Twins pick up Young in six-player deal
Minnesota sends Garza, Bartlett, Morlan to Tampa Bay
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins rookie general manager Bill Smith didn't take long to make a head-turning trade.It just wasn't the deal everyone expected. With all the focus recently on the Twins listening to offers for ace Johan Santana, Smith instead completed a blockbuster, six-player deal with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night. The deal sent pitcher Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett and Minor League pitcher Eduardo Morlan to Tampa in exchange for outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and outfielder Jason Pridie. The trade was the first step in the Twins trying to improve an offense which finished in the bottom half of the American League in nearly every offensive category in 2007. Young, 22, is considered to be one of the up-and-coming hitters currently in the game. The No.1 overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Young finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting this past season. He played in all 162 games for the Rays in 2007, hitting .288 with 13 home runs and 93 RBIs. And Young also gives the Twins a strong offensive replacement for All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter, who agreed to a five-year, $90 million contract with the Angels last week leaving a huge hole in the Twins lineup. "Coming into the offseason, it was critical that we improve our offense," Smith said. "We certainly lost a big piece last week when Torii left, but we've been discussing this deal with Delmon Young for the last month. "We think his power is going to continue to improve and he will be a middle-of-the-order difference maker in our lineup." The Twins do not see Young as a center fielder but he likely will take over the spot in left field. Young's ascension to the Majors included being named Minor League Player of the Year in 2005. But Delmon, the younger brother of Major League Dmitri Young, has also suffered his share of setbacks along the way. Most of which involved his temper. Young was suspended 50 games by the International League in 2006 for famously flipping his bat and hitting an umpire. He also received a three-game ban in 2005 for bumping a Double-A umpire. Last season Young found trouble with Rays manager Joe Maddon, even getting pulled from a game toward the end of the year for not running out a ground ball. He apologized for his behavior and was allowed to play in Tampa Bay's season finale. "He made one terrible mistake two years ago and sometimes good young people make mistakes," Smith said. "We've done a lot of homework on Delmon and heard nothing but rave reviews as a teammate and a ballplayer." Young said that while he's made some mistakes, he's changed through all the troubles. "I've grown up a lot over the past couple years -- getting older, wiser" Young said. "It's going to happen with some players when you are 18 years old, thrown out into the world with a little money in your pocket and some success. You just have to wait for them to grow up sometimes and sometimes it takes longer for a guy to mature." Maturing as a player was something that kept Harris from sticking at the Major League level until 2007. A former top prospect in the Cubs organization, Harris bounced around to three different teams before becoming an everyday player with the Rays last season. The 27-year-old infielder hit .286 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs in 137 games last season. That included 87 games at shortstop and 47 at second base. Harris will give the Twins an option at shortstop, but he could also slide over to second with Nick Punto having the range to play short. It's Harris' offensive potential that the Twins seemed to really like. "I think everybody has to pull their weight at the dish," Harris said. "I think I bring something to the table defensively as well." Pridie was a Rule 5 Draft pick for the Twins in December 2005 and spent the following Spring Training with the club, but there was not enough roster space to keep him. The 24-year-old batted a combined .304 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham last season. A center fielder, Pridie isn't expected to be in the mix for the starting job as the Twins will seek a center fielder elsewhere.
As part of the deal, the Twins traded away a pitcher that had previously been considered off limits. A first round draft pick by the Twins in 2005, Garza was 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 15 starts for Minnesota in 2007. The 24-year-old right-hander has an 8-13 career record with a 4.47 ERA in 26 appearances (24 starts) over the last two seasons.Garza said that the trade didn't catch him off guard, as he'd heard the whispers all offseason of his name being tossed around. And Smith said that he felt it was the right time, with the club having so much pitching depth, to move a talented arm like Garza's for a strong young hitter. "I thought I was going to be a main part of the future rotation for the Twins but there are some deals you can't pass up," Garza said. "A guy like Delmon Young, he's a guy that still has a lot to show. I know the guy and he's going to be a great player. It's one of those deals that's too good to pass up." The Twins also lose Bartlett, who was expected to be the club's starting shortstop. Bartlett hit .265 last season with 20 doubles, seven triples, and 43 RBIs in a career-high 140 games and he was the answer the Rays were seeking at their shortstop position. Morlan, 21, was a late addition to the trade. The deal had originally been thought to include right-hander Juan Rincon, but after some hold-ups in the negotiations it was changed to include Morlan instead. That left questions about Rincon's health. "There is nothing wrong with Juan Rincon," Smith said. "He might pitch Winter Ball. He's fine." Morlan is considered to be a strong bullpen prospect, having struck out 92 batters over his 65 2/3 innings at Class A Fort Myers this past season. This is the first big trade for Smith, but it's far from the only deal he's expected to make in the coming weeks. It's expected to be a busy offseason for the Twins, who are continuing to listen to offers for Santana. The two-time Cy Young Award winner could help bring the club more offensive help, in the form of a third baseman or center fielder. There have also been whispers that closer Joe Nathan could also be shopped this winter as well. And now that Garza is gone, the Twins likely would want another starter as part of a package for Santana or Nathan. One thing that's certain is the Twins are far from done. "We've got a long way to go before March 31," Smith said. "We're going to continue talks with other clubs, talks with free agents. We have a lot of work to do."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.