins history!
Whether the Minnesota Twins will make a trade today or not, the team has been active in the past on deadline day, and it is fun to look back and see how those trades have panned out.
1989: Twins acquire Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, David West, and Jack Savage from New York Mets for Frank Viola
This ranks at the top of the list in spite of it being by far the best player the Minnesota Twins traded away on trade deadline day in their history. The trade of Viola acquired one of the key starters and the closer for the 1991 team along with another key pitcher for that team, really being one of the instrumental moves between 1987 and 1991 that allowed the Twins to return to the World Series and win again.
2009: Twins acquire Orlando Cabrera from Oakland Athletics for Tyler Ladendorf
Some were not fans of the Cabrera deal because he was an older shortstop that was really on his last productive season and struggled in the playoffs for the Twins as they were swept by the Yankees. However, Cabrera was a drastic improvement on the only real offensive hole that the 2009 team had for the rest of the year, providing a .289/.313/.430 line in his time with the Twins. Ladendorf was really a throw-away prospect that made 68 total plate appearances in the major leagues with a .303 OPS.
2015: Twins acquire Kevin Jepsen from Tampa Bay Rays for Alexis Tapia and Chih-Wei Hu
When you can acquire a potential back-end bullpen guy for two lottery ticket arms, that’s a very good trade. The only reason this one isn’t second is because of the poor 2016 that ended up following up the sterling 1.61 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 10 saves that Jepsen gave the Twins after the deadline in 2015. Hu has transitioned to the bullpen to make it to the major leagues, but he could be a solid bullpen arm and made his MLB debut with the Rays this year. Tapia has been an injury issue, not getting out of high-A yet at this point.
2014: Twins acquire Tommy Milone from Oakland Athletics for Sam Fuld
This deal could be considered for a much higher spot as the Twins wisely flipped a hot first half from Fuld (106 OPS+) into a viable lefty swing man. The issue was that Milone was absolutely terrible in 2014 and then again in 2016, and because he had a weird home/road split that propelled him to a league-average ERA in 2015, the Twins kept throwing him out there as a starter in spite of terrible performances and incredibly hittable stuff. The 2015 performance and getting anything out of Fuld makes this a positive deal, though.
1998: Twins acquire Joe Thomas, John Barnes, and Matt Kinney from Boston Red Sox for Orlando Merced and Greg Swindell
Part of the late 1990s trade off of any veteran possible, the Minnesota Twins dumped a solid bench bat in Merced and a good swing guy in Swindell in 1998 to the Red Sox. Thomas had great stuff, but he shredded his elbow and never came back right from Tommy John surgery. Barnes was a guy with developing power and speed and good contact ability. The contact ability stayed in the upper minors, but he really had no speed or power to go with it, making it hard for him to ever get on the field in the major league level. The jewel for the Twins out of this ended up being Kinney. Though he was only up for two seasons, he was able to soak up some innings as a ground ball pitcher.
1987: Twins acquire Steve Carlton from Cleveland Indians for Jeff Perry
Carlton really did little of value for the Twins as he was at the very end of his career at 42 years old. The Twins would bring him back to open 1988, but then release him in April. However, his presence as a Hall of Fame pitcher on the young 1987 Twins roster was noted by multiple players as important down the stretch, in spite of his 6.70 ERA over 43 innings with the team. Of course, the price only being a minor leaguer that was out of the game after 1988 was easy to take as well.
2000: Twins acquire Danny Ardoin from Oakland Athletics for Mario Valdez
Here’s your most neutral deal of the deadline deals listed here for the Minnesota Twins. From this point on, the deals are deals that, in this writer’s eyes, the Twins lost. This was a trade of a guy who had a future ceiling as a backup catcher for another guy who had already shown himself to be a quad-A slugger type. Neither team got much of anything out of their trade piece.
1995: Twins acquire Ron Coomer, Greg Hansell, Jose Parra, and Chris Latham from Los Angeles Dodgers for Kevin Tapani and Mark Guthrie
While the actual talent of the guys acquired was quite good, and in today’s prospect-smart baseball coverage would have been viewed as an overpay by the Dodgers, it was the sign of what this trade was that really brings it to this spot for this list. The Twins still, at the time of this trade, had a healthy Kirby Puckett. The signal that this deal sent was that the team intended to let Puckett ride off into the sunset on teams that were rebuilding. Instead, fate intervened and Puckett was done after the 1995 season.
2013: Twins acquire Miguel Sulbaran from Los Angeles Dodgers for Drew Butera
Some guys just have odd fan bases that follow them. Drew Butera is one of those guys. His father, Sal Butera, was a member of the 1987 World Series championship Twins team, so he had legacy history with the team. Losing Drew was a sad day with a very vocal minority of the Twins fan base who enjoyed his all-defense, no bat approach behind the plate. The one positive of the trade was that Sulbaran was flipped to the Yankees for Eduardo Nunez in April of 2014.
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2004: As part of 4-team deal, Twins acquire Justin Jones from Chicago Cubs, Doug Mientkiewicz to Red Sox
I remember attending the game on July 31st that the Twins played after Douggie baseball was traded away. While it was inevitable, and most people were aware it was going to happen with the excellent play of Justin Morneau pushing him out the door, Twins fans saw so many spots where the team could use help (especially a bullpen with three arms getting 70+ games and overused along with a rotation that had no solid 5th starter option), and the assumption was that Mientkiewicz would be moved for help in one of those areas. To get a prospect, and a less than stellar prospect at that frustrated fans. Jones never really showed much for the Twins, and he was gone after the 2006 season. The real sting came in watching Doug catch the final out to break the Red Sox out of their curse in 2004’s World Series.
2006: Twins acquire Zach Ward from Cincinnati Reds for Kyle Lohse
This deal was frustrating from a fan perspective who would watch Lohse pitch, see the excellent ability he had, and then watch him be forced into pitching outside of what his best stuff was, leading to terrible numbers. His Minnesota Twins career isn’t memorable for sure, as he posted a 4.88 ERA over his 172 games with the Twins. He was posting a 7.07 ERA in 2006 when traded to Cincinnati. He was a league average starter for the Reds and Phillies in 2007 before going to the Cardinals and seeing what a good pitching coach in Dave Duncan could do with him, earning Cy Young Award votes in 2012, and was trusted with 7 postseason starts for the Cardinals between 2011 and 2012. Ward pitched one full season in the Twins organization before transitioning to the bullpen and eventually being traded back to the Reds in 2009.
The Minnesota Twins have certainly been a team who has gotten involved at times on the 31st, and it looks like the team could make a move or two today, so keep your eyes on Puckett’s Pond for all the news!