Nov. 28, 2007: Rays get Garza, Bartlett from Twins for Young

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garza delmon young.jpgThe reaction was largely positive at the time. Positive from Twins fans, that is. The Rays didn’t even have fans yet.
On this day two years ago, the Twins acquired Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie from the Rays for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan.
It was the first big move for Twins GM Bill Smith, who was named Terry Ryan’s replacement in September. Young, the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, was coming off a second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year balloting after driving in 93 runs as a 21-year-old. Still, the Rays considered him expendable since had plenty of outfield talent and weren’t thrilled with his attitude.
In return for Young, the Twins gave up their 2005 first-round pick, Garza, who had just gone 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 15 starts as a 23-year-old. They also surrendered their shortstop in Bartlett. He hit .265/.339/.361 in 2007.
The third piece in the deal was supposed to be veteran setup man Juan Rincon, but the Rays had concerns about his arm after a physical and persuaded the Twins to part with a top relief prospect, Morlan, instead. After that last-minute change, I gave the trade the following writeup on Rotoworld:

We liked the deal more a few hours ago, but the Twins are still picking up a 22-year-old bat with Hall of Fame potential. Young was a below average regular as a rookie, but he still smacked a lot of line drives and more home run power is on the way. What remains to be seen is whether he’ll learn to do a better job of waiting for his pitch or if he’ll continue to do AL pitching staffs favors by reaching for the ball. Odds are that he’ll have at least one more year in which he puts up superficially strong Triple Crown numbers without doing a lot to help his team win games.

Now it’s been two years. Young has flatlined, finishing with OPSs of 741 and 733 after finishing at 723 as a rookie. The Twins saw so little progress in his first year that they almost certainly would have moved him for significantly less than they paid for him. They ended up playing him part-time as a 23-year-old, but now it looks like they’re recommitting to him with Carlos Gomez off to Milwaukee.
Any Hall of Fame potential that Young might have had then seems gone, but he still makes quite a bit of contact and flashes big-time power on occasion. The odds remain good that he’ll put it together and turn into an above average regular. I wouldn’t put money on him ever going to an All-Star Game, though. He’s always going to swing at too many bad pitches.
Garza has been pretty much the pitcher the Twins thought he’d become when they sacrificed him. He dominates at times, and he was largely responsible for the Rays advancing past the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS. Still, one can’t help but be a little disappointed by his 19-21 record and 3.83 ERA the last two years.
Bartlett’s loss has probably been the bigger one for the Twins. The Rays weren’t expecting him to be more than a one- or two-year solution at shortstop with top prospect Reid Brignac on the way, but he’s played quality defense since the day he arrived in St. Pete and he suddenly raised his OPS by 200 points last season, coming in at .320/.389/.490.
Meanwhile, the Twins have gotten little from the shortstop position since he departed. They finally stepped up and got a real solution in J.J. Hardy this winter, but it cost them Gomez, the biggest piece from the Johan Santana deal.
So, what if the trade never took place? Maybe Minnesota balks when the Rays ask for Morlan and talks die after that? The Twins played tiebreaker games for entry into the postseason each of the last two seasons, losing to the White Sox in 2008 and beating the Tigers last season. If they still had Garza and Bartlett and anything resembling a league average left fielder in place of Young, they certainly should have skated into the postseason in a weak AL Central both years.
The Rays, obviously, made the World Series in 2008 after winning the AL East. They finished eight games ahead of the Yankees and nine games ahead of the White Sox and Twins. That’s quite a margin, but Garza and Bartlett were worth more than that and Rays right fielders topped Young’s OPS by 50 points. Even accounting for the likelihood that Ben Zobrist would have broken out sooner, I don’t think the Rays would have made the postseason in 2008. And if they didn’t have that run, then Carl Crawford is probably already gone.
Even if Young takes off next year, it’s hard to imagine this deal ever completely turning around. Young has three years left until free agency, and now that he’s arbitration eligible, any big breakthrough is going to make his salary jump through the roof. The Twins would trade him for either Garza or Bartlett in a heartbeat.

In baseball, if you lose the World Series you still get a ring

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 3:  Detail view of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Ring at Busch Stadium on April 3, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Scott Rovak/Getty Images)
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“Second place is first loser” — some jerk, probably.

The funny thing about “winning is everything” culture in sports is that it’s revered, primarily, by people with the least amount of skin in the game. Self-proclaimed “Super Fans” and talk radio hosts and guys like that. People who may claim to live and breathe sports but who, for the most part, have other things in their lives. Jobs and families and hobbies and stuff. Winning is everything for them on the weekend at, like, Buffalo Wild Wings or in their man cave.

Athletes — whose actual job is to play sports — like to win too. They’re certainly more focused and committed to winning than Joe Super Fan is, what with it being their actual lives and such. But you see far less “winning is everything” sentiment from them. In interviews they talk about how they hate to lose but, with a little bit of distance, they almost always talk about appreciating efforts in a well-played loss. They rarely talk about big losses — even championship losses — as failures or choke jobs or disgraces of one stripe or another.

All of which makes this story by Tim Rohan in the New York Times fun and interesting. It’s about championship rings for the non-championship winners. The 2014 Royals — winners of the A.L. pennant but losers of the World Series — are featured, and the story of rings for World Series losers is told. Mike Stanton, who played on a ton of pennant and World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and Braves, talks about his various rings and how, even though the Braves lost in the World Series that year, 1991 is his favorite.

Also mentioned: George Steinbrenner’s thoughts about rings for World Series losers. You will likely not be surprised about his sentiments on the matter.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

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It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.