Twins

Should the Twins Have Held Onto Gio Urshela?

Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins didn’t trade Gio Urshela for Kyle Farmer, but they made the two transactions almost simultaneously. They traded Urshela, 31, to the Los Angeles Angels on November 18, hours before the 6:00 pm deadline for offering arbitration-eligible contracts. In return, they got Alejandro Hidalgo, a 20-year-old pitcher in A-ball. Hours later, they signed Farmer, 32, from the Cincinnati Reds.

Keep in mind that they signed Carlos Correa on January 11, 2023, after he didn’t pass physicals with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets. Therefore, Farmer was insurance at short in case they didn’t land Correa or another free-agent shortstop. The Twins valued Farmer’s versatility. “That type of player can really help you as you’re trying to mix and match with your roster,” Derek Falvey said at the time. “We had some square pegs and round holes, and this kind of frees that up a little bit.”

José Miranda was the final part of this puzzle. A 24-year-old who hit .268/.325/.426 with 15 home runs last year, Miranda was found treasure for the Falvey-Levine regime. Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2016, Miranda appeared to be stalling out in 2019. However, he hit .344/.401/.572 in the high minors in 2021 and had a solid rookie season last year. The Twins were clearing the way for him to take over third this year. But he had a slow start, and they optioned him to Triple-A in early May.

To lay it all out:

  • The Twins traded Urshela to the Angels, and he entered the Twins series hitting .295/.318/.349 (83 OPS+) after producing a .285/.338/.429 (119 OPS+) slash line last year. He’s also split time between first and third this year, meaning he’s not an everyday third baseman.
  • Minnesota received Hidalgo in return. He’s pitched well this year, owning a 1.50 ERA in High-A, where he’s over three years younger than the competition. However, it will take a while for anyone to know how he pans out. He’s still years away from pitching at Target Field.
  • Farmer is hitting .283/.353/.467, but has been limited to 19 games after a stray Lucas Giolito fastball broke his jaw. He’s split his time between second, third, and short.
  • The Twins optioned Miranda after he hit .220/.275/.318 to start the season, including .158/.158/.211 in the five games before they sent him to St. Paul. Miranda has done enough in his first 365 days of baseball to warrant leeway with the organization and was injured in Spring Training. Still, he hasn’t locked down third base after the Urshela trade.
  • Correa enters the Angels series hitting .203/.274/.386. It’s too early to call his $200 million extension a bust, but the Twins certainly would like more from him at the plate. Regardless, he’s held down short, allowing Farmer to fill in at third while Miranda plays for the Saints.

Ultimately, the Urshela trade made sense. The Twins probably would have had to pay him $9 million in arbitration, and his hitting has declined since he arrived in Los Angeles. Urshela hasn’t been an everyday third baseman this year, and Minnesota can plug Farmer in while Miranda is in the minors. The only reason to hate this trade is if you don’t believe in Miranda. Even then, Royce Lewis is recovering and could take over third, and Brooks Lee is also an option when he’s ready.

Best-case scenario, the Twins got out ahead of a declining player. Something they’ve done before.

Trading Taylor Rogers before Opening Day last year didn’t go over well, especially given how wonky that trade turned out. Rogers was an All-Star closer in 2021. However, he had a 4.35 ERA with the San Diego Padres before they traded him, and his ERA ballooned to 5.48 with the Milwaukee Brewers. The San Francisco Giants signed him to a three-year, $33 million contract in the offseason, but he has a 4.75 ERA (92 ERA+) in the first year of the deal.

Similarly, Brian Dozier was one year removed from hitting 42 home runs when the Twins traded him in 2018. He had been an All-Star in 2015 and hit .271/.359/.498 the year before. But Dozier hit .182/.300/.350 in 47 games with the Dodgers to finish 2018. In 2019, he hit .238/.340/.430 with 20 home runs and won a World Series with the Washington Nationals, then retired the following year after playing five games for the Mets.

The Twins also traded Eduardo Escobar in 2018, and it went over just as well with the fanbase – if not worse. However, it turned out well for Minnesota. Escobar made the All-Star team in 2021 and is still playing for the Mets. But the Twins got Johan Durán in that trade, meaning they’d probably do it again. Hidalgo probably won’t turn into Durán, but the Escobar trade is a reminder that it takes a while to know how each team fared in a deal. The same goes for the Rogers trade.

Ultimately, it made sense to trade Urshela. He’s on the wrong side of 30; Miranda, Lewis, and Lee can all play third. But it is a little weird seeing Urshela with a .295 average while Miranda is in St. Paul. We’re all prisoners of the moment. Just remember that Miranda slumped last year and turned it around, Lewis is on the cusp of the majors, and Hidalgo has a sub-2.00 ERA pitching against players two years older than him.

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Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

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