Minnesota Twins: The Foolish Release of David Ortiz

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN- JUNE 11: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox looks on against the Minnesota Twins on June 11, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 15-4. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN- JUNE 11: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox looks on against the Minnesota Twins on June 11, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 15-4. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Twins
David Ortiz plays against the Minnesota Twins (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

In honor of today being April Fool’s Day, we take a look back at one of the Minnesota Twins’ most foolish decisions: releasing David Ortiz.

The Minnesota Twins are a smart franchise, rarely giving bad contracts, rarely making trades where they come out as huge losers, and they avoid hiring really poor managers. That doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t make mistakes.

The trade of Rod Carew wasn’t their best move, but it wasn’t devastating. Phil Hughes and his five-year, $58 million dollar contract didn’t end well, but the team could move on. The Johan Santana trade and the Matt Garza trade weren’t excellent, but Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez were at least solid.

The biggest mistake the Twins made was the decision to cut a young David Ortiz. Ortiz was traded to the Twins in 1996 from the Seattle Mariners as a relatively unknown prospect with a high ceiling and a low floor.

Ortiz flew through the Twins’ minor league system, hitting almost everything on the way, before making his major league debut at the end of 1997, hitting .327 and one home run in 49 at-bats. In 1998, Ortiz wanted to be the team’s starting first basemen, but manager Tom Kelly had other plans.

Kelly was a good manager for the team, but he valued defense and avoiding strikeouts, and Ortiz wasn’t amazing at either of those parts of his game. Because of this, Ortiz was forced to sit for almost half of the season, only producing a .277 batting average, nine homers, and 46 RBI in 86 games.

Despite his strong hitting, he had to fight for playing time with Doug Mientkiewicz, as Mientkiewicz was a better defender. He was forced to spend 1999 in the minors, where he destroyed Triple-A pitching and greatly outperforming the players in the majors.

Ortiz improved every season, and by 2002, he was a twenty-six year-old who had just hit .272, 20 home runs, and 75 RBI. He was expected to get a large raise over the next offseason, but the Twins were worried about paying him despite his .266 BA, 58 homers, and 238 RBI, and that he was a playoff hero just entering his prime.

The Minnesota Twins proceeded to cut Ortiz, who then signed with the Red Sox. The deal saved them about $1.05 million, and cost them the future Hall of Famer known as Big Papi. Ortiz went on to hit for a .290 batting average, 483 homers, and 1,530 RBI in fourteen seasons with the Red Sox. In addition, the Red Sox also got all of this:

No one can really tell for sure if the Twins would have won three World Series if they had kept Ortiz, but it surely would have helped to have a player who was a ten-time All-Star, seven-time Silver Slugger, 2004 ALCS MVP, 2013 World Series MVP, Three time World-Series Champion, and a first-ballot future Hall of Fame player.

I’m sure if Terry Ryan could go back, he would spend the $1.05 million out of his own pocket to keep Ortiz, but for now, Ryan, Twins fans, and the whole organization are left to wonder what could have been.

Next. Minnesota Twins: 1991 Game 7 to be shown on MLB Network. dark

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