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Jeremy Nygaard

Could I... trade Willingham?

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I hope to make this the first edition of a series where I weigh in on debatable topics at appropriate times. Maybe this particular one would be more appropriate at the trade deadline. In fact, I know it would be.

However, given the news out of Tampa that Yankees LF Curtis Granderson broke his arm today and will miss 10 weeks, I think taking a look at this scenario during Spring Training seems somewhat appropriate.

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WILLINGHAM'S PROS:

Power. The Hammer hit 35 home runs in his Twins debut. While Harmon Killebrew owns the Top 8 Twins single-season home run records, Willingham is tied with Bob Allison for 9th. Simply put, Willingham is one of the best home run hitters the Twins have ever had.

Contract. There is no arguing that Willingham is signed to a very team-friendly contract. He is on the hook for $7 million this year. If he makes 525 plate appearances in 2013, he will trigger a clause that makes his contract worth $8 million in 2014, which is still very reasonable.

Likability. While it's possible no one will ever be more likable than Jim Thome, Willingham is up there. While not hitting Jackjobs (that's for you, Parker), Willingham (or, more accurately, his wife) was tweeting pictures of him and his newborn son. Willingham is very active in the community and has his own charity. It should also be noted that if you google "Josh Willingham arrested" the results you're going to get are stories about Alabama and Auburn football.

Value. We'll get more into this in the next topic, but Willingham's value might never be higher.

WILLINGHAM'S CONS:

Age. The Hammer just turned 34 last week. On a team that is struggling to compete - and appears to be rebuilding - it is unlikely that Willingham will be there when things turn around.

Durability. While Willingham had career-highs in both Home Runs and RBI, he also set new marks in games played (145) and plate appearances (615). He's been sidelined due to varying degrees of back, neck, shoulder and ankle injuries. The likelihood that Willingham sustains improved durability as he approaches his mid-30s is not high. Which brings me back to why his "value" is not only high, but also delicate.

Defense. Willingham's value is tied up in his bat, as his defense is below replacement-level and declining. His defense may even appear worse now that he's not sharing ground with Ben Revere and Denard Span.

SUMMARY:

I believe I share the same opinion as the Twins Front Office exhibited last season and this offseason: We'd have to be blown away to make Willingham available.

So could the Yankees do it? Well, maybe would they want to is the first question. Losing Granderson (lefty) means that Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera assume his spot for now. Both are right-handed, but neither very good. Even if Granderson misses only 5 weeks, he'll return to a lineup that features Brett Gardner and Ichiro (both lefties) in the outfield and Travis Hafner (also a lefty) as the primary DH. Wouldn't they benefit from adding another right-handed hitter? I would think so.

So begs the question again... could the Yankees blow the Twins away? That's a question I've been considering since the Granderson news broke this afternoon. The rumor last year was that a return on Willingham wouldn't be higher than a back-of-the-rotation starter. I thought it was crazy then and I think it's crazy now.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE:

I don't think the Yankees would part with prospect C Gary Sanchez. Maybe I draw the line in the sand there: He'd need to be included in any deal. The 57th ranked prospect in baseball (so says BA) will probably be ready in 2015. He would fit into prospect rankings right next to Alex Meyer. Sanchez and a low-level "C" pitching prospect (like LHP Rony Bautista) would likely be enough of an offer to say "yes".

Without Sanchez, is there any other way? I would never say never. My favorite Yankees prospect is OF Tyler Austin, who is the youngest of the Yankees top three OF prospects (Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott), but has already advanced to the highest level (AA). Austin, who bats right-handed, could join Oswaldo Arcia as the "Future of the Corners". The Twins could also give him another shot at 3B, where he logged a majority of his innings in 2011. Austin ranked #77 (BA) and #75 (MLB.com) on pre-season prospect lists. Like Arcia, Austin "flat-out rakes".

In addition to Austin, I would ask for RHP Jose Campos (who has a checkered injury past) or LHP Manny Banuelos (who is out this year after having Tommy John surgery) and, for good measure, I still want that low-level pitching prospect included as well.

If the Yankees balk - and Willingham plays out his contract as a Twin - I'm still a happy camper for all of the reasons I listed above.

What are your thoughts? Is Josh Willingham part of the Twins solution as their Left Fielder? Or is what he could bring back in a trade a better part of the solution?

