The decade of the 2010s was complicated for the Minnesota Twins. They won the American League Central for the second consecutive season in 2010 but proceeded to fall off their pedestal and didn’t make it back to the playoffs until 2017. Then they missed the playoffs the ensuing season, followed by a 101-win 2019 season.
The Twins have been unpredictable in recent memory, but they were able to round out the decade with a young core establishing itself around the diamond, assisted by some crafty offseason transactions. On the other hand, they’ve made some trades they probably wish they could have back.
Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Minnesota Twins have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the Minnesota Twins Have Made Since 2010: Minnesota acquires Jake Odorizzi From the Tampa Bay Rays for Jermaine Palacios (February 17, 2018)
Coming off an AL Wild Card Game appearance, the Twins went into the 2017-18 offseason looking to add proven talent to complement their young core. One of the moves they made in that effort was acquiring Odorizzi from the Rays, a move that’s paying off for the Twins.
Odorizzi was underwhelming in his first season with the Twins. Recording a 4.49 ERA and 1.35 WHIP across 32 starts he didn’t provide the boost in their rotation that they were looking for — though, the Twins collectively disappointed in 2018, failing to get back to the playoffs. Odorizzi was a ground-ball pitcher who thrived on catching hitters off-balanced with the Rays. In 2015 and 2016 he recorded ERAs well below four (3.35, 3.69).
Last season Odorizzi was the pitcher the Twins signed up for, as he was a vital component to them winning the AL Central for the first time in nine years. Through his first 13 starts Odorizzi was one of the best starters in the game, as he sported an astonishing 1.92 ERA. Sure, he faded a bit in the second half but, all in all, Minnesota got the pitcher they were looking for in Odorizzi.
He induced a lot of weak contact with his fastball and cutter while pitching to a low ERA (cumulatively). The right-hander also logged strikeouts at a career-high rate, totaling 178 strikeouts across 159.0 regular season innings (30 starts). Odorizzi was one of the few individuals who had a pulse in the team’s AL Division Series matchup with the New York Yankees, surrendering just two runs and five hits across five innings in an elimination Game 3 outing at Target Field.
Odorizzi accepted the qualifying offer (one-year, $17.8 million deal) to stick in the Twins Cities for 2020. He and Jose Berrios form a respectable top-of-the-rotation duo. With the offseason additions of Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey, Minnesota figures to have one of the better starting rotations in baseball next season.
Jermaine Palacios, who the Twins traded to Tampa Bay, is yet to make his major-league debut, as he has struggled to consistently get on base in the minors. Yes, the Rays were in sell mode after the 2017 season, but they could’ve done better than a lone prospect for a reliable starting pitcher in Odorizzi, who’s coming off arguably the best season of his MLB career.
Based on his 2019 campaign alone, this trade was a heist for the Twins. If they continue to get the pitcher they got in 2019, Minnesota’s move for Odorizzi will continue to look absurd in their favor.
The Worst Trade the Minnesota Twins Have Made Since 2010: Minnesota acquires Jhoan Duran, Ernie De La Trinidad, and Gabriel Maciel from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Eduardo Escobar (July 27, 2018)
One year you’re in the playoffs, and the next year you’re nine games below .500 in July, trading away desirable players. This is the predicament the Twins found themselves in at the 2018 MLB trade deadline, trading away a handful of veterans and/or up-and-comers such as Brian Dozier, Ryan Pressly, and Eduardo Escobar. Trading Escobar has backfired more than any transaction in recent memory for the Twins.
The Twins acquired Escobar from the rival Chicago White Sox in the 2012 regular season, and he eventually found a niche in their offense. While not world-renowned for his defense, Escobar brings versatility to the table, as he has extensive starting experience at third base and shortstop. Meanwhile, he has gradually improved his production at the plate. In fact, before being traded by the Twins at the 2018 trade deadline Escobar was sporting a career-best .852 OPS while totaling 15 home runs and 63 RBIs across 97 games.
Escobar had a moderate impact in the 54 games he played for the D-Backs in 2018; he posted a .772 OPS and wasn’t able to be the piece that moved the needle for their offense. Then 2019 happened.
In the midst of a “retooling” year the D-Backs played .500 baseball for the bulk of the regular season. Then they went on a run in the final two months of the season to get in the thick of the NL playoff race. The one constant throughout the season was their offense, which Escobar was an integral part of. Posting an .831 OPS whole totaling 35 home runs and 118 RBIs, he was among the elite third basemen in MLB in run production.
Now, the Twins signed Josh Donaldson to a four-year deal this offseason, which theoretically offsets Escobar being traded. On the other hand, had they kept Escobar and he stayed on the career trajectory he was on, the Twins could’ve had another big-impact bat in their high-octane 2019 offense. Furthermore, they could’ve used the money they spent on Donaldson on one of the top-of-the-rotation arms on the free agent market such as Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner, or Zack Wheeler.
The prospects they received for Escobar, Jhoan Duran, Ernie De La Trinidad, and Gabriel Maciel, are yet to make their big-league debut.
This trade isn’t significantly hindering the Twins’ future. When you win 101 games, one would think there’s reason to be optimistic about the road ahead. However, the Twins didn’t receive fair value for a player who has become one of the best third basemen in baseball, and they could’ve allocated their offseason spendings on a more pressing need had they kept Escobar.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.