The Pierzynski Trade

Ed: I originally wrote this for Tony…the Killer and Carew around the time that Terry Ryan resigned as Twins GM.

November 14, 2003

At the time, the focus was on the beginning of the Joe Mauer era. AJ Pierzynski had been the starting catcher for the Twins for the last five seasons, and his departure cleared the way for the top pick in the 2001 amateur draft to start behind the plate for the Twins. For some players, however, the focus was on the end of an era rather than the beginning of the new one. The most outspoken was Doug Mientkiewicz (not surprisingly).

“In about three or four years, our group will get its due,” Mientkiewicz said. “People will look back and say, `Damn, that group we had in ‘01, ‘02, and ‘03 was pretty good.

“This franchise is looking toward the future, which is fine. But if this franchise ever goes back to the days when .500 was a good season, our group will get the credit it deserves.

“It’s not fair to the Mauers and [Justin] Morneaus to bring them up and expect to win. It’s hard enough to play in this league as it is, as a young guy. To learn and win at the same time? The game’s not going to let you do it.

“And that’s coming from someone who thinks Joe Mauer will be a very good player.”

-Star Tribune 11/14/2003

Lost in most of the discussion at the time was the names of the players that the Twins got in return. Those names wouldn’t remain forgotten for long.

Joe Nathan

Before: Nathan had four years of major league experience, the best of which was the just-completed 2003 season, in which he went 12-4 with a 2.96 ERA. He was universally recognized as the best major league player in the trade.

Since: Almost immediately upon his arrival, Nathan was installed as the team’s new closer to replace Eddie Guardado, despite the fact that Nathan had no experience in that role. All he has done since is become one of the elite closers in baseball, posting a 1.96 ERA in four seasons with the Twins (230 ERA+).

Boof Bonser

Before: The 22-year-old starting pitcher was a product of the 2000 draft. In 2003, he was 7-10 with a 4.00 ERA in AA, 1-2 3.13 in AAA.

Since: Bonser got his first major league start in the spring of 2006. He had a solid season, and was one of the Twins few options to start in the playoffs. He has struggled a bit on 2007, and many (including the manager) place the blame for his struggles on his size (listed at 6′4″, 260 lbs). In two seasons, Bonser is 14-18 with a 4.65 ERA (96 ERA+).

Francisco Liriano

Before: LaVelle E. Neal simply said this about Liriano the day after the trade: “The lefthanded Liriano, 20, was limited to five games in the low minors because of a muscle strain.”

Since: Liriano showed a flash of brilliance in the 2006 season, going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA (207 ERA+) before his season was prematurely shut down due to injury. He has been out all of 2007 after having Tommy John surgery, and Twins fans are hoping that he will return to form to start 2008.

The Pierzynski trade represented Terry Ryan at his best: trading a known major league quantity for prospects. In this case, the prospects panned out for the Twins, and it is likely that other GM’s took notice, making it difficult for Ryan to repeat his success in later trades.

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