State of the Team
1995 Record: A grotesque 56-88 in a shortened season, 5th in the AL Central
1995 Overview: I don't throw the word grotesque around lightly.
Players Lost - Free Agency
The Twins lost a couple of long-time contributors, a couple of notable names and a whole lot of that white stuff that forms around loud guys' mouths. At the end of the day, they didn't lose anyone of note during the off-season, but a lot of that had to do with having few players of note in 1995.
Scott Leius and Pedro Munoz were throwbacks to the glory days, as both had been with the Twins in 1991. Leius had been a fixture in the Twins' infield since that '91 season (save for the '93 season which he mostly missed due to a rotator cuff injury). Leius was nothing special to begin with and he was getting older. Losing him was the proverbial NBD.
Letting Munoz walk was somewhat confusing at the time. He was just 26, had basically averaged a .300/.340/.500 the past two seasons and seemed to be adding power. The Twins had the last laugh, I guess. Munoz went to Oakland, played 34 more games and disappeared forever. I think his story was on Unsolved Mysteries, but that show always gave me nightmares. The Twins did have a DH to replace him with, and we'll get to that in a short while.
Alex Cole and Jerald Clark were both productive players in their short stays in Minnesota. Clark was really lost during the '95 season, when an injury basically forced him to retire. Alex Cole had been signed two years prior. He missed significant time in 1995 and left for Boston after the season. He was very good in 1994.
Carlos Pulido left, but his saga is a story for another day.
Players Gained - Free Agency
The Twins had recently traded Dave Winfield for a dinner, so they were hungry for another Minnesota icon. They shelled out a few mil and brought Paul Molitor in for a couple of seasons. Molitor played remarkably well for the Twins in 1996, hitting .341/.390/.468 and leading the league in hits. Then, at the end of the '96 season, Molitor collected his 3000th hit. It was probably the highlight of a surprisingly decent Twins season.
The Twins also brought back Rick Aguilera after trading him during the 1995 season. You can read about that trade here, but it made Aguilera very sad. Righting that injustice was a great move.
The Twins added a couple of veterans in Dave Hollins and Roberto Kelly. Hollins replaced Leius at third, hit reasonably well and was traded before the end of the '96 season (more on that in a bit). Kelly was more of a part-time player, but received more playing time when Kirby Puckett went down (more on that in a bit). He was also traded, but not until the '97 season (more on that in a bit).
Finally, the Twins signed international sensation Luis Rivas as a freaking 16-year-old child. Rivas gets a lot of crap from Twins fans, but it's shocking to think that the Twins plucked a kid from Venezuela at 16 and he made the Majors. Rivas is still just 34-years-old!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He's younger than Josh Willingham.
The Twins did not make any trades during the 1995 off-season. However, they did trade two guys from their '95 off-season haul, so we'll discuss them here.
Dave Hollins was an internet darling prior to the internet being a real thing that people used. He was a good-glove, OBP guy who came relatively cheap due to his lack of over-the-fence power and meager batting averages. The Twins got 2/3rds of a good season from him and shipped him off to Seattle for a player to be named later.
- That player to be named later was David Arias.
- Davis Arias became David Ortiz.
- Actually, they were always the same person, he just changed his name.
- David Ortiz turned out to be really good.
- David Ortiz is a sensitive subject.
The Twins kept Roberto Kelly for roughly one more season, but ultimately cannot resist a good trade. They shipped Kelly to those same Mariners, this time for Joe Mays.
- Joe Mays became Joe Ortiz.
- That's not true.
- He actually became Joe Rogan.
- That's not true.
- Joe Mays had one good season and immediately signed a 12 year, $400 million dollar extension.
- That's not true.
- It just felt like that. Joe Mays is a sensitive subject.
Molitor, of course. He produced over 3 WAR at the age of 39, collected his 3000th hit and just generally stamped out a place in this organization. This signing may have been the first step in his Twins' managerial career. Anyone?
Probably Munoz, if only because I wish I knew where he was right now and thinking about Unsolved Mysteries earlier will cause me to not sleep tonight.
My Own Personal Heartbreak
Although he did not technically retire during the off-season, Kirby Puckett did find out that he had glaucoma right before the season started. He would never play again. His last game was on my 13th birthday and he got hit right in the darn face during that game. Puckett was my favorite player and these events did cause legitimate heartbreak. It just sucked.
Arbitrary Overall Assessment: B
Not bad. Molitor, Hollins, Kelly and Aguilera contributed in 1996. Hollins and Kelly eventually brought back players of value in trades. They didn't lose anyone too notable. The Twins won 78 games in 1996 and I wonder how good they could have been with a healthy Puckett.
Next week, we'll look at the 1996 off-season. See you then!