The Trade: BREAKDOWN!
On July 31, 1989, the Minnesota Twins traded the truly beautiful Frank Viola to the New York Mets for Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, Tim Drummond, David West and Jack Savage. Viola continued to be a fantastic human being and pitcher for the Mets over the next two-and-a-half seasons. Aguilera started 11 games for the Twins in 1989, but quickly became their closer the following season. Tapani would become a good, reliable starter for the Twins. Drummond, Savage and West didn't deserve to be in a trade with the great Frank Viola.
How did I feel at the time?
I think it's quite clear that I was upset. In fact, I cried when I heard. That's right, I actually cried. WHO WANTS TO FIGHT ME??? Well, I was seven and I was a kid and I was kind of emotional about my second favorite player. In addition, I hadn't heard of any of the losers the Twins got for Viola and I didn't really care anyway because I loved Frank Viola and I wanted to pitch like him even though I was right-handed and I sucked at pitching. Grrr, it's angering up my blood right now. Anyway, I did cry and I don't even care. I was seven; it was traumatizing. I'LL CRY RIGHT NOW, I DON'T CARE!!!
Why make the trade?
OK monster, explain why this trade should have been made:
"Minnesota general manager Andy MacPhail says he traded Frank Viola partially because he believes the left-hander's ability is diminishing."
This came from this New York Times, AP story on the trade. Of course, this statement reveals MacPhail as a heartless monster who doesn't know how to evaluate his talent or understand when he has a wonderful player with a great mustache under contract for a reasonable rate. Here's more:
"Anytime you deal a guy who has done all Frankie has done for us, it's tough," MacPhail told the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch. "But the velocity of his fastball was diminishing. It seemed they were catching up with him."
Surely, Viola would see diminished returns in 1990, due to this abhorrent decrease in velocity. Oh wait, 20 wins and almost 250 innings is FANTASTIC! FANTASTIC! Good grief., you called him "Frankie," you clearly love him too. Now this New York Times piece on the trade explains why the Mets would make this Shaq slam dunk of a trade, breaking the proverbial backboard of awesome lefties with great facial hair and accents. Or whatever.
''I know we gave up a lot,'' Johnson said, ''but he's one of the best.'' Twins Wanted More
Johnson is Mets' manager Davey Johnson and he's clearly a genius. Yeah, he was one of the best. He was coming off a Cy Young season. I guess the Twins wanting more shows that they weren't complete jerkstores, but they should have asked for even more than they did. It's Frank Viola. Ask for the World.
Ok, I feel better now. Clearly, I cannot reconcile the fan part of me with the blog-guy part of me on this issue.
Emotions aside, this was a good trade for the Twins. Viola had been signed to a rich contract, but the Twins were not a great team, so shedding payroll was a logical move. It was still a sucky move, though. On the field, the Twins basically turned Viola into five new pitchers. Tapani did a decent job taking the place of Viola in the rotation and Aguilera became one of the best closers in franchise history. The other three guys didn't really pan out, but Aguilera and Tapani alone made this a good trade for the Twins.
However, MacPhail was wrong about Viola. His stuff may have been diminishing, but he certainly pitched well for three-and-a-half more seasons, fulfilling that contract as best he could. In 1990, he won 20 games for the Mets and finished third in Cy Young voting. In 1991, he regressed a bit, but still won 13 games. He bounced back and had two more good seasons with Boston in '92 and '93, but was basically done after those two seasons. He and I lost touch after he left for the Red Sox.
The trade worked out well, but he was Sweet Music! How could the Twins do this to the fans? How could they do this to the clubhouse? Most importantly, how could they do this me? I deserved better. I pretty much disliked Aguilera for the next few seasons, just because he was acquired for my beloved Viola.
Who won the WAR?
Viola for the Mets: 9.7
Aguilera for the Twins: 16.1
Tapani for the Twins: 18.7
West for the Twins: 0.0
Drummond for the Twins: 0.9
Savage for the Twins: -1.1
Total for the Twins: 34.6
WAR won by the Twins!
One Sentence Summary
Frank Viola transcends WAR, so this trade was terrible.
I also recapped the Tom Brunansky for Tom Herr trade on Thursday. If you want to, you can read it here.