Thursday, June 27, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: Brunansky for Herr

About a month ago, I completed my voyage through the last 25 drafts in Twins history.  Since the moment I submitted that final draft summary, I have felt nothing but emptiness and solitude.  As a result, I decided that I need a new gimmick to bury into the ground and since the trade deadline is rapidly approaching, past Twins trades seems like a fair idea.  So, I will be reviewing some of the more notable trades from the past 25 years in Twins history.  If you love trades, Twins, and sloppily arranged "jokes," then you will want to accompany me on my new voyage. 

We'll start with a trade from 1988 where a future Twins' hitting coach is swapped for a guy with a pretty short name. 

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

On April 22, 1988, the Minnesota Twins traded outfielder Tom Brunansky to the St. Louis Cardinals for second baseman Tom Herr.  Herr immediately became the Twins' second baseman and immediately did his Tom Herr impression.  He got on base but showed little-to-no power.  He also missed much time due to injury.  Along the same lines, Brunansky was Tom Brunansky for the Cardinals in 1988, posting a 121 OPS+ in 143 games, hitting 22 home runs and posting 79 RBI. 

How did I feel at the time?

I can't say for certain.  I was only six and I was pretty much a terrible fan.  Brunansky was hitting under .200 when he was traded, so I probably thought he sucked.  I would never say that word at six, so I might have thought he was stupid or something.  I liked Randy Bush for some odd reason, so I was probably pretty happy that he would be playing more.  I dunno, I was kind of a stupid, sucky kid. 

Why make the trade?

Herr seemed less than stoked.  Here is a quote from Herr from an LA Times article back on 4/23/1988:

"From what I remember of Minnesota last year in the World Series, they were a bunch of fun-loving guys who know how to win. When this sinks in, I'm sure I'll realize it's a good opportunity. I mean this is a team that wants me."

He sounds somewhat dejected.  Although, being traded to a World Series winner is pretty awful, so this is easy to understand.  Here are some quotes from that same article with some justification from St. Louis' side:

"Two factors really influenced the trade," St. Louis General Manager Dal Maxvill said. "One, we haven't been getting much run production, and (two), we think we have a fine young man who is ready to be an everyday player here in Alicea."

Alicea came up, played in 93 games, sucked (-1.3 WAR), then went back to the Minors for two more seasons.  Good call.  Getting Brunansky should be enough justification.  In fact, it would be hard to justify in the opposite direction.  In this Orlando Sentinel article from 4/30/1988, Twins GM Andy MacPhail explains why the Twins wanted to make this trade:

``To begin with, it was a deal I simply couldn`t refuse,`` he said. ``We needed to improve our balance, and I think Tom Herr is one of the four or five best second baseman playing today.

Using WAR, Herr was the 34th best second baseman in 1987.  Perhaps WAR not existing clouded MacPhail's judgment.  Perhaps he was just looking at Herr's dope .263/.346/.331 triple slash.  Or maybe...

``He`s a switch hitter who gives us a much-needed left-handed bat at the first of the order (Herr is batting second in the lineup). He also can steal a base at any time. He has a good bat, glove and range. He`s a total winner.

He's a total winner.  This completely ignores the fact that the Twins had just won the World Series with that loser Steve Lombardozzi.  Lombo (as I am assuming he was called), posted a 1.3 WAR in 1987.  Again, WAR DID NOT EXIST IN 1987.  Calm.  Here's more:

``As long as this game is played, good teams want all the strength they can get up the middle. No, I didn`t hesitate to make the deal -- and I`d make it just as quickly if I had to again.``

Of course, only time travel would make that a reality, and time travel, much like WAR, did not exist in 1987.


The logic behind the trade wasn't terrible.  An up-the-middle, run producing player is very valuable.  In addition, the Twins had reasonable replacements in Bush and Mark Davidson.  However, all the players involved were just the wrong players.  Herr wasn't a bad player, but he wasn't a run producer either.  He had a big RBI season in 1985 but that was one of only two seasons in which he had slugged over .400 and he was hitting behind guys like Vince Coleman, Lonnie Smith and Willie McGee, who were on base fairly often. 

Brunansky may have driven in fewer runs than Herr over the previous three seasons, but he was a much more productive hitter.  Bruno outslugged Herr by 90 points over those same three seasons, while posting an OPS+ of 106 to Herr's 97.  Herr was also five years older and an impending free agent.  Trading a corner outfielder for a middle infielder wasn't a terrible idea, but specifically trading Brunansky for Herr was not a good idea for the Twins. 

Finally, Herr had feathered hair and Bruno had a Ron Swanson mustache.  The Twins should have known better. 

Who won the WAR?

Brunansky for the Cardinals:  2.7
Herr for the Twins:  1.4

WAR won by the Cardinals!

One Sentence Summary

The Twins beat the Cardinals in the World Series just about six months earlier, so no hard feelings.  


  1. I remember being very unhappy with this trade.

    I was so amazed that Herr's OPS+ was 97 that I looked it up. Baseball-Reference has his OPS+ for 1988 as 89, which more fits my memory of him.
    Bottom line, he did not want to be here.

    A poor trade. Too bad. Bruno should have been ALCS MVP in 1987. I'm glad he's back as a coach.

    1. It was a truly awful trade. Herr's 97 OPS+ was from '85-'87, but most of that value came from an uncharacteristically solid '85 season. He was right around 89 for the next three seasons.

      His quotes showed that he was very happy where he was, possibly because he knew that they liked him despite his poor production.