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Did the Twins Fleece Tampa Twice?

Ted Schwerzler



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Teams are often considered to be on the losing end of trades when dealing with the Tampa Bay Rays. The brass in St. Pete does more with less, and players seem to get better when going to Florida. Did the Twins just get them for a second time though?

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made a deal with Tampa prior to the 2018 season. They sent infield prospect Jermaine Palacios out in exchange for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. After a solid but mediocre debut season, Odorizzi was an All-Star in 2019 and posted a career best 10.1 K/9 bolstering his 3.51 ERA. Palacios had a .575 OPS as a 21-year-old during his debut season in the Tampa organization, and dropped to a .542 OPS as a 22-year-old repeating Double-A. Now back at Double-A for Minnesota, he’s 24 and owns a .745 mark at the level.

Regardless of what happens with Palacios, it’s hard not to see how Odorizzi worked out a win. Could that be happening again in terms of Nelson Cruz and Joe Ryan?

The Twins had to deal their designated hitter. Cruz is 41-years-old and it’s more than evident this season was lost for Minnesota. Despite his .907 OPS here, Cruz needed to be flipped for any semblance of a return at the deadline. Getting a pitcher like Ryan, capable of fitting into the top-half of a rotation, seemed like a coup for the front office.

It’s far too early to make determinations on what Ryan will be, but Tampa has to be underwhelmed in what they received. Cruz just recently surpassed the .700 OPS mark (thanks in part to facing his former club), and has just a .219 average with a .273 on-base percentage. It plays for a team that needed a big bat, but Nelson hasn’t been close to the Boomstick the Twins knew him as.

Minnesota must be pleased with what they’ve seen from Ryan. In 9.0 IP for St. Paul he had a 17/2 K/BB and allowed just two earned runs. After returning from the Olympics as Team USA’s ace, that was enough to earn his first big league promotion. Across five innings he surrendered three runs while punching out five and walking one. The book that was suggested at Triple-A continued to read correctly at the Major League level, and it’s a step away from what has become tradition.

Ryan is not a fireballer. His average fastball velocity for the Twins sat at just 90.8 mph. In a league focused on hitting triple-digits, it’s an uphill battle for a ball like that to play. His four-seam generated an average of 2,100 RPM and is used up in the zone. Twins Daily’s Parker Hagemen broke down the success of locating that pitch, and why it should be believed that the lesser velocity can still have a tremendous effect at the highest level.

One start is entirely too soon to crown Ryan as Minnesota’s next ace. From my vantage point, I’m not even sure his stuff has that type of ceiling. What I do know is that the Twins getting this much control over Ryan in exchange for two month of an aging Cruz on a bad big league team is a steal in every sense of the word. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine don’t have a good track record on the free agent market, and their trades could even be questioned at times. When they’ve dealt with Tampa though, it’s hard not to consider the front office a resounding two-for-two.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz



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Sorry, but even if Ryan turns out to be at least a serviceable starter (or better) AND if the Rays win the championship, no, the Twins didn't "fleece" the Rays.  Not only is it too early to tell if Ryan will be good, it is also to early to determine if the price TB paid for Cruz was worth it, as they are going for it all this year.   And I ask the same question here that I ask with every trade - why does every trade have to end with a "loser" and a "winner" like the games?  What's wrong if both teams get what they wanted from a trade? 

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The Odo trade needs some context.  As per usual the ever payroll conscious Rays needed to move Odo and his market wasn't good.  I think we all were surprised the Twins were getting two years of Odo for a single player in A ball.  Still Palacios had potential and he is showing now what the Rays thought they were getting.  A player with a good eye at the plate who also is hitting for power that can play short.  It didn't work out for Tampa but it had decent potential IMO.  Tampa achieved what they wanted though which was getting rid of salary so in my mind they weren't really trying to "win" that trade just achieve an objective.  So it depends on how you look at these deals IMO.

Way too early to assess the Cruz trade and again context is needed.  Tampa wasn't worried about winning the Cruz trade long term as they needed a difference maker bat for this postseason and Cruz was the best available that wouldn't hurt them salary wise long term.  Strotman was a player likely not good enough to make their 40 man next year and Ryan looks good but is a one trick pony unless his secondary's improve.  It is quite the haul for half a year of Cruz but again Tampa needed a short term asset to help them in the playoffs and they got the guy they wanted.  If he helps them win the world series then in my mind Tampa wins this trade or you could say both teams won depending on how Ryan and Strotman work out.  If Cruz fails to be the difference maker they paid for then it seems hard to see how they could "win" that trade but sometimes you have to take calculated risks and I think theirs was a good one.

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You must be another Twins FO apologist.  Look I hope Ryan turns out great.  But if all he throws is a fastball 75% of the time at an average speed of 91 mph he won't last.  Fleece the Rays?  Get serious!  

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Fleece, probably not, Rays realize they need to give up something to get something. Cruz is a great fit for Rays, fills a big need for them. They gave up Ryan, who looks for be possible mid to back of rotation starter and Strotman, who has not done much at St. Paul and was taking a roster spot for Rays and now Twins. And probably the biggest factor, Rays have plenty of pitching in the minors-could afford to give up someone. 

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They HAD to trade Cruz. I'm rough on this FO, but the trade seems fair and even promising. In fact, it's looking a lot better than the Berrios trade.

These things will take a lot longer to evaluate fairly, though. And I really hope Cruz helps Tampa to a World Series championship. I respect they way they build a winning team year after year based on player development with limited payroll.

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A pitcher whose sinker and changeup breaks down makes hitters swing and miss even at slower speeds.  A pitcher whose fastball rises as it comes into the zone may make a hitter miss in the same fashion, even at modest speeds for a fastball.  He will, though, need another pitch or two that makes hitters nervous so they can't sit on the fastball (which would make it even sneakier fast).  In my day, that is what they paid pitching coaches for.  We are supposed to have a good one; time for him to earn his money.  

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18 hours ago, LastOnePicked said:

They HAD to trade Cruz. I'm rough on this FO, but the trade seems fair and even promising. In fact, it's looking a lot better than the Berrios trade.

That's the point. Having to deal Cruz, and having very few suitors, a return like Ryan should be seen as great. Martin and Woods-Richardson are no doubt a better return though, that's not close.

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I would love to see Cruz return for another encore with the Twins. But then, we have Donaldson at third and Sano at first and Garver catching. No room in the inn for Kirilloff at first and Miranda at third.


But if you look at Cruz as being that BIG bat off the bench, maybe playing 80-90 games, then okay, I guess. The Twins could do worse. Then they have Cruz back and also two pitchers who could do major league time.

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