1992 Record: 90-72, second in the AL West
1992 Overview: An extremely solid season that took place before 10 teams made the playoffs.
1993 Outlook: Great...so long as they re-sign their best player.
Players Lost - Free Agency
The Twins lost three important players during the '92 off-season: their long-time starting shortstop, a key offensive contributor to the '91 champs and the team's best starter in '92.
Losing Greg Gagne was much more significant than it likely seemed at the time. Gagne had been the Twins' starting shortstop since 1985. He was never a great offensive player, but his defense was more than steady. I did some research last Winter and found that shortstops as good as Gagne are a lot more rare than we may think. Since Gagne, the Twins have not had a quality shortstop for more than a year at a time. Gagne was the smallest of the three names that left the Twins this offseason, but he was probably the most significant piece when you consider that almost 20 years later, the Twins have still not fully replaced him.
The other two big names were Chili Davis and John Smiley, who only played three combined seasons for the Twins. Smiley was outstanding in 1992 and no one on the roster could replace his production in '93. His loss was probably the biggest reason why the Twins dropped off as much as they did. Chili Davis posted an OPS+ of 130 in 1992. No Twin reached that mark in 1993. Of course, the Twins did have a plan to replace Davis at DH and I'll have more on that in a bit.
The Twins also released Cory Lidle during the 1992 off-season. Lidle was an undrafted free agent and didn't do much in the minors with the Twins. However, he would eventually re-kindle his career and win 2 games before tragically dying in a plane crash at the age of 34.
Players Gained - Free Agency
Just six days after losing Chili Davis to the Angels, the Minnesota Twins signed Minnesota Dave Winfield. Winfield was pretty good in 1993, posting a 105 OPS+. Of course, that was a major downgrade from Chili Davis in '92. Winfield did collect his 3000th hit with the Twins on September 16, which was fun.
The Twins also added Jim Deshaies, likely in an attempt to replace some of what John Smiley provided in '92. Didn't work. Deshaies was fine, posting a 99 ERA+, but didn't last through the whole season, as the Twins traded him to the Giants. Check back next week to see if the Twins decide to bring him back for '94.
Not really. The biggest free agent was one of their own. Kirby Puckett re-signed with the Twins on December 4, 1992, saving the Twins from having to replace their best and most popular player and saving my mother from having to hear me cry for the next five years. Puckett could have made more money in Boston, but would have missed the beautiful fall season in Minnesota.
Pat Meares replaced Greg Gagne for the next six seasons. Not ideal, but what can you do?
Just one day after re-signing Puckett, the Twins front office was on such a high that they had to make a trade. The Twins shipped Disappointing David West to the Phillies for Mike Hartley. West had his best season in 1993, because his entire career was created to upset Twins fans. Hartley was fine as a middle reliever, throwing 81 innings with a 4.00 ERA. I appreciate his ability to end with a round figure.
In Spring Training, the Twins struck again! They traded Gary Wayne, Gary Wayne's beautiful face and Bob Wassenaar to the Rockies for Brett Merriman. Merriman was awful and he never once appeared on a 1991 Score baseball card that generated at least two blog posts for me. Useless.
Re-signing Kirby Puckett was huge. Sadly, the Twins were terrible for the rest of his career, so it wasn't huge on the field. Off the field, Puckett was clearly the most popular player on the team and a huge link to the glory days that would soon seem long gone. Once Kirby was gone, there was little reason to watch this team in the late 90s.
Letting Gagne go didn't work out very well. Gagne basically had four more Gagne seasons after leaving Minnesota. He out-WARed Pat Meares 8.7 to 3.6. Although Meares was loads cheaper. $$$$
My Own Personal Cheer
I probably would have followed Puckett to Boston, so I'm grateful that I didn't have to move in the middle of 5th grade.
The '92 off-season was even more significant because the Rockies and Marlins were joining Major League Baseball in '93. Therefore, the Twins had to expose some players to the expansion draft. They ended up losing Jayhawk Owens, Curt Leskanic and Tom Edens. Leskanic eventually became a reliable reliever and Edens wasn't terrible, but no big losses here.
Arbitrary Overall Assessment: B-
They get an A for re-signing Kirby Puckett, a decent mark for signing Winfield, but mostly Fs for the rest. I grade on a curve, so the average is better than it should be.
Next week, we'll look at the 1993 off-season. See you then!