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  • 1991 Off-Season Review

    YOYOYO everybody! The off-season is upon us and the Twins have a lot of work to do. Coming off of another raging failure, the Front Office will need to pull off some sweet moves in order to make this team a contender. I have no clue what they will do and I have no desire to guess (at least not until later). Instead, I thought it would be fun to head back down Memory Lane and analyze each off-season since the Twins' last World Series. I'm not going to get too bogged down in the minor moves, but I'll investigate the moves that shaped the franchise and led us to where we are today. Strap in.

    State of the Team

    1991 Record: 95-67, first in the American League!
    1991 Overview: Uh, they won the World Series, which is pretty good.
    1992 Outlook: Strong

    Originally posted at K-Slow was Framed!

    Players Lost - Free Agency

    The Twins lost a starting outfielder, a workhorse starting pitcher, a former ERA champion, and a guy who once caught a ball while running on the rolled-up tarp (at least, that's how I remember it).

    Dan Gladden wasn't very good by 1991. His 80 OPS+ in 1991 was brutal and his defense wasn't great. He only made slightly over a million bucks, but that was a decent chunk of cash in those days. The Twins basically replaced Gladden with Pedro Munoz, who posted a 96 OPS+ in 1992. Munoz had more power, but somehow was worse at getting on-base. Kind of a wash, but at least Munoz was younger/cheaper.

    Jack Morris' last act of business with the Twins was pitching 10 innings in Game 7 and leaving with a World Series win. Morris was basically a mercenary and left after one historic season. The Twins basically replaced him with John Smiley (more on him later) and Smiley was great. Morris' 1991 and Smiley's 1992 were eerily similar, although Smiley was 10 years younger.

    The Twins also lost Allan Anderson, who had won the ERA title in 1988 and won 33 games between 1988 and 1989. He also hadn't pitched well since then. Al Newman and Junior Ortiz left, but they were bench players. They also lost Steve Bedrosian and Terry Leach from the bullpen.

    Players Gained - Free Agency

    The Twins did not make a big splash in free agency. I know. I'm shocked too. Although, the year before, they had signed Chili Davis and Jack Morris, so maybe this isn't a fair fake shock at this time. The Twins did bring Brian Harper and Mike Pagliarulo back. Harper was his typical mustachioed, high-contact self and Pagliarulo was just mustachioed and literally nothing else.

    Here's a list of players the Twins signed during this off-season: Bob Kipper, Luis Quinones, Mauro Gozzo, Donnie Hill, Keith Hughes and Bill Krueger. It's hard to add that much talent and incorporate it successfully within the existing team. Krueger was decent, going 10-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 27 starts. Kipper was ok, with a 4.42 ERA in 38.2 innings. The other four guys made little impact. Although, Gozzo didn't walk a single batter in 1992! What control! He only threw 1.2 innings and gave up seven hits, but still, no walks! Reverse Moneyball! Plus, he has a great name.

    TRADEZ!

    Trades are exciting. The Twins made two significant trades during the 1991 off-season and both trades happened during Spring Training.

    On March 17, 1992, the Twins traded Midre Cummings and Denny Neagle to the Pirates for John Smiley. As I stated earlier, Smiley was great for the Twins in 1992. He replaced Jack Morris handily. Of course, he left for the Reds after the '92 season, so that kind of sucked. Cummings had a long career, mostly as a reserve. NBD. The Twins may regret trading Neagle though. It took a few years, but Neagle blossomed into a really good pitcher. From 1995-2000, he was 89-47 and posted a 3.64 ERA in just under 1200 innings. You may remember 1995-2000 as the "whatever the opposite of glory years" era of Twins baseball.

    Less than two weeks later, the Twins traded Paul Sorrento to the Indians for Curt Leskanic and Oscar Munoz. Leskanic never pitched for the Twins and Munoz threw 35.1 mediocre innings in 1995. Sorrento was blocked by Kent Hrbek, so it made sense to get some value for him. Sorrento wasn't a bad player though. For the next six seasons, he posted a .267/.347/.477 triple slash, hit 129 home runs and had 439 RBI.

    From 1992-1994, Sorrento and Hrbek were basically the same offensive player. Hrbek had a slightly higher OBP, but Sorrento had a better batting average. Both hit 50 home runs and drove in around 190. Both had a 112 OPS+. Sorrento was six years younger and quite a bit cheaper. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

    Biggest Splash

    The Smiley trade qualifies as a splash. Smiley made $3.4 million and cost the team two decent prospects. He was coming off a 20-win season and a third place Cy Young finish. The trade worked out really well in 1992, but definitely hurt in the long-term. Had the Twins extended Smiley, it might look different in hindsight. Smiley was awful in 1993 (likely because he missed the culture of the Twin Cities), but then great from 1994-1996. Back to '92, the Twins lost Morris and needed a replacement to defend their World Series crown. Smiley fit the bill quite nicely.

