Mackey: The Twins have already won the Francisco Liriano trade
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MINNEAPOLIS -- More often than not, the Minnesota Twins have been roughed up pretty good in trades over the past few years -- like "that guy" in your fantasy league you email three days before the trade deadline in order to pull off a last-minute heist.
There was the Johan Santana trade, which probably netted less for the Twins than it did down the road for the White Sox (Phil Humber's perfect game) and Brewers (Carlos Gomez finally breaking out).
The Delmon-Young-for-Lester-Oliveros trade, which came at the nadir of Young's value and saw him hit a handful of home runs for the Tigers in October shortly after.
And the J.J.-Hardy-for-Jim-Hoey trade, which saw Hardy hit 52 home runs in his first two seasons with the Orioles while his replacement, Tsuyoshi Nishioka -- who cost the Twins nearly the same amount of money as Hardy would have when including the posting fee -- kicked groundballs and ripped Marlboro Reds in the laundry room.
But this scribe is ready to declare a turning of the tide with last summer's Francisco Liriano trade -- a deal that brought slick-fielding infielder Eduardo Escobar and lefty Pedro Hernandez to Minneapolis.
The Twins can stick their flag in the ground on that trade, even if general manager Terry Ryan isn't ready to declare victory.
"I don't think I can say that right now," Ryan said Saturday. "It looks great on the surface, because Liriano probably wasn't coming back. He didn't come back (to Chicago). The two guys we got are about 23 (years old). One of them (started Saturday), and the other (was) playing in the field.
"But if they go south here in about 12 games, they're in Rochester and they never resurface, you're going to say, 'Well, you should have got more for Liriano. You didn't get anything.' So I suspect in August or so I'll be able to say, 'OK, these guys are guys that are probably going to be with us for a while.' Then you say it was a decent trade."
Ryan's humility is appreciated, but let's look at the facts:
• The White Sox paid $2 million for a rental in Liriano who posted a 5.40 ERA with a lot of strikeouts, but also a lot of walks in 56 2/3 innings. His presence was not enough to lift them to playoff status.
• Liriano did not re-sign with Chicago. Instead, he signed an incentive-laden deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates -- a contract that had to be re-worked after Liriano injured his non-throwing shoulder while horsing around with one of his kids. He has yet to make his Pirates debut.
• Liriano had almost no trade value whatsoever when the Twins dealt him. He had terrible numbers at the time (5.31 ERA with five walks per nine innings), an expiring and somewhat expensive contract ($2 million prorated over the rest of the season), and it was no secret he is one of the all-time head cases -- despite what Don Cooper thought.
• Despite most people scoffing at Ryan for landing "only" a utility infielder and a soft-tossing lefty, it appears as if the Twins found two very serviceable players. Escobar looks like he could be the Twins' next version of Nick Punto, who was perhaps the best utility player in baseball for a multi-year stretch. And Hernandez is a control artist with a solid minor league track record who has given the Twins four solid outings so far this season.
• Not to be overlooked, the Twins may have taken two solid players from a division rival.
Point, Terry Ryan.
Other Twins news, notes, nuggets
• J.O. Berrios, one of the Twins' top pitching prospects, pitched 6 2/3 solid innings for Low-A Cedar Rapids on Monday night, striking out eight while allowing only one run on four hits and no walks. Berrios now has 62 strikeouts in 42 1/3 minor league innings.
• Ryan has embraced advanced stats in his second stint as GM, using input from in-house stat guru Jack Goin on every personnel decision. But Ryan's background is firmly entrenched in traditional scouting. In our weekly radio discussion on Saturday, I asked him if he had any scouting staples he could share. Ryan said, "(Watching feet) would be a model for (scouting) an infielder. Everybody talks about accuracy and why a guy doesn't make the throws, and they look at his arm and where his arm angle is. It all begins with the feet for an infielder." Ryan also said he believes in bloodlines and drafting players with a history of professional baseball in their family.
Can Ryan walk into a college game and develop strong opinions on 18 players he has never seen within three hours? "Yes," he said. "That's what you're supposed to do, and if you go into that college game and you can't do that then you need to get out of the business, because you're paid to evaluate and make a decision."
• With his fifth straight start of at least seven-plus innings on Sunday, Kevin Correia has already almost doubled his number from last year (three) in Pittsburgh. As someone in the Twins front office pointed out over the weekend, National League pitchers are often pinch-hit for in the later innings, so it's possible many of his six-inning starts were halted because of that.
• Thousands of Twins fans continued to boo Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski during last weekend's four-game series, despite the fact that Pierzynski was traded for perhaps the largest haul in team history -- Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser, with a door opening for Joe Mauer to take over behind the plate. Pierzynski, who hit .301/.341/.447 in parts of six seasons with the Twins, joked with people behind the scenes Friday that many of the fans who boo him at Target Field probably don't even remember he played for the Twins 10 years ago, but instead just remember him as the agitator in Chicago.
• Mike Pelfrey, who pitched well until allowing a three-run homer to Prince Fielder on Monday night, has mostly struggled so far in April, but Ryan doesn't believe "stuff" is a problem for the big right-hander. Pelfrey's average fastball sits between 91 and 92 mph, which is just a tick below his career average. Instead, Ryan believes poor command has been the main issue, which is common for pitchers who are still 12 to 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Pelfrey is nearly 12 months removed. "I think he'll be fine," Ryan said. "He's one of the best workers, he's got great make-up. I guess I should expect him to struggle a bit out of the chute because of where he's been, but with all that being said there's no reason he shouldn't succeed up here because he's got plenty of stuff."
• The Twins have about two weeks to make a decision on right-handed reliever Tim Wood, who is in the middle of a 30-day rehab assignment (shoulder) at Triple-A Rochester. Reports are his velocity is between 93-95 mph with a high-80's slider, and he hasn't allowed a run in four outings for Rochester (five strikeouts, one walk, one hit allowed in five innings). Because Wood is out of minor league options, the Twins would have to expose him to waivers if they don't put him on the 25-man roster within the next two weeks.
• The Twins flirted pretty heavily with Joe Blanton this offseason, and it looks like they may have dodged a pretty massive bullet. Blanton, who signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels, has allowed as many home runs already (7) as the Twins' entire starting staff.
• With his solid performance on Saturday for Rochester, Kyle Gibson lowered his ERA to 3.33 over five Triple-A starts. He also possesses a 56% groundball rate, which if translated to the major leagues would rank among the best in baseball. The Twins went into the season planning to keep Gibson's innings limited to 130 or 140. He has used up 27 so far with the Red Wings.
• Before the Twins think about moving red-hot top prospects Miguel Sano and/or Byron Buxton up the minor league ladder, they want to see how those players fare when they see teams and pitchers for the second time -- see how they adjust to adjustments, so to speak. Sano is playing "much, much better" defense, according to Ryan. "More often than not it's, 'He made a phenomenal play... or he made a very difficult play' (written in the reports), and that's good to see."
• For what it's worth, Sano doesn't have to be placed on the Twins' 40-man roster until after the 2014 season, according to a team higher-up. I'm guessing he'll make his major league debut before then.