Twins Shed Talent to Improve Roster
Terry Ryan can admit when he’s made a mistake. But he knows that when the chips are down, sometimes it’s better to retool with some brand name mediocrity.
After signing pull hitter Josh Willingham in the offseason and hoping for a much needed veteran presence in the clubhouse, what the Twins got was an aging slugger who had never heard of right field, hadn’t laid a sacrifice down in years, and was only concerned with padding his stats, hitting 19 home runs, 16 of which were of the selfish variety.
But Ryan has been here before, acquiring such luminaries as Drew Butera and Dustin Martin in a deadline deal in 2007. And on Friday he pulled off a trade that, while it has its skeptics among the blogger aristocracy, is a slam dunk of deadline craftiness; classic Ryan. He put Willingham and control-challenged “thrower” prospect Hudson Boyd into a package for Jerry Hairston Jr., Elian Herrera, and pitcher Scott Elbert, now former Dodgers. What the Twins gave up were two one dimensional players, and what they got in return was a gift basket of speed and flexibility, and with Elbert an arm they can groom to be decent number 3 or 4 starter.
“We like Elbert a lot, he’s a guy we’ve had our eye on, “ Explained skipper Ron Gardenhire. “He’s a kid with a good arm, he can hump it up to 92, but what we really like is his approach, and his ‘here it is come get it,’ strike one mentality.”
“He’s had a lot of years in the minor leagues, so we know he’s a gamer who doesn’t take anything for granted,” Continued Gardenhire, “So we figured, why not give him a chance to fail at the big league level in front of paying fans?”
Herrera was another wise find. After superstar/diva Matt Kemp went down with an injury in early May, Herrera stepped in and sparked the offense for 4 games.
“That’s leadership, plain and simple,” explained recently benched third baseman Trevor Plouffe. “When Kemp went down, you were like, ‘man they can’t recover from this,’ but then Herrera stepped in and really softened the blow for a few dozen hours. And look at his team, they’ve been on a steady descent since then and are still within shouting distance of the wild card.”
Plouffe added with a chuckle, “That’s what we play the game for.”
Perhaps the most tantalizing prospect in the deal is wunderkind Jerry Hairston, who has treated Dodger fans to a dose of his oozing potential from twelve years ago.
“We like him at the plate. He’s patient, sometimes too patient, but unlike an [Adam] Dunn type player, he takes his walks but also puts the ball in play without striking out a bunch,” said Gardenhire.
“We want the ball hit on the ground because striking out is a rally killer, hit it somewhere and balls have a way of finding holes.”
“Yeah we definitely need more contact type hitters,” said Joe Mauer, who currently leads the major leagues with 16 double play grounders. “Put it in play, things happen, strike out and you’ll be kicking yourself back to the dugout wondering what kind of spectacular double play you could have just hit into.”
Some critics have been quick to point out Hairston’s lack of power. Gardenhire disagrees.
“We know he can hit one out, he’s had some years with decent power numbers, such as in 2009 and 10 (When Hairston socked 20 longballs combined), but he knows what he’s here to do is play different positions, move the runners over and maybe if the date is July 29th, and we’re facing a lefty and there’s a runner on first with 1 out and we’re down by seven, he can maybe send a hanger over into the bullpen.”
“Well hopefully not the bullpen of the opposing team. Showing people up isn’t Twins baseball.”
Meanwhile, Willingham and Boyd mull their lost opportunities.
“The Dodgers have a decent team,” said Willingham while stabbing himself in the neck with a ballpoint pen.
Boyd sees an opportunity for a fresh start: “I can throw 99, but don’t tell them I told you that. What was the question?”
Meanwhile the Twins hope the revamped roster will lead to some momentum in the standings.
“You gotta wait and see, there’s a lot of baseball to be played at an intentional disadvantage,” said a straight faced Ryan.
Twins fans can hardly wait.
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