The system of player development in baseball makes replenishing the talent at the major league level a tough science to nail down. Unlike the NFL where draft picks can become stars immediately, MLB essentially requires a few years of minor league time to fully season a prospect.
This creates an interesting dynamic where teams may deal major league players in preparation for their highly-touted prospects. The Twins did exactly this a few years back and are now in a similar position.
The year was 2012 and the Twins were in the middle of their stretch of uninspired baseball. But there was good news! They had just taken Byron Buxton with the second overall pick that year. With him, Oswaldo Arcia, and a fresh-faced Aaron Hicks on the horizon, the team saw their opportunity to deal both Ben Revere and Denard Span in the 2012 offseason.
Between Span and Revere, their trade returns netted Alex Meyer, Vance Worley, and Trevor May. Meyer had 95 1/3 innings pitched in MLB (most not with the Twins) and subsequently retired before he hit 30. Worley made 10 terrible starts for the Twins and was shipped off to Pittsburgh for a bag of baseballs.
May at least is still on the team and is currently one of the better relievers. Also, to Meyer’s credit, he allowed the Twins to also drop Ricky Nolasco onto the Angels for Alan Busenitz and Héctor Santiago.
It’s unfair to call these trades disasters, but it’s tough to see any of them as anything but disappointing. Span was still a solid player (though he would have been wasted on the Twins at the time) and the players they nabbed in return all should have been quality pitchers for the Twins for years to come. Only May proved to have any staying power on the team.
But there’s still one more topic to cover. You know exactly what is coming. Remember in 2015 when Aaron Hicks finally put together a decent season in MLB and was immediately dealt to the, shudders, Yankees? At least Jon Ryan Murphy, the player they received in return, put up a wRC+ of 4 for the Twins. Yes, that is typed out correctly. A wRC+ of 4.
It’s awfully mean to bring up these trades and players for no reason. You, the good reader, were likely either just starting a fine day or getting ready to go to bed following said fine day and didn’t need these memories to be brought up again. There is a point behind all of this.
The Twins saw the young prospects they had at the time (Hicks and Arcia) and dealt their established major league talent (Revere and Span) to make room for these players. Arcia was DFA’d a few years after making his debut and Hicks continued the cycle by being traded to make room for Buxton and Max Kepler. Fortunately, both of those players have proved themselves at the major league level.
The Twins are now in a very similar situation to where they were in 2012. Both Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff are knocking on the door of the majors and there has been much speculation regarding how the team can make room for them.
The situation is slightly different in the fact that the Twins now are much better than the Twins in 2012 and their system of development has been overhauled. They don’t have quite the same shoot-yourself-in-the-foot ability that those teams had. Yet, knowing that trading players to make room for prospects failed just a few years ago should make the Twins halt if they plan to do the same thing soon.
Prospects are nice but should never be taken as guarantees. As long as the possibility of a player not succeeding at the major league level exists, then it would be wiser for the team to go with the sure thing in an already capable major league player. The Twins should stay put with their outfield and wait for Kirilloff and/or Larnach to prove themselves at the major league level before handing them playing time.
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