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Examining the AJ Pierzynski Transaction Tree


Most Twins fans know about the trade that sent AJ Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for a trio of players. In fact, it might be one of the greatest trades in Twins history. Minnesota made that deal back in November 2003 and the ripple effects of that trade are still being felt in the organization. Let’s examine the “AJ Pierzynski Transaction Tree.”Initial Deal: November 14, 2003

Joe Mauer was waiting in the wings to talk over as the team’s full-time catcher. During the previous minor league season, Mauer posted an .832 OPS with 37 extra-base hits while making it all the way to Double-A. He was widely considered baseball’s best prospect and Baseball America had awarded him their Minor League Player of the Year. Pierzynski was no slouch either as he was an All-Star in 2002 and he was coming off a season where he posted an .824 OPS with 49 extra-base hits.


The three players acquired from the Giants were Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. Nathan became one of the baseball’s best closers on the way to being inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Liriano was electric in the minor leagues and he went on to pitch part of seven seasons for the Twins. Even Bonser pitched nearly 400 innings in Minnesota and he became the next branch in this transaction tree.


Bonser Trade: December 10, 2009

As a 28-year old, Bonser was on his way out in Minnesota after the Twins designated him for assignment. Carl Pavano agreed to go to arbitration with the club and this made Bonser expendable. Also, Bonser missed the entire 2009 campaign following shoulder surgery, so it was a surprise the team was able to get anything for him.


Bonser was dealt for a player to be named later that turned out to be Chris Province, a 2007 fourth round pick. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League that season as a 25-year old, but his time in the Twins organization would be short-lived. In 2010, he pitched most of the season at Double-A where he posted a 5.58 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP. He made a few Triple-A appearances, but his career was done after a brief stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League.


Liriano Trade: July 28, 2012

Joe Nathan would leave the Twins after the 2011 season as the team declined to pick up his $12.5 million option but paid him a $2 million buyout. This ended his part of the transaction tree, but the Twins were able to leverage Liriano to add some pieces to the organization. At the 2012 trade deadline, Minnesota dealt Liriano to the White Sox for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez.


Hernandez pitched just under 57 innings for the Twins and posted a 6.83 ERA with a 1.82 WHIP. He would only make one more big-league appearance and that came in 2014 with Colorado. Escobar was the key pick-up as he had 671 games in a Twins uniform while playing nearly every defensive position. At the plate, he posted a .729 OPS while getting on base 30.8% of the time. He was a solid contributor, but he was heading to free agency after the 2018 season.


Escobar Trade: July 27, 2018

Minnesota was out of contention during the 2018 campaign, so the front office made multiple moves with the trade deadline approaching. Arizona sent three prospects to Minnesota in return for what could have been less than 200 at-bats from Escobar. He eventually resigned with the D-Backs, but that wasn’t a guarantee at the time of the deal.


As I wrote about last week, Jhoan Duran was the biggest return for Escobar as he is considered one of the Twins top two starting pitching prospects. Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel have also added depth to the organization. When it comes to Duran, pitching prospects are never a sure thing. That being said, his ceiling seems to be a solid regular starting pitcher and if that doesn’t work, he projects to be a very good relief option.

Download attachment: Transaction Tree.jpg

More than two and a half decades after taking Pierzynski in the 1994 MLB Draft, the Twins organization is still feeling the ramifications of his transaction tree. What are your thoughts on these deals? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.



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Curt Flood would shudder - his question would be - how many of those players were okay with being traded?  Like AceWrigley wrote - "It still kind of freaks me out that you can trade people."


But since you can, this was a fascinating tree. 

If it helps you out, you can think of it more as trading contracts then trading people.

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I could be completely wrong on this, but didn't we throw Dustan Mohr in on this trade?  He was a poor man's Nick Punto and predecessor to Brian Dozier down in Hattiesburg.  That dude held his own for not being a top prospect.

Mohr's trade was a month later than the AJ trade. Not saying there couldn't have been a connection, but it is not listed as such. Indeed, if Mohr was conceptually a Player To Be Named Later in the big trade in November, it's odd that the way b-r.com lists his trade is that he departed in December for a PTBNL who arrived two days afterward.


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I love going back through trade trees.  My favorite was Chuck Knobloch his went on for a long time.  I think it finally ended, could be wrong, but led to a lot of players moving through.  


With three young players for Escobar this tree could go on for may years to come.   

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