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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Twins Give Nice Twist to Athletics' "Moneyball"

Murray Chass of the New York Times reviews how the Minnesota