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  • 20 Twins Trades: Welcome to Punto Country!

    There was blood in the water. A.J. Pierzynski was still warm. The Twins had just turned one soon-to-be-expensive player into three shiny new parts, each carrying a much smaller price tag. The Twins were carrying a seven-figure pitcher who was going to get even more expensive. Why not swap him for a couple shiny new parts as well?

    The Trade: BREAKDOWN!

    The Minnesota Twins traded Eric Milton to the Philadelphia Phillies for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, and a player to be named later (Bobby Korecky).
    Originally posted at Kevin Slowey was Framed! I also wrote about the two Luis Castillo trades this week. It's a bit long, but there were two trades, SO GIVE ME A BREAK. Here it is, enjoy.

    Silva immediately joined the Twins rotation and had a successful 2004 season, winning 14 games. He then set the Twins single-season BB/9 record in 2005, while posting a 3.44 ERA in 27 starts. His ERA kind of ballooned from there, but the Twins wisely let him leave as a free agent after the 2007 season. Punto was a mythical figure in Minnesota. Some loved him, others hated him. Punto was both an inexpensive and productive utility player and an expensive, miscast starter, often going back and forth between the two. Korecky was just a throw-in who threw 17.2 innings for the Twins in 2008.

    Milton was nothing special to begin with and never posted an above-average ERA+ for the remainder of his career. He did lead the league in home runs allowed in 2004 and 2005. The Phillies let Milton walk after the 2004 season and the Cincinnati Reds signed him to an insane three-year deal worth about $25 million.

    How did I feel at the time?

    Eric Milton: not a fan. I didn't like him very much, so I wasn't hurt when the Twins sent him away. Plus, I was still reeling from the All-Star A.J. trade. I had dyed my hair purple, was wearing nose gauges and really, really tight pants. Like, super tight pants. It was a time of turmoil. I hardly even let the Milton trade register. I was too jaded.

    Why make the trade?

    Sadly, as is true with so many Twins trades, this trade was money-related, according to this story from ESPN.com:

    "By trading Milton, the Twins are trying to make room to re-sign their top two free agents, All-Star closer Eddie Guardado and outfielder Shannon Stewart. General manager Terry Ryan added that it gives Minnesota more flexibility to go after other players. 'It gives us the ability to at least pursue that," Ryan said. "You've got to give up something to get something.'"

    This was back in the Metrodome days, so the payroll wasn't massive like it is now. Wait, forget I said that. However, the Twins were working with a budget and they did have to give to get. In this case, they gave the right piece. Silva and Stewart were productive the following year. However, the Twins were not able to re-sign Guardado, as he left for Seattle. However, they had just traded for Joe Nathan, so that worked out well.

    The Phillies thought they had hit the jackpot. Trade a spot starter and a utility guy for a quality lefty? Sign them up!

    "Eric is a quality left-handed starter who will definitely be a plus for us in 2004," Wade said. "Our scouts, particularly Gordon Lakey and Charlie Manuel, really like this guy. We like the thought of having two left-handed starters near the top of the rotation."

    Randy Wolf was the other "top of the rotation" lefty on the Phillies. Wolf was the only starter on the 2004 Phillies with an ERA+ over 100, at 105. Milton did give the Phillies 34 mediocre starts though.

    Here's why they needed him:

    "The Phillies have been seeking another starter for the top of their rotation since Kevin Millwood filed for free agency last month. Philadelphia was interested in Curt Schilling, but the right-hander went to Boston in a trade with Arizona last week."

    The pain of missing out on Schilling was soothed with Eric Milton. Eric Milton: soothing ointment!

    Milton was happy:

    "I'm happy for the opportunity. I'm glad the Phillies wanted me this badly," Milton said. "I'm just going to come there and try to win."

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, Eric, no one said anything about wanting you that badly. They traded Carlos Silva and Nick Punto to get you, so settle down a hair. He did win 14 games and the Phillies were so enamored that they let him walk at the end of the season.

    It sounds like I'm being overly critical of Eric Milton, which might be a bit unfair. I just wonder how much love he'd get if he had just been an average to below-average right-hander?

    "He's a very good pitcher, a classic left-hander," said Phillies pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who saw Milton in the American League and who was with him on the 2000 Japan All-Star tour. "Eric has a solid, clean delivery with good arm speed and a very good change-up. He's quality."

    The degree of quality is up to you to determine. The 2000 Japan All-Star tour was epic, and thus, hard to shake from your memory. I don't blame Kerrigan.

    Analysis

    This was a sneaky great trade for the Twins. Milton was declining and getting to be outrageously expensive. Silva and Punto weren't stars, but each provided cheap value for good Twins teams. This is the kind of unsung deal that Terry Ryan doesn't get proper credit for. He turned an overpaid, overrated starting pitcher into a younger starter who was actually better and a super utility guy who while frustrating, was often productive. This trade also proves that a team doesn't always need to acquire hot prospects to make a good deal.

