Tuesday, July 9, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: Kevin Tapani for Coom-Dog... and others.

In July of 1995, the Twins traded away one of their most popular players and their closer, Rick Aguilera.  Then, they traded one of their most reliable starters in Scott Erickson, just one day later.  The carnage was too much to bear, but it also was not complete. 

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Kevin Tapani and Mark Guthrie to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ron Coomer, Greg Hansell, Jose Parra and a player to be named later (Chris Latham). 

Coom-Dog, as he would be affectionately known, was a halfway decent hitter for the Twins for the next six seasons.  Hansell gave the Twins 74.1 innings of a 5.69 ERA in 1996 and was gone after that season.  Parra started 12 games for the Twins in 1995, posting a 7.59 ERA at the age of 22.  He would pitch 70 more innings for the Twins in '96 and then did not pitch in the Majors again until 2000, with the Pirates.  Latham posted a sweet .152/.222/.188 triple slash in 154 plate appearances with the Twins from '97 to '99.

Tapani had been trending downward for the last few seasons, and continued that downward trend with the Dodgers, posting a 5.05 ERA in 57 innings.  Guthrie performed very well for the Dodgers over the next season-and-a-half.  He then regressed in 1997 before posting another solid season in 1998.     

How did I feel at the time?

I LOVED Kevin Tapani.  I used all caps to make that abundantly clear.  I thought Tapani was great because he pitched on the '91 team.  He also posted a 2.88 ERA in 1992 and I knew that because I had a bunch of his baseball cards.  When he was traded, I was just so jaded from the Aguilera and Erickson trades that I was all like "whatever, life is meaningless when you think about it anyway," and I put on my green tinted sunglasses and long gray trench coat and headed to 6th period industrial tech, which I was taking ironically.

Why make the trade?

So, Tapani, much like Aguilera, was not immediately cool with this trade, according to the Los Angeles Times:

"Kevin Tapani awoke Tuesday morning, headed to the Metrodome in Minneapolis where he has worked the last six years, started to clean out his locker, then began to cry.  'There has been so much talk of me being traded, I guess I should have been prepared,' said Tapani"

I think we often forget that these players are humans and trades affect them personally and emotionally.  If you work somewhere and are happy for many years, making an abrupt change against your true wishes can be tough. 

Tapani, who earns $3.6 million, has no plans to uproot his family and purchase a home in Los Angeles. He's in the final year of his contract, and knows it's quite possible he may wind up as a rent-a-player for the pennant stretch.

"I really don't know anything about the Dodgers, to tell you the truth," said Tapani, who pitched at least 220 innings for three consecutive seasons until last year's strike. "But the best thing is I'm in a pennant race again. It's been a long time [1991] since I had that feeling. That's the best part, but still, I'm leaving behind a lot of good friends and a lot of great memories."

So really, this was another money decision.  Shocking, but true.  Tapani was right not to buy any LA real estate, as he would be with the White Sox the next season before landing with the Cubs to finish his career.  He does seem wistful about his old pals in the Twins clubhouse, but playing for a winner is a nice trade-off.  No word on how Dave Stevens felt about the move. 

This article from the LA Times is a goldmine.  There are fantastic quotes I have to share with you later, but first, let's learn more about the package that the Twins received:

In exchange, the Dodgers sent minor league pitchers Jose Parra and Greg Hansell to the Twins, along with minor league third baseman Ron Coomer. Parra, who was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque last week, was considered the best of the prospects and will replace Tapani in the rotation for the Twins.

Checkmate Parra.  He was young, so that was nice, but his Minor League numbers were a turned-over trash  can that had been picked over by local wildlife, so I'm not sure where the prospect status came from. 

Here's why the Dodgers made the trade: 

Tapani (6-11, 4.92 earned-run average) will replace Willie Banks as the fifth starter.

Any time you can upgrade Willie Banks, you do it, regardless of who it is.  Kevin Tapani?  Do it.  Mark Guthrie even though he hasn't started in years?  Do it.  Washout from the local Clown College?  Do it.

Here's some faint praise from Dodger Eric Karros

"I'm excited that we did something. Tapani's got good stuff. He's not a Saberhagen, but it's not like we gave up the farm for him, either. Besides, we don't need pitching like they do.

Yeah, I mean, it's not like we needed a GOOD pitcher, we just needed someone to replace Willie Banks.  I mean, everyone would love to get Bret Saberhagen; he's soooooo dreamy. 

Tapani's new manager seems impressed:

"At least we're trying to get somebody to help us," Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said. "But I've never seen the guy pitch. I don't know anything about Tapani. "But I do know that the Rockies got themselves a hell of a pitcher in Saberhagen. That's a pretty good step right there."

Gee, welcome to the Dodgers, Kev. 


This one is quite simple, really.  Tapani made too much money and the Dodgers needed a starter that wasn't as good as Bret Saberhagen.  Tapani was a nice 5th starter, but the Twins pretty much had no use for any player over thirty because they weren't going to be a good team for a long time. The Twins got a boatload of young players in return, likely with the hope that a couple would pan out.  Only Coomer really panned out, and he was hardly considered the jewel of the trade. 

The Dodgers got their consolation prize and someone new to kick around in the clubhouse.  Of course, Tapani didn't really pitch all that well for them, but probably pitched better than Willie Banks would have.  In the end, the Dodgers did make the playoffs, but were swept out of the Divisional series by the Reds.  The Twins would not make the playoffs again until 2002. 

Who won the WAR?

Tapani for the Dodgers:  -0.3
Guthrie for the Dodgers:  2.2
Coomer for the Twins:  2.5
Hansell for the Twins:  -0.1
Parra for the Twins:  -1.3
Latham for the Twins:  -1.3

WAR won by the Dodgers!  But nice work, Coom-dog. 

One Sentence Summary

The Twins acquired a future backup color commentator for a World Series hero; Coom-dog is a ridiculous nickname.    

No comments:

Post a Comment