On Thursday the Minnesota Twins learned that Tyler Mahle would need Tommy John surgery, and the worst fears of fans were confirmed. Less than a year after making a three-for-one deal for Mahle, the Twins are left holding an empty bag while the Cincinnati Reds own three of the team's Top 50 prospects.
That's a tough pill to swallow.
Mahle was acquired at the deadline last year in a deal that was headlined by the Twins parting ways with Top 10 prospect Spencer Steer. Minnesota also packaged Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Steve Hajjar who were both Top 25 prospcts in the Twins farm system.
Looking at the deal that way, it's hard to see it as anything other than a total bust -- which it is. It's impossible to find an angle where the Twins don't look like fools for making the deal but it's important to consider context and hindsight before turning to the front office with judgement.
Finding the silver lining in the Tyler Mahle trade busting
Here's the full breakdown of the trade the Twins made to land Mahle at last year's deadline:
To be clear, it is a bad trade; Minnesota dealt three Top 25 prospects for a guy who will now miss a full season after needing Tommy John surgery. What's done is done, and the only thing the Twins can do now is look for perspective and find lessons to learn moving forward.
The same can go for all of Twins Territory.
It no doubt stinks, it's not a total indictment of the front office or some sort of fatal move that damns the team's future. Bad trades happen, this is not unique to the Twins or the Mahle deal. Rather than looking back at it as a desperate flop, see it as a high-risk gamble that the Twins bet and lost.
When the Twins made the trade last year they were in serious contention for the AL Central crown and a trip to the postseason. In that position the front office needed to start looking ahead and making plans for October and that meant finding a third arm for the rotation.
Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan were really all the Twins had, and we've seen how quickly teams with lackluster pitching depth exit the postseason. Mahle was meant to be that third arm and the front office didn't have a ton of leverage in trade talks. Cincinnati knew it had Minnesota over a barrel and made a great deal -- the kind of deal we'd be celebrating if the Twins had made it.
Minnesota is not the first team in MLB history to take a pay above sticker price to fill a positional need, nor will it be the last. This also won't be the last time the Twins botch a trade, but it's hardly a fatal mistake.
Minnesota needed Mahle, they paid up for and he didn't work. It is what it is, but it's the team can learn a few things for next time. What this busted trade further higlights is the importance of Minnesota developing its own pitching talent to the point where a deal like the one for Mahle isn't the only option.
We're getting a small taste of that now with Bailey Ober and Louie Varland getting a shot in the rotation after arash of injuries. That's not a position the Twins have traditionally been in, nor have they called up guys and watched them have the success that those two have.
It was a perfect storm for a busted trade, but it's not the end of the world. Like that old Batman line the Twins fell down but as long as they learn how to pick themselves back up it could end up being worth it in the end.