Monday, October 21, 2013

Minnesota Twins Offseason Extravaganza: 1993

State of the Team

1993 Record:  71-91, 5th in the AL West
1993 Overview:  Extremely disappointing, the beginning of the end...
1994 Outlook:  Not good; welcome to the abyss

Players Lost - Free Agency

The Twins didn't really lose a whole lot after the '93 season.  We're talking about mostly minor players here.  Mike Hartley was decent.  Terry Jorgensen, Jeff Grotewold and Mike Maksudian were all alive.  You have to give them that.  They're gone.  The only important/notable player that left after the '93 season was long-time catcher Brian Harper

Harper had been the Twins' starting catcher since 1988.  He won a World Series with the team in 1991 and he was just a darn good offensive catcher.  He hit .306/.342/.431 in those six seasons and he stabilized a key position for a really long time.  On the other hand, he was 34 and the Twins seemed to be intent on getting younger as they were bottoming out.  Ultimately, the decision to let Harper go was the correct decision.  Harper had a rough year in Milwaukee, playing only 64 games.  He played just two games the following season and never played in the Majors again.

Harper would have still been the best catcher on the '94 Twins roster, but that team sucked and the strike ended everything and aw nuts it was all just awful at that time. 

Players Gained - Free Agency

The Twins re-signed Gene Larkin and Bernardo Brito.  That's cool, right?  Brito is El Pupo and Larkin might be crazy, but both guys were brought back for good reasons.  (Seriously, scroll to the 1:41 minute mark and listen to Larkin laugh like a completely insane person).  Brito had immense power, but never really showed it in the Majors.  He did have a ridiculous 1994 season, just with Salt Lake in AAA.  Larkin hit the walk-off single in the 10th inning of Game 7, so that alone earns you an invite to Spring Training a few years later.  Ultimately, Larkin was cooked and didn't make the team out of Spring Training. 

The Twins also decided that signing Jim Deshaies should become an off-season tradition, so they signed him again after the '93 season.  It wasn't a terrible idea.  Deshaies won 11 games for the hapless Twins in '93 and they were able to trade him for three young players in August.  In '94, Deshaies was a Deshaster.  In 25 starts he went 6-12 with an ERA of 7.39.  He pitched just 130.1 innings in those 25 starts, or just a shade over 5 innings per start.  At least the Twins had a solid bullpen that year.  Carl Willis, Mark Guthrie, Mike Trombley, Larry Casian and Dave Stevens all posted an ERA over 5.92, each going at least 40 innings.  They were all better than Deshaies.  Spectacular!


On November 24, the Twins acquired a future closer and a future starting catcher.  All they had to do was give up a pretty average starter.  Not bad, right?  It probably helps to provide this information:  the future closer was Dave Stevens and the starting catcher was Matt Walbeck.  So... 

All the Twins gave up to get those two gems was Willie Banks.  The same Willie Banks who never threw another good inning in his life (unfair).  However, looking at the context of the trade at the time, it's hard to understand why it was made.  All three guys were roughly the same age, so this was not a "youth movement" move.  Banks was cheap, so it wasn't about money.  Banks was coming off a '93 season where he won 11 games, had a 4.04 ERA and a 107 ERA+.  His strikeout rate was improved and his walk rate had dipped (slightly, but still).  2.5 WAR too, if you're into that sort of thing. 

Walbeck and Stevens combined to "provide" the Twins with a combined -2.5 WAR in their illustrious Twins careers.  Banks was equally awful, so I guess this trade was just a huge wash.  Catchers are important, but starters are more important.  It was a puzzling move at the time, not a big deal now, but it could have worked out really poorly. 

Biggest Splash

Kirby Puckett and Shane Mack were getting older, so the Twins signed Alex Cole for $375,000 right around the beginning of Spring Training.  Cole played 105 games in 1994, mostly in center.  He hit .296/.375/.403 in that strike-shortened season.  He also stole 29 bases.  Hey, not bad Twins! 

Biggest Miss

Bringing back Deshaies only served to help invent the word Deshaster. 

My Own Personal Heartbreak

The Twins had already traded one of the stars of this video after the '91 season:

Now, Willie Banks is gone too?!?  Who will dance for this team?  Jack Morris and that creepy hip shake was long gone.  Kent Hrbek only knows how to point.  We established that Gene Larkin is too insane to dance.  Who's going to dance?  Jim Deshaies?  He'd probably give up 8 runs while doing so.

I would like someone to re-create this video either with current Twins or by bringing back the actual players in their current state.  Denny Neagle had to concentrate very hard to match Willie Banks' dance moves, but he's had over 20 years to practice.  He might look more natural now.  Hrbek can probably still point too.

Arbitrary Overall Assessment:  D-

The Cole signing keeps this from an F.  I was 12 when it happened, so I didn't fully understand all the reasons why the Banks trade was so confusing.  I just saw his 4.04 ERA and figured he wasn't that good.  Walbeck was a switch-hitting catcher and Stevens was a good prospect, so the trade made sense on that end.  The Twins must have known something about Banks and I'm sure someone will remember what and comment on it.  I was too young.  All in all, this was an uneventful off-season that came right after a terribly disappointing season.  Low marks all around. 

Next week, we'll look at the 1994 off-season.  See you then!

No comments:

Post a Comment