    Biggest Miss

    The Twins gave Bob Kipper a million bucks and I can't really see why. I'm not old enough to remember Kipper, but looking at his Baseball Reference page, I can't figure out why he was worth signing. I know the Twins had lost Bedrosian and Leach, but Kipper just doesn't look good on paper. He wasn't awful, but he wasn't good either. Kipper was fine until July, when he completely fell apart. The Twins released him on July 31 and he never pitched another MLB inning. He literally disappeared (not literally, or at all).

    My Own Personal Heartbreak

    I was ten, Dan Gladden had a mullet and I was only human. Gladden leaving saddened me.

    Arbitrary Overall Assessment: C+

    The Twins didn't do anything of note, but they did replace Morris with Smiley. The team was already really talented, so that, plus minor tweaks was really all that needed to be done. Did it work out? Well, somewhat. The '92 Twins were really good, just not as good as the A's. They missed the playoffs and wouldn't get back for over a decade.

    Next week, we'll look at the 1992 off-season. See you then!
    This article was originally published in blog: 1991 Off-Season Review started by Brad Swanson
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. LewFordLives's Avatar
      LewFordLives -
      Even in hindsight, the Smiley trade was the right move. Their window was closing and they needed to make one last playoff push before the core players were still productive. Neagle would not have made much difference in the mid-late 90's. Instead of a wretched team they would've only been really bad.
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      Overall assessment C+ after a championship! What have you done for me lately!!

      The Twins were so good that year... memories of that season sustained me through most of the 90s
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Yeah, 1992 was a pretty decent offseason. Well aside from letting Jack Morris walk through a giant loophole. It was a pretty typical offseason for a champ, they retained most of the players from the winning club and signed a big time free agent to fill the hole of the departing big time free agent. Had the wild card been enacted two years earlier the Twins would have been in the playoffs and then, who knows.
    1. glanzer's Avatar
      glanzer -
      One thing I never fully understood is why Morris left after one year. Wouldn't it be extremely enticing to stick around in his home state and pitch for the defending World Series champs? Or did the Twins not make much of an offer for him to stick around? Clearly he made the right choice though, winning two more World Series immediately thereafter.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      My recollection is that it was all about the money. Toronto offered him more, and more of it was guaranteed. This was when MLB minimum was in the neighborhood of $100K, so a difference of around $1M, which I think it must have been, was a big deal, like $4-5M would be today.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Check out this page at: 1992 Minnesota Twins Roster - Majors View A real good overview of the 1992 Twins (go backwards to see 1991, forward to see 1993). Correct me if I am wrong or not, but didn't the Twins trade Sorrento (on March 28th) because he was basically out of options and was the 26th player and was traded to Cleveland and later that same day Hrbek injured his shoulder to start the season on the disabled list...meaning Gene Larking or Randy Bush had to play first. Sorrento was the odd man out with Larkin, Hrbek, Bush, Chili Davis et al on the roster.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      My recollection is that it was all about the money. Toronto offered him more, and more of it was guaranteed. This was when MLB minimum was in the neighborhood of $100K, so a difference of around $1M, which I think it must have been, was a big deal, like $4-5M would be today.
      Yes, it was all about the money at this point with Morris. The Twins had offered him considerably more than Detroit, and Morris also earned a bonus. Coming off the World Series, the Twins hoped he would take the same salary, but Toronto gave him a million bucks (almost) signing bonus besides matching his Twins salary. I remember him on his negotiation tour the year before with his big fur coat and acting like a hired gunslinger going to different towns looking for a job!
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      Randy Bush had to play first.
      I meant to bring this up in another thread, but it had escaped my attention until recently that Randy has made his way pretty far up the Cubs front office hierarchy.
    1. Pius Jefferson's Avatar
      Pius Jefferson -
      Eric F'ing Fox
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pius Jefferson View Post
      Eric F'ing Fox
      I can't remember the details, but I remember thinking the same thing a little over 20 years ago. I hope he had his middle name legally changed to that.
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      For what Morris did for that team, Pohlad should have matched any offer to keep him. Who can blame him for taking the money at that point in his career? Instead Pohlad told him "It's a business" and let him walk. Pohlad was the villain, yet Twins fans booed Morris. Evidentally Minnesotans always expect local players to give the hometown discount (unless your name is Joe Mauer).
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      And concerning Gladden, he had a down year, but he was a winner. What he offered went beyond the stats sheet. Would have loved to see that entire team kept in tact another couple years.
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Smiley would have been a great pickup in addition to retaining Morris, but not replacing Morris. He melted in some important starts where you know Morris would have risen to the occasion.
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