Tuesday, July 2, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: Rick Aguilera Squared

By 1995, Rick Aguilera was a proven closer and an impending free agent.  The Twins were a bad team and it was time to make some changes.  I think we all know what happened next.

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Rick Aguilera to the Boston Red Sox for Frankie Rodriquez and a player to be named later (J.J. Johnson).  After the trade, Dave Stevens, Pat Mahomes and Eddie Guardado would share the closing duties, with Stevens getting the majority of the chances.  Rodriguez would immediately enter the Twins' rotation and flail.  J.J. Johnson played well at AA, but languished at AAA and was out of baseball by age 26.  Aguilera saved 20 games for the Red Sox the rest of that season, helping them to a division title and playoff appearance. 

How did I feel at the time?

I didn't really care.  For some reason, I thought that Aguilera blew a lot of saves and I didn't really like him.  Teenagers are famously filled with angst, so this one is probably on me.  I also probably secretly predicted that he would return as a free agent just a few months later.  Teenagers are famously prescient.   

Why make the trade?

Well, Aguilera clearly did not want to be traded, according to this article from the Seattle Times:

"He was too shaken to discuss the deal, even though it took him from the worst team in the majors to the second-best team in the American League."

Clearly the upgrade to the Red Sox and a contender was not what Aguilera was looking for.  Dave Stevens, who stood to take over for Aguilera was not pleased either:

"It's a sick feeling, just a sick feeling," Dave Stevens, whom the Twins hope can be their closer of the future, said in the near-silent clubhouse after the game. "He's the heart of this team. You look to Puck (Kirby Puckett) and you look to Aggie. It's a shame."

And this explains why the trade was made:

The deal came about two hours before Aguilera could have nixed it. At midnight he would have had 10 years major-league service and five with the same team, which would have given him the right to approve any trade.  But the Twins shed a big salary - $3.8 million - while getting a highly regarded prospect in Frank Rodriguez.

I guess the Twins had no choice.  If they wanted to trade him, they had to do it that day.  Frankie Rodriguez was a good prospect, although he definitely did not pan out. 


I'm certain this trade was hard to swallow in Minnesota.  The Twins were just four years removed from a World Series title, but were also the worst team in baseball.  In addition, the 1994 strike sucked and 1995 was a shortened season as a result.  Now, the Twins were trading one of their best and most popular players just hours before he earned the right to veto.  Not cool, Twins. 

For Boston, this trade worked out beautifully.  Ken Ryan and Stan Belinda had filled in ably as closers, but Aguilera was the vaunted "proven closer" that all playoff teams needed.  Boston hadn't won a World Series in a billion years, and any playoff run had to be taken very seriously.  Adding Aguilera boosted the bullpen, all for the cost of a prospect or two. 

Of course, Aguilera was an impending free agent.  It's not like he could just re-sign with the Twins after the '95 season, right?

But wait, there's more!

Oh, he did!  Aguilera inked a new deal to pitch for the Twins, now as a starter.  He wouldn't last in that role for long, and by 1999, the Twins were looking to unload the righty for some young talent again.

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Rick Aguilera and Scott Downs to the Chicago Cubs for Kyle Lohse and Jason Ryan.  Ryan made 9 mediocre starts for the Twins in '99 and '00.  Lohse would debut for the Twins in 2001, at the age of 22.  He was a polarizing figure at times, but had good stretches for the Twins.  It took almost a decade, but Scott Downs became a reliable lefty specialist.  Aguilera was at the tail-end of his career, but put together a solid year-and-a-half for the Cubs in relief. 

How did I feel at the time?

Aguilera was old, so what did I care.  I was even more of a teenager at this point, so I was probably really over it and not caring and super cool.  Plus, the Twins had Mike Trombley and I was his biggest fan.  That's a lie. 

Why make the trade?

”The Chicago Cubs, in need of a closer with struggling Rod Beck on the disabled list because of elbow problems, acquired Rick Aguilera from the Minnesota Twins on Friday."

This is from the Los Angeles Times.  Aguilera only saved 8 games for the Cubs, as they went with some other guys who weren't as proven.  I'm not sure why they would make the trade if they weren't planning to use him as a closer, but maybe they just felt some sentimentality and wanted to reunite Aguilera with former teammates Kevin Tapani and Dan Serafini


I don't need a quote to explain this trade for the Twins.  Aguilera was old, the Twins sucked, and they needed young pitching.  Lohse proved to be a worthwhile return, as he started over 150 games for the Twins over five plus seasons.  Lohse was often demonstrative on the mound and clashed a bit with his coaches, but could be really something when he was on. 

Aguilera was old and the Twins needed to acquire as much young talent as they could.  They had been a bad team for nearly a decade and a proven closer is pretty much worthless on a last-place team.  Plus, they had already traded him once, right before he could become a 10 and 5 guy, so why not trade him again, just for kicks?  

Who won the WAR?

Aguilera for the Red Sox:  1.1 
Aguilera for the Cubs:  0.4
Rodriguez for the Twins:  1.3
Lohse for the Twins:  7.5

WAR won by the Twins!

One Sentence Summary

Rick Aguilera was great, I was wrong, and the Twins loved to trade him.  

No comments:

Post a Comment