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The Stress of the Trade Deadline

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#1 Seth Stohs

Seth Stohs

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 08:27 AM

Last night in the 8th inning, Denard Span came out of the game because he was feeling dizzy. He wasn’t feeling well. Seeing Darin Mastroianni in the lineup set off a firestorm on Twitter.

A night earlier, Trevor Plouffe was abruptly replaced by Brian Dozier as a pinch hitter. The question there was whether he was sick or injured.
With Span, there was a far different discussion for one big reason. Rather than thinking that maybe Span wasn’t feeling well in the nearly-100 degree weather, the question jumped to “Has Span been traded?” Was he going to the Yankees, or the Rangers, or the Reds, or the Nationals? What would the Twins be getting in return?

The trade deadline is in nine days. Denard Span and Francisco Liriano are the two names most frequently mentioned in trade rumors. The Twins are far out of playoff contention, and that means that they will be (and should be) in sell mode. That means that any veteran on the roster could be dealt, and that it could happen at any time, even during a game.

The sad thing is that once people found out that he left the game because he felt dizzy, there were a few who thought, “Great! That will minimize what the Twins can get for Span!” Stay Classy!

It’s sometimes important to take a step back at the trade deadline and realize that all these rumors and then any actual trades affect and stress players in ways that go far beyond the baseball field.

Span came to the Twins when he signed in August of 2002 as the team’s #1 draft pick (20th overall). He gave up a college football scholarship to play with the Twins. He debuted with the Twins in 2008 and has been the team’s leadoff hitter ever since.

Liriano came to the Twins following the 2003 season in one of Terry Ryan’s best trades. Liriano was traded to the Twins, along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser, in the AJ Pierzynski trade. He debuted with the Twins in September of 2005. Johan Santana won the AL Cy Young Award in 2006, but for a two month period, Liriano was the best pitcher in baseball. Unfortunately, he tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery. It took until 2010 for Liriano to regain any semblance of his form. However, 2011 and the first two months of 2012 were very frustrating for the left-hander. However, in the last two months since rejoining the rotation, he has been one of baseball’s pitchers.

A year ago, Denard Span was on the Disabled List with his concussion yet he still was involved in several trade rumors. Span did not want to get traded, and he really struggled with the rumors and the process. Although he has seen teammates come and go, Span has been in this organization for a decade. There is a comfort factor. There are relationships with teammates and coaches. Span has developed a great fan following due to his play on the field and his work in the community and his willingness to interact with fans at the ballpark and on Twitter. Although he lives in Tampa during the offseason, Span also nows that part of who he is is a Minnesota Twins.

The life of a professional athlete may not be as great as we all assume in a number of ways. Yes, the money and the travel and the fame and those types of things are great. However, when a player is drafted, he has no choice in where he plays. In the minor leagues, players get paid very minimally and travel on busses. Once they hit the big leagues, they have almost no say in their income until they have almost three years of service time. They have no say in where they play for the first six years of their career. If they become a free agent, they finally have the power in saying where they will play based on factors from contract offers made to cities they want to live in. However, until a player has 10-5 rights (10 years of MLB service time, and the past five with the same team), he can be traded at any time whether he wants to be or not.

Baseball is a business. It is a business that pays its performers very well. It provides them with many other perks, as well. But I also think that sometimes fans forget that these are people too. People with feelings. Some players outwardly handle rumors better than others.

As a Twins fan, I like the fact that Francisco Liriano is saying that he wants to stay with the Twins. I have no problem with Denard Span being affected by the thought of leaving the organization that he has been with for a decade.

Don’t get me wrong… It is Terry Ryan’s job as GM to not let that sentiment and emotion go into his decision-making as he is determining what needs to be done for the betterment of the Twins organization. I don’t want Denard Span to be traded either, but I also understand the he is the kind of player that the Twins can actually bring back to the Twins some players that it needs to replenish its farm system and hopefully bring the Twins back to contention more quickly.

In the same way, Terry Ryan needs to make a decision regarding Josh Willingham. How much return is enough to make up for the hit the team could take for trading a guy they just signed to a multi-year contract. By all reports, Willingham is a great guy and he and his family have really fit in with the Twins and in the community.

Regarding Jamey Carroll, he has to determine the value of freeing up the contract versus what he can bring as a mentor as the Twins infield next year could have Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon in the middle?

Like Span, Glen Perkins has the type of contract (and talent) that could make him very valuable to a contender. However, he is from here. His wife is from here and they live in Minnesota year-round. It would affect a lot of lives to deal Perkins. Yes, that is the business side of it, but the personal side makes it tough to do.

Justin Morneau has the kind of contract that would be great to get off the books, $14 million for 2013. Morneau and his wife just had their second baby. She is from Minnesota and they have made Minnesota one of their homes. Morneau has done a lot for the Twins organization over the last 8-9 years, including winning an MVP, hitting a lot of home runs, driving in a bunch of runs, becoming a very good first baseman and much more. Loyalty comes into play when the thought of trading Justin Morneau comes up.

The July trade deadline is a lot of fun for fans. It’s fun to read the rumors. It’s fun to think about what prospects the Twins could receive in return for various players. It’s exciting. From a team perspective, they need to do what is right short-term and long-term for the organization. For the players, it has to be difficult from so many standpoints. Loyalty. Being happy and comfortable in an environment. Family and Friends. Winning opportunity. Not the least of which is trying to feel like more than a trade chip to be dealt.

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