Until about the 11th hour, the trade deadline looked like it would be about what didn’t happen, rather than what trades were made, for the Minnesota Twins. The vox populi was admittedly anxious, knowing that the Twins are staving off an 100-loss season and had some veterans that could yield the young talent they need.
Eduardo Nunez was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Triple-A starter Adalberto Mejía on Thursday, but it wasn’t until 12:25 pm on Monday, less than three hours until the 3:00 pm deadline, that they made it official that they had acquired Triple-A reliever Pat Light, a 2012 first-round draft choice, from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Fernando Abad.
Then, almost half an hour after the deadline, the team announced that they had dealt Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer in exchange for Hector Santiago and Alan Busenitz.
“It was a busy day. We had a lot of conversations. Some things came together and some other things didn’t, but we got some pretty good ideas. And some things that maybe lay the groundwork in the future, offseason or prior to next season, so I feel good about it,” said interim general manager Rob Antony, a longtime Twins employee who took over for his former boss, Terry Ryan, shortly after the All-Star Break.
“I think we accomplished some of the things we wanted to do. There are other things that we would have liked to have done, but like I said from the beginning, we weren’t going to make a deal just to make a deal; it had to make sense for us. We think that these two deals made sense for us and so we’re happy, we’re satisfied with that.”
Notable players left in a Twins uniform include starter Ervin Santana, catcher Kurt Suzuki and reliever Brandon Kintzler, all of whom may have had some trade value. Santana has pitched two complete games this month and owns a 3.66 ERA (115 ERA+), but is also 33 years old and is signed through 2018 with a team option for 2019. Suzuki is hitting .282/.320/.432 after a slow start, but is 32. Kintzler had never closed a game in his six years (181.0 innings pitched) for the Milwaukee Brewers and has eight saves on the season.
“It was an interesting process. I don’t think anything was unexpected, so that was good. We had a lot of conversations, and I talked with a lot of different clubs, which, like I said, maybe might lay the groundwork for something down the road,” said Antony.
“I talked with about every team in the game, so to me that was a positive. We threw out a lot of creative ideas, there were a lot of places we could have moved, but it just wasn’t what they were looking for, and what we would get in return might not exactly mesh with what we’re trying to accomplish and what we’re trying to build.”
Asked specifically about Santana, who was tied to the Toronto Blue Jays and a few other clubs, Antony said: “There was interest there, but like I’ve been saying for the last couple weeks that we think the contract’s fine, we’re comfortable with the contract, and we needed to get value back. We asked for value in return, and the other teams weren’t willing to meet that, so we really didn’t get too far down the road with him.”
As far as Suzuki, Antony said he wasn’t actively trying to move him.
“I wasn’t looking to try and dump [just] about anybody,” he said. “We talked with some teams that had interest in him, but we weren’t looking for salary relief or trying to dump him or anything. He was a guy that we would talk about, because he’s gonna be a free agent after this year, but I don’t think we ever came close to any deal for Kurt.”
As far as the players the Twins got in return, the scouting report on Light, 25, was that he’s got the size and stuff to compete in the major leagues soon. Minnesota had originally drafted Light in the 28th round of the 2009 draft, but they were pretty convinced he would attend Monmouth, where he played three years.
“Pat Light is a large man. He’s a big, strong kid who throws in the upper-90’s,” said Antony. “He has a splitter. We’ve see a lot of him because Boston trains right down the street from our complex [in Florida] and they’ve been in about all our leagues in the minor leagues. We like him a lot. We like his arm, we like how he fits in the role in the bullpen. So we thought that was a fair return for Abad.”
By dealing Nolasco and Meyer, the Twins are giving up on two players that were supposed to fortify their rotation but have struggled in Minnesota. Nolasco signed a four-year, $49 million deal before the 2014 season, but the 33 year old has battled injury and owns a 5.44 ERA (74 ERA+) in 56 starts with the Twins. Meyer was acquired in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Washington Nationals, but owns a 14.21 ERA (32 ERA+) in 6.1 innings pitched since joining the Twins. He made only one start.
The Twins receive Hector Santiago, 28, as well as minor leaguer Alan Busenitz, 25.
Santiago is 10-4, 4.25 ERA (120.2 innings pitched) with 57 walks and 107 strikeouts in 22 starts for the Angels this season and was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 30th round of the 2006 draft. He will join the team in Cleveland. Busenitz has split this season between Double-A and Triple-A, but owns a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings pitched at Triple-A and will report to Double-A Chattanooga.
“We traded Ricky and Alex Meyer out to Anaheim, and with Hector Santiago we believe we’re getting a starter that will fit in nicely with us,” said Antony. “We have another year of control next year through arbitration. He’s a good fit for us. We got a hard-throwing right hander for the bullpen who has a good curveball so we were happy with the return.”
Asked if the team was giving up on Meyer, Antony dismissed the notion.
“No, it was more a matter, I think for us to do this deal I think they needed to get another reliever back that they thought was close to the big leagues,” he said. “And they may even start him. He had success with Rochester starting. It wasn’t a matter of being frustrated with him or wanting to get rid of him; it was more a matter of that’s who they wanted and they kept pushing for that.”
“It really wasn’t a salary dump or anything like that”
He also added that Nolasco and Santiago could use a change of scenery. Santiago has 57 walks this season against 107 strikeouts; Nolasco is from Southern California and briefly pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers before arriving in Minnesota. According to the Star Tribune the Twins will send the Angels $4 million to make up the difference between the salaries of the major leaguers in the trade. The Twins will also pay Nolasco’s salary for the rest of 2016, while the Angels pay Santiago, who earns $5 million.
“Well, we sent some cash along with it to try and even some things out,” said Antony. “It really wasn’t a salary dump or anything like that. I think it was an opportunity for Ricky to get a fresh start, Santiago to get a fresh start, and he was very excited when I talked to him. So I think it was [a] change of scenery for both guys and a good opportunity for both of them.”
Time will tell if these trades pan out, and Antony may not be around to see the results, depending on what happens in the offseason. Asked if this felt like an audition process, Antony dismissed the notion.
“You know what? I didn’t look at it that way at all. We just operated in some ways like we always have, and in other ways it was completely different. But I thought we were very prepared as a group, and we had good conversation and good back and forth,” he said.
“Like I said, talking to a lot of different clubs, it made us think of things we weren’t prepared to think about or kinda caught us off-guard. But we weren’t afraid of exploring anything, so I think the process worked, and I think we were pretty prepared for this.”
His only regret, perhaps, is that he couldn’t do more.
“There were a lot of players talked about. They’re probably a majority of our 25-man roster. One way or another, somebody mentioned a lot of those guys,” he said. “We were on the offensive as well trying to go after some fairly large names, but we just didn’t think what we would have to send to get that was worth the return and disrupting what we’re trying to do. There’s a lot of deals that get talked about that never happened.”