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  • Examining the Chuck Knoblauch Transaction Tree


    Cody Christie

    There’s no question that Chuck Knoblauch, a rookie at the time, was a vital part of the Twins run to the 1991 World Series. He hit .281/.351/.350 with 31 extra-base hits and 25 steals on his way to being named the AL Rookie of the Year. His tenure in Minnesota didn’t end as well, but his trade to the Yankees impacted the organization for nearly two decades after his departure. Let’s dive into the wormhole that is the Chuck Knoblauch Transaction Tree.

    Initial Trade: February 6, 1998

    Knoblauch wanted a new home, and the Yankees were looking for a lead-off hitter for teams that won three straight championships. The Twins were able to acquire Brian Buchanan, Cristian Guzman, Eric Milton, and Danny Mota. Mota never panned out as he only appeared in four games with the Twins, but the rest of the players impacted the Twins roster for multiple years.

    Milton was the first of the three players to join the Twins. He was a member of the Twins rotation for five straight seasons including the club’s 2002 and 2003 AL Central Championships. He was an All-Star in 2001 and he compiled a 4.76 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP throughout his Twins tenure. However, Milton wouldn’t be the first player to be dealt away.

    That honor goes to Buchanan who didn’t debut until he was 26-years old. He played parts of three seasons in Minnesota by hitting .258/.319/.428. Guzman was a vital contributor to the organization’s resurgence in the early 2000s. He was an All-Star in 2001 and led all of baseball in triples three different times.

    Buchanan Trade: July 12, 2002

    The Buchanan branch of this trade tree is the longest as its impacts were felt into the Target Field era. His initial trade was to the San Diego Padres for High-A shortstop prospect named Jason Bartlett. In his first tenure with the Twins, Bartlett hit .272/.341/.362 while averaging 16 extra-base hits per season. He’d become part of a much more memorable trade in the years to come.

    Milton Trade: December 3, 2003

    Milton’s trade to Philadelphia brought back a trio of players including two impactful players. Minnesota acquired Nick Punto, Carlos Silva, and Bobby Korecky. Korecky spent five years in the Twins organization, but he only made 16 big-league appearances as a 28-year old reliever.

    Punto and Silva had both already made their debuts with Philadelphia at the time of the trade. Silva had pitched in 130 games as a reliever, but the Twins brought him in to be a starter. In four seasons, he pitched over 770 innings with a 4.42 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP. Punto became a fan favorite for his headfirst slides and his ability to play multiple defensive positions. He’d play seven seasons as a Twin while hitting .248/.323/.324.

    Guzman Signing: November 16, 2004

    Guzman was the last piece of the initial Knoblauch trade to leave Minnesota and when he signed with Washington, the Twins received a compensation draft pick. It ended up being a third-round pick and the Minnesota used the pick to select Brian Duensing. He’d go on to pitch nearly 650 innings as a starter and a reliver. Over seven seasons, he posted a 4.13 ERA with a 99 ERA+ and a 1.38 WHIP. He’d actually become the last leaf on this transaction tree when he departed after the 2015 season.

    Bartlett Trade: November 28, 2007

    Granted this was much more than a Bartlett trade, but he was the connection back to Knoblauch. Minnesota wanted a powerful right-handed bat to break up the lefties in the line-up, so a six-player deal was negotiated with Tampa Bay. The Rays received Matt Garza, Eddie Morlan, and Bartlett while the Twins received Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie. Pridie only appeared in a handful of games for the Twins but Young and Harris continued the transaction tree.

    Young was the number one overall pick in the 2003 MLB Draft, and he was coming off a season where he finished runner-up to Dustin Pedroia for the AL Rookie of the Year. He never really lived up to the billing as one of the game’s best prospects as he posted a .753 OPS over four seasons in Minnesota. Harris started over 120 games in two different seasons for the Twins and hit .251/.309/.360 with some defensive versatility.

    Harris Trade: December 9, 2010

    Minnesota was riding high after the first season at Target Field and the team was looking for a change in the infield. Shortly after this trade, the Twins signed shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a three-year deal. This meant some of their other infielders were expendable, so the Twins packaged JJ Hardy and Harris in a deal that brought back Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey from the Orioles. Jacobson never made it out of Double-A and Hoey allowed 15 earned runs in 24 2/3 innings with the Twins.

    Young Trade: August 15, 2011

    The last trade tied to Knoblauch occurred after the trade deadline back in 2011. Young was sent to Detroit where he’d win the ALCS MVP a season later. Minnesota received Cole Nelson, who never made it past High-A, and Lester Oliveros. Oliveros was an intriguing arm, but he never put it all together as a relief option. In parts of three seasons, he’d pitch less than 30 innings with an ERA north of 5.00.

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    From 1989, when the Twins drafted Knoblauch, through the 2015 season, the Twins had some connection to Knoblauch and his transaction tree. What are your thoughts or memories of some of these deals? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    If one included all of the potential or suggested trades involving Brian Duensing, this article would become a book.

     

     

    You beat me to it. I suppose I should say something about how of course it ends at Hooey.

     

    Forget Hicks. The Hardy trade is still the worst recent trade in my memory by a longshot.

     

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    I used to talk about this trade tree.  I think in the long run it was a great trade for Twins.  Several people connected to it help take them to central champs over the years.  Twins were not going to win even with Chuck back then.  I know fans hated Chuck for his demands, but it worked out for us.  Had Bill Smith not screwed up, even better things could have came of it when Bartlett, young, and JJ were traded. JJ not connected technically, but harris was and that trade was the worst I can remember. 

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    I understand Knoblauch's frustration at the time. Many players since have shared the same sentiments, including Johan Santana.

     

    When Knoblauch came to the Twins, he was among a group of players playing at the top of their games. Himself included. When he left, he was the last elite player left, with not much hope for change. In fact, the owner was in private negotiations to fold the club and, in retrospect, it looked like the GM was privy to this information and was doing the bare minimum to field a team.

     

    As good as this tree looks, it was not until 4 years after this trade where the players started to make a collective positive impact to the club. On the other hand, the Yankees went to the World Series every year Knoblauch was in a Yankees uniform, winning three of them in decisive fashion. The 98 team is considered one of the best teams in MLB history.

     

    We know now how Knoblauch is broken as a human being, even ending his career with a severe case of the yips, but I'm not sure that's something to use as a feather in our caps. Nevermind that the way this trade worked out for the Twins was probably accidental!

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    You beat me to it. I suppose I should say something about how of course it ends at Hooey.

     

    Forget Hicks. The Hardy trade is still the worst recent trade in my memory by a longshot.

     

    Had Bill Smith not screwed up, even better things could have came of it when Bartlett, young, and JJ were traded. JJ not connected technically, but harris was and that trade was the worst I can remember. 

     

    In terms of value over multiple years given up, I think there have been worse recet Twins trades, but in terms of getting value back and thought process informing the trade, man, that Hardy deal was brutal.

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