    Silva wasn't a great pitcher, but the Twins got a couple productive seasons out of him and cut bait before investing too much into him. Plus, one of my friends in high school called him Car-lose Silva, which made great sense in his later years.

    Punto likely should have never been a starting player. He was more of a guy who could move around the infield, giving guys days off when they need them, all the while providing excellent defense wherever he was needed. When the Twins signed him to that 2 year, $8 million dollar contract, the perception of Punto as a player got turned on its head. He didn't merit that deal, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a nice player for a lot of years.

    Who won the WAR?

    Milton for the Phillies: 1.4 WAR
    Silva for the Twins: 9.0 WAR
    Punto for the Twins: 10.2 WAR
    Korecky for the Twins: 0.2 WAR

    WAR won by the Twins!

    One Sentence Summary

    Nick Punto was not the anti-Christ and Carlos Silva looked like a pirate; easily enough value for the soothing Eric Milton.
    This article was originally published in blog: 20 Twins Trades: Welcome to Punto Country! started by Brad Swanson
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      This was a joy to read, Brad. Thank you.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Loved the article, as usual. One thing I'd like to mention though. You wrote, ' Punto was a mythical figure in Minnesota. Some loved him, others hated him.'

      I think there were some who liked him just fine, but hated the way he was utilized by Gardy. Through no fault of his own, Punto took a lot of carp simply by going out there and trying his best every time he was asked. Problem was, based on his talent, there were too many of those days. That, along with Gardy constantly gushing over him and defending him got irritating along with saying things like 'signing Punto is our #1 priority and if we do he's my starting shortstop.'

      So, unfortunately, Punto got a lot of carp he really didn't deserve based on things Gardy did.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      My only real issue with Gardy/Punto was when they made Punto the every day third baseman.

      First off, his bat would never play at 3rd base, and at the time he was still a ++ defender at both 2nd/SS
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      I agree with Puck here. Punto was by far the best athlete on the team, and always gave 100%. I always thought his defense was great, and I know he was very well liked by his team mates. It was nice to see him finally get a payday. He told me he made $800 a month when he first started. But he hung in there and worked and worked to get better. I really hated to see him leave. And never understood the hatred toward him, but like Puck pointed out, didn't care for the way Gardy used him. In my opinion the hatred was mis-directed. Nice was a great example of how hard work and perseverance can pay rewards. I wonder if there's any player in the minors for us now that have that drive that Nick had.
    1. Twins Daily Admin's Avatar
      Twins Daily Admin -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      My only real issue with Gardy/Punto was when they made Punto the every day third baseman.

      First off, his bat would never play at 3rd base, and at the time he was still a ++ defender at both 2nd/SS
      Yeah, my gawd but 3B was a wasteland after losing Koskie.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      I agree with Puck here. Punto was by far the best athlete on the team, and always gave 100%. I always thought his defense was great, and I know he was very well liked by his team mates. It was nice to see him finally get a payday. He told me he made $800 a month when he first started. But he hung in there and worked and worked to get better. I really hated to see him leave. And never understood the hatred toward him, but like Puck pointed out, didn't care for the way Gardy used him. In my opinion the hatred was mis-directed. Nice was a great example of how hard work and perseverance can pay rewards. I wonder if there's any player in the minors for us now that have that drive that Nick had.
      I'm not sure he was the best athlete on the team...I think that's a pretty big stretch, but I would say I don't think anyone got more out of what athletic ability they did have than Punto. No one worked harder. I guess if I had a negative about the way he played, it that sometimes he'd try and make plays look flashier than they needed to be. Sometimes this caused balls to get past him that he should have had. They wouldn't be called errors because of the way he tried to play it. For example, sometimes at shortstop when a ball was hit to his right, he'd squat, rotate his body and try and shortstop backhand a ball. If he didn't get it, it wasn't an error, but he could have just gotten in front of it to begin with. Flashy, for the sake of flashy, is bad...like diving for a ball you have no chance at, just to say you hustled...or sliding headfirst at 1B. Overall though, I liked his play.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Loved the article, as usual. One thing I'd like to mention though. You wrote, ' Punto was a mythical figure in Minnesota. Some loved him, others hated him.'

      I think there were some who liked him just fine, but hated the way he was utilized by Gardy. Through no fault of his own, Punto took a lot of carp simply by going out there and trying his best every time he was asked. Problem was, based on his talent, there were too many of those days. That, along with Gardy constantly gushing over him and defending him got irritating along with saying things like 'signing Punto is our #1 priority and if we do he's my starting shortstop.'

      So, unfortunately, Punto got a lot of carp he really didn't deserve based on things Gardy did.
      I completely agree. If the manager tells the player "you're my starting 3B or SS," the player would be crazy to respond with "well Skip, I might not be your best choice." So it wasn't that fans necessarily disliked Punto, it was how he was utilized. That's a great point.

      Interestingly enough, I did that very same thing when I played baseball in high school. My coach needed a pinch runner and asked me if I was fast. I said "yeah, but Mark's faster." I thought my honesty would be lauded but instead I spent the next three games on the bench. Although, I was a terrible player, so maybe that was why.
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