Wednesday, July 3, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: Scott Erickson for dreck

Just one day after trading away Rick Aguilera, one of the more popular players on the Twins team, General Manager Terry Ryan's bloodlust was cresting and he was hungry for another trade.  Who would be his next victim?

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Scott Erickson to the Baltimore Orioles for Scott Klingenbeck and a player to be named later (Kimera Bartee).  Erickson provided the Orioles with 16 good starts in 1995 and then threw over 900 innings for them from 1996 to 1999.  His 1997 and 1998 seasons were particularly impressive, especially when you account for the high run scoring era.  Bartee was nothing special, and fittingly, the Orioles drafted him from the Twins in the rule 5 draft after the 1995 season.  Klingenbeck was no sure thing prospect, but I'm sure the Twins were hoping to get more than 77 innings out of him.  He posted an 8.30 ERA in those innings, and I'm sure Twins fans were hoping they had seen fewer than 77 innings from him.

How did I feel at the time?

Well, first impressions fade slowly.  For me, and for all Twins fans, the first impression of Scott Erickson was a dominant young starter who won 20 games in the 1991 Championship season, finishing second in Cy Young voting.  In addition, he wore black socks.  He was also sullen and often ornery.  By the end, he seemed ready to leave Minnesota.  I love Minnesota, so I was not sad to see him go.  However, his side of the story is interesting and somewhat perceptive.   

Why make the trade?

Erickson's quotes after the trade are pretty priceless.  Here are some I found in an article from the Associated Press:

"If we had made an effort to win, go out and get players and make it a lucrative place for free agents, none of this would have happened."

It should be noted that Erickson gave these statements while sitting in his Jeep Cherokee.  That certainly changes things as a Jeep Cherokee is a comfortable ride and you know he wasn't feeling anything but anger toward the Twins because his plush Jeep seats were keeping him comfortable and that famous Jeep suspension was about to give him a smooth ride. 

"I feel bad for the guys, it's like the organization has given up on the team.  It's a joke."

While I found many examples of Erickson being aloof and butting heads with team leadership, I did not find any mentions of actual clashes with teammates.  I found some examples of teammates teasing him, but that can't be too surprising.  He was kind of an odd duck. 

Dave Stevens wanted to weigh in, as he did after the Aguilera trade:

"It's like a morgue in here."

Well said.  It was literally a bunch of dead bodies in refrigerators.  Hyperbole aside, you can understand why Twins players were frustrated with these moves.  Every athlete wants to win, and win now.  When an organization trades a team's best reliever and a good starter within 24 hours, morgue analogies start to fly.  It's a frustrating situation for players and fans.   

As for why each team chose to make this trade, The Baltimore Sun was kind enough to summarize each team's rationale.  Cute!

"Why this would make sense for the Orioles: Erickson long has been renowned for his great stuff, a sinking fastball that would translate into outs on the grass at Camden Yards. He's only 27, and could be a good fourth starter, behind Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald. Unlike David Cone, Kevin Tapani or Bret Saberhagen, he doesn't cost the Orioles a major prospect."

We'll get to Tapani next week.  This proved to be mostly correct, as Erickson was a good 4th starter and did not cost the Orioles a good prospect.  I mean, Scott Klingenbeck, AMIRITE?  However, he did not see better success in Baltimore, as Erickson posted a 103 ERA+ with the Twins and a 97 ERA+ with the Orioles. 

"Why this would make sense for the Twins: They want to reduce payroll, and Erickson makes $1.8625 million this year and is in line to make more next year. In addition, Erickson's days as an effective pitcher for the Twins may be over; he doesn't see eye to eye with manager Tom Kelly."

Well, the Twins pretty much always want to reduce payroll, right?  It's interesting but I have written about four Twins trades now and three were made for largely financial reasons.  I'm guessing this won't be the last one either.  Erickson's days as an effective starter were hardly over.  Not seeing eye to eye with Tom Kelly makes sense because Erickson is very tall.


Simple enough:  Erickson didn't want to be here, The Twins didn't want Erickson to be here anymore and the Twins could save some money by jettisoning him and making him someone else's problem.  If the Twins didn't want him, they should take what they could get for him, even if the return was literally a used diaper filled with sadness.  I am willing to bet that the 900 innings that Erickson threw between 1996 and 1999 would have come in handy for the Twins.  However, Erickson started having injury issues in the Willenium and was mostly done as a quality starter by age 32. 

Did Erickson have a point about the organization though?  This was the mid-90s.  These were truly awful Twins teams.  The Front Office was not opposed to bringing in older veterans, especially if they had Minnesota ties.  However, it never seemed that the team was willing to do what it took to be an actual contender.  Perhaps they were trying, but simply failing.  If that is the case, then Erickson is out of line.  However, if the team was not fully committed to winning or building a winner, then Erickson's quotes only sting because they reflect the truth.  

He lived with the Twins in that era, we only watched them.  

Who won the WAR?

Erickson with the Orioles:  13.2
Klingenbeck with the Twins:  -1.6 (ouch) 
Bartee with the Twins:  null

WAR won by the Orioles!

One Sentence Summary

Scott Erickson may have had an abrasive demeanor at times, but he may have made some salient points on his way out of Minnesota as well.

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