The Minnesota Twins have been fixated on the cost-efficiency of their bullpen ever since Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over. While that strategy has brought mixed results, it also has a ripple effect on other areas of the team.
With a glut of outfielders, Minnesota decided to trade LaMonte Wade Jr. to the San Francisco Giants for Shaun Anderson this offseason. The move hasn’t been as disastrous as the Alexander Colomé signing, but they depleted the roster depth that would have been so helpful this season.
The genesis of the Wade trade stems from their decision to move on from Matt Wisler, a reliever they found on the scrap heap who posted a 1.87 ERA in 25.1 innings (18 games) last season. However, some of that success was unsustainable.
Wisler worked as a long reliever who relied almost exclusively on sliders. According to Statcast, he threw his slider 83.4% of the time last year and logged a chase rate of 27%. Wisler was due a raise, and the Twins weren’t sure that he could replicate his performance this season.
That bet paid off when Wisler signed a one-year, $1.15 million contract with San Francisco. Wisler has been miserable, allowing a 6.05 ERA before being designated for assignment on June 9. The Tampa Bay Rays traded for Wisler two days later. Although he has a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings, the Twins may have dodged another bullpen disaster.
But Minnesota’s success with Wisler may have caused them to make a mistake with Anderson. While Wisler was cheap, Anderson was a younger and more cost-effective option for the Twins. The Boston Red Sox’s third-round pick in 2016, Anderson also loved to throw sliders, tossing them at a 53.4% clip last year. Given his comparable metrics to Wisler, he seemed like a suitable replacement. Instead, he was another disappointment.
Anderson appeared in four games for the Twins, allowing nine earned runs in 8.2 innings. With Anderson’s sliders hanging in the zone, hitters teed off to a .381 wOBA before he was designated for assignment on June 18.
Every team makes disappointing trades, but giving up Wade has hurt the Twins more than they could have imagined. Wade figured to be the odd man out of an outfield. Byron Buxton and Max Kepler were staples of the Twins’ lineup, and Jake Cave was a solid utility outfielder who could take over in case of injury. Wade became expendable with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach waiting in the minors and the emergence of Jake Garlick in spring training.
Of course, things haven’t turned out as planned in the Twins’ outfield. Buxton and Kepler have battled injuries throughout the year, and Cave suffered a stress fracture in his back. Although Garlick has been a pleasant surprise, the Twins have trotted out Rob Refsnyder and Gilberto Celestino to center field as the injuries mounted.
Meanwhile, Wade has thrived with the Giants this season. Entering Sunday, Wade has hit .266/.344/.519 with seven homers in 34 games. It may be hindsight to say Wade would be an impact player after hitting .231/.318/.308 in 16 games last season, but the Twins sorely miss his defense.
With Wade on the roster, the Twins could have had someone they know can provide adequate defense in the outfield. There would be no legend of Refsnyder, but the Twins also could have let Celestino develop in the minors and not begin his arbitration clock.
The Twins could also use Wade at first base, a position he played sparingly in 2019. With Miguel Sanó struggling at the plate, Wade could have filled in to form the other half of the platoon. Sanó has exclusively started against left-handers over the past month, and Wade has hit .305/.374/.589 with seven homers in 95 at-bats against righties this season. His hitting would be welcome in a Twins lineup that struggled to hit for contact at times.
This isn’t the equivalent of letting David Ortiz walk, but it’s another example of the Twins’ front office outsmarting themselves. By keeping Wisler and Wade, the Twins would have had two known commodities. Instead, Minnesota made another move that has contributed to a lost season.