Updated 02-24-2013 at 09:52 PM by Jeremy Nygaard

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Comments

  1. beckmt's Avatar
    Yes, he should be available for the right offer. I would have to be better than the rumors last year. The difference is that most teams will not give upside prospect pitching in a deal for a good outfielder
  2. Brad Swanson's Avatar
    This is an excellent run-down. Very valid points on both ends.

    I think the only way to let Willingham play out his contract would be if the Twins honestly think they can contend in 2014. I'm starting to think it's not completely crazy that they can, but a lot would have to go right this season and in the 2013 off-season. Basically, if they want to wait through all of 2013 before they trade him, I'd be fine with that.

    In the Yankees scenario you proposed, I'd probably try to get Angelo Gumbs, but that is beside the point. If the Twins aren't going to contend in 2014, they should really try to get what they can, rather than letting him walk with no return. Luckily, they can keep evaluating deals until the 2014 trade deadline.
    Updated 02-24-2013 at 10:18 PM by Brad Swanson
  3. jorgenswest's Avatar
    I would be surprised if he brought a top 100 prospect. How much more value does he bring than a Soriano who the Yankees could get for much less than a top 100 prospect? On the other hand, he is at peak value now and the Twins should seriously listen to an offer. They can't expect to be blown away. He is a DH with a history of injuries.
  4. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
    Soriano is similar. Older, not as good offensively anymore. Probably would cost the Yankees less in money and players. I wouldn't debate that he would be a decent fit for the Yankees.
  5. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    I do not see any scenario where Willingham gets traded for another OF, or a C (we are pretty much set for hitters right now), but maybe a SS. I would bet Terry Ryan will be looking for nothing but pitching in return for Josh, and Justin too, for that matter.
  6. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mnfanforlife
    I do not see any scenario where Willingham gets traded for another OF, or a C (we are pretty much set for hitters right now), but maybe a SS. I would bet Terry Ryan will be looking for nothing but pitching in return for Josh, and Justin too, for that matter.
    I don't discount that. That would be my preference too.
  7. AM.'s Avatar
    Carlos Rodon. That's a pro for trading Willingham you are missing. The sooner the Twins trade Willingham, the better they position themselves for the top pick in 2014.
  8. AM.'s Avatar
    When you get to Morneau, I'd focus on Texas, which has three good SSs aged 25 or under.
  9. Gene Larkin Fan Club's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by AM.
    When you get to Morneau, I'd focus on Texas, which has three good SSs aged 25 or under.
    I'm hoping Terry Ryan has the Rangers cued up on speed dial. Once a week, TR should fake a butt-dial and hope it generates a discussion.
  10. Jeff P's Avatar
    The Yankees are a logical team to trade with but it seems too good to be true that we would get as much or more for Willingham as we got for Span. I think a good prospect at lower levels would be more realistic (on the level of a Max Kepler). I would rather have that than another 5th starter.
  11. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    If the Twins could work something out for Jurickson Profar....do it. Include any minor leaguers but Sano/Rosario, and I would pull the trigger
  12. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by AM.
    Carlos Rodon. That's a pro for trading Willingham you are missing. The sooner the Twins trade Willingham, the better they position themselves for the top pick in 2014.
    I'm on board. Rodon and Beede both highly-regarded.
  13. bteichr's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mnfanforlife
    If the Twins could work something out for Jurickson Profar....do it. Include any minor leaguers but Sano/Rosario, and I would pull the trigger
    Of course, but the Rangers are not trading Profar.
  14. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mnfanforlife
    If the Twins could work something out for Jurickson Profar....do it. Include any minor leaguers but Sano/Rosario, and I would pull the trigger
    Not Arcia!

    The Yankees would find Willingham's contract appealing. They are working pretty hard to lower payroll. Sadly, they too are looking in their own farm system for a SS, so probably couldn't get one from them.
  15. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Pitching it is!! Our first choice anyway, right?
  16. John Bonnes's Avatar
    Funny. Just an hour ago on the podcast I asked Aaron where Gary Sanchez, who was the other super highly ranked prospect in Pelotero, ended up. It would be neat to end up with both him & Sano with the Twins. (Can we add Juan Carlos for our middle infield, too?)
  17. mnfanforlife's Avatar
    Juan Carlos is a liar, and he will always be a liar. True SS though
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