Reminiscing About the Shannon Stewart Trade
Image courtesy of Tom Froemming (not the actual Shannon Stewart, but a bobblehead doll made in his likeness)It was the final day of the 2003 All-Star break. The defending American League Central champion Twins had limped out to a 44-49 record and were 7.5 games back in the division, sitting in third place.
The front office/ownership hadn’t made any big moves the previous two seasons despite the team being competitive, so there seemed to be little reason to expect any motivation to build up the roster. There was still just as much discussion about the potential for contraction as there was contention during this time.
But prior to the start of the second half, Terry Ryan struck a deal. The Twins acquired Shannon Stewart from the Toronto Blue Jays to serve as the team’s leadoff hitter. July 16, 2003 ended up being a momentous turning point for not only that season, but in some ways you could argue for the entire organization/future of the Twins.
Stewart hit .322/.384/470 (.854 OPS) for the Twins as the team went 46-23 in the second half. That season-ending surge also saw the team post an insane 24-9 record over its final 33 games. There was an 11-game winning streak included in that stretch. The Twins ended up charging back to win the division by four games. For his efforts, Stewart finished fourth in AL MVP voting.
Things turned out about as good as could have been imagined, but that was actually somewhat of a controversial trade at the time that it happened. The player Ryan sent to Toronto had actually been performing basically as well as Stewart, was younger and had many more years of team control.
At the time of the move, Bobby Kielty was hitting .252/.370/.420 (.790 OPS) for the Twins while Stewart was posting a .294/.347/.449 (.796 OPS) batting line for the Blue Jays. It was essentially a challenge trade, a very gutsy move.
After accounting for a 125 wRC+ over his time with the Twins, Kielty never came even close to that production elsewhere. He posted a 92 wRC+ over 367 career games from that moment forward. Stewart ended up signing a three-year deal to remain with the Twins the following offseason.
Stewart was excellent when healthy once again in 2004, helping the Twins to yet another AL Central crown. His first Opening Day in Minnesota was a memorable one, as he delivered a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Metrodome into a frenzy.
Stewart’s my personal all-time favorite among Twins midseason additions. I’d love to hear your memories from that time, but I’m also interested in your own personal favorites from over the years. A certain hitter on one of the World Series champion teams certainly sticks out, if anyone else cares to share some memories from 1987.
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