Minnesota Twins: Ranking the 1980s Top Trades in each Year

We continue our list of the Minnesota Twins top trades in each year with the 1980s, the first decade the Twins brought home a title.

We’ve already taken a look at the Minnesota Twins’ top trades in the 1960s and the 1970s, and we continue today with the Twins’ top trades in the 1980s, a decade when the Twins finally crossed the threshold and won a title. This wouldn’t have happened without some great trades.

For a trade to make this list, the Twins need to come out ahead in terms of WAR. Once we’ve gone over the top deal for every year, we will rank them to find out the top trade the Twins ever made. With that in mind, let’s get these rankings started.

1980 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade INF Wayne Caughey (minors) to the Los Angeles Dodgers for INF Ron Washington.

Remember all those trades where the Twins turned a decent minor leaguer into a solid major leaguer from the 1970s? Here’s another great example: the Twins coughed up a Minnesota native prospect who would never make the majors for a decent reserve infielder.

Washington played 452 games and hit .265 over six years before becoming one of the longest tenured coaches in the MLB. Washington was a decent backup for the team, and Caughey never played a game for the Dodgers, so the Twins win this one, with no big trades happening in 1980.

Result: +1.5 WAR after the trade, solid depth added.

1981 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade P Mike Kinnunen to the St. Louis Cardinals for P Jeff Little.

The Twins made two trades in 1981 that hurt them badly: giving up Jerry Koosman for a couple failed prospects (-3.6 WAR) and giving up an All-Star in Ken Landreaux and getting Mickey Hatcher and a couple failed prospects (-4.8 WAR).

The Twins swapped pitchers in this trade, and when all is said and done, here is how the relievers performed with their new teams:

  • Kinnunen: 27 G, 5.33 ERA, 15-21 K-BB Ratio, -0.5 WAR
  • Little: 33 G, 4.21 ERA, 26-27 K-BB Ratio, 0.0 WAR

This is the top trade the team made just because the team came out on top, compared to the other disastrous trades made this season. It’s an easy one.

Result: +0.5 WAR after the trade

1982 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade P Doug Corbett and 2B Rob Wilfong to the California Angels for OF Tom Brunansky, P Mike Walters and $400,000.

In 1982, the Twins traded for two All-Stars that would help lead them to a World Series title: Tom Brunansky and Greg Gagne. The Brunansky trade is the choice here, as they didn’t have to get up a player like Roy Smalley in order to add Brunansky.

Brunansky turned into a power-hitting All-Star for the Twins and helped lead them to a World Series win. Mike Walters gave the Twins 46 solid games in relief. And all it cost was an All-Star reliever and a solid second baseman.

If the Twins had the opportunity to do it over, they’d do the exact same thing all over again. Brunansky was a key Twin and helped make the Twins big winners here.

Result: +12.4 WAR after the trade, added an All-Star playoff hero

1983 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade P Bob Veselic to the Houston Astros for P Rick Lysander.

Not to be outdone by 1982, the 1983 Twins made seven trades throughout the year. Two of those deals sent out players like Sal Butera and Gary Ward without much return. Only one trade did go the Twins direction, and it wasn’t an interesting one.

In January 1983, the Twins sent away struggling former first round pick Bob Veselic for Rick Lysander. Lysander would go on to pitch in 132 games over three seasons for the Twins while Veselic never pitched in the MLB again. Simple enough.

Result: +0.3 WAR after the trade.

1984 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade a player to be named later (P Jay Pettibone) and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for INF Chris Speier.

In 1984, the Twins made three trades, and all three deals gave the team a whole lot of nothing. It says something that this qualifies as the best trade of the decade. Former All-Star Chris Speier was WAY past his prime when he was traded to Minnesota, but Pettibone never reached the majors again after this trade, so I guess the Twins win.

Result: -0.2 WAR after the trade.

1985 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins traded a player to be named later (P Rich Yett), SS Jay Bell, P Curt Wardle and OF Jim Weaver to the Cleveland Indians for P Bert Blyleven.

In 1985, the Twins decided to bring back a couple of familiar faces in Roy Smalley and Bert Blyleven and gave up almost nothing in return. The Twins came out on top of both trades and set the stage for the disappointment of 1986 and the joy of 1987.

In order to bring back Blyleven, the Twins gave up four top prospects. It worked out well for the Twins. Weaver never played an inning for the Indians, Yett put up a 4.97 ERA in four seasons with Cleveland, Wardle never pitched in the majors until after he left the Indians and Jay Bell only turned into an All-Star when he made it to Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, the Twins got a reliable starter entering his mid-thirties who helped lift the team to World Series title and was reunited with a fan base that loved him. A true win for everyone involved on the Minnesota side.

Result: +10.4 WAR after the trade

1986 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade P Bryan Oelkers and P Ken Schrom to the Cleveland Indians for P Ramon Romero and P Roy Smith.

In 1986, the Twins disappointed, and made a colossal mistake in trading Tim Teufel for nothing, just because he didn’t have a spot in the lineup. However, they did make a good move in trading for Indians pitcher Roy Smith.

Oelkers’ development had stalled, and Ken Schrom was not looking like a good pitcher, so despite Romero never pitching for the Twins, this was a win. Smith became a valuable innings eater in 1989 and 1990, so all things considered, not bad.

Result: +3.9 WAR after the trade, solid pitcher brought on.

1987 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade a player to be named later (P Bryan Hickerson), P Jose Dominguez (minors) and P Ray Velasquez (minors) to the San Francisco Giants for P Dave Blakley (minors) and OF Dan Gladden.

The Twins pulled in some good and great players using trades in 1987, adding All-Star closer Jeff Reardon, former MVP Don Baylor, Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, and Al Newman. The best part of all these deals? The Twins gave up almost nothing, and they still got a title out of it.

That being said, the best deal they made was to acquire playoff legend, speedster, and fan favorite Dan Gladden. The Twins gave up two prospects (Dominguez and Velasquez) who didn’t make the majors and a pitcher who didn’t do much (former Gopher and Minnesota-native) Hickerson.

The Twins on the other hand received a key piece of their two title runs and one of the five best left fielders in franchise history. Pretty good trade.

Result: +4.7 WAR after the trade, added a title team centerpiece.

1988 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade a player to be named later (P Doug Kline (minors)) to the Baltimore Orioles for OF Jim Dwyer.

As good as Andy MacPhail was in 1987, MacPhail had a disastrous year in trades. After a disappointing start, the Twins jettisoned Bert Blyleven, Tom Brunansky, and newly acquired Tom Herr. As much as Twins fans didn’t like Herr, trading him away later in the season made it feel like Brunansky was tossed away for nothing.

The only even remotely okay move made in ’88 was moving minor league pitcher Doug Kline (who would never make the majors) for outfielder Jim Dwyer. Dwyer hit .312 over 1989 and 1990, so at least this move wasn’t a complete loss.

Result: +1.3 WAR after the trade.

1989 Minnesota Twins

The Trade: Minnesota Twins trade P Frank Viola to the New York Mets for a player to be named later (P Jack Savage), P Rick Aguilera, P Tim Drummond, P Kevin Tapani, and P David West.

This is arguably one of the most lopsided trades in franchise history. After another disappointing season, the Twins sent out 1988 Cy Young Winner Frankie V for a massive haul of pitching prospects and young arms.

Giving up Sweet Music wasn’t easy for the Twins, but the Mets offer was too much to refuse. Viola was good in New York, but not quite as good as he was, putting up a WAR of 9.8 with the Mets. Despite David West, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage combining for just 1.0 WAR, the Twins ran away with this one.

Rick Aguilera turned into an All-Star closer and Kevin Tapani won 16 games and was a key member of the 1991 World Series rotation. This trade secured the Twins for the ’91 season, as they don’t win it all without this deal.

Result: +25.8 WAR after the trade, added an ace reliever and a very good starter.

Top 5 Minnesota Twins Trades of the Decade

  1. Minnesota Twins trade P Frank Viola to the New York Mets for a player to be named later (P Jack Savage), P Rick Aguilera, P Tim Drummond, P Kevin Tapani, and P David West. The Twins turned Frankie V into a couple of the team’s top players in 1991. This deal brought a second title to Minnesota.
  2. Minnesota Twins trade P Doug Corbett and 2B Rob Wilfong to the California Angels for OF Tom Brunansky, P Mike Walters and $400,000. Bringing in Brunansky was essential to the 1987 World Series, and he helped make the Twins fun to watch, all while not giving much up.
  3. Minnesota Twins trade SS Roy Smalley to the New York Yankees for P Paul Boris, P Ron Davis and SS Greg Gagne. This trade happened in 1982 with the Brunansky deal, but this deal brought in the Twins starting shortstop for both World Series runs. An excellent deal, even with having to give up Smalley.
  4. Minnesota Twins traded a player to be named later (P Rich Yett), SS Jay Bell, P Curt Wardle and OF Jim Weaver to the Cleveland Indians for P Bert Blyleven. In need of starting pitching, the Twins brought back a familiar face that helped bring the team that 1987 title. The best part? It only took spare parts.
  5. Minnesota Twins trade a player to be named later (P Bryan Hickerson), P Jose Dominguez (minors) and P Ray Velasquez (minors) to the San Francisco Giants for P Dave Blakley (minors) and OF Dan Gladden. The Twins bring in a speedy outfielder with a little clutch ability. The rest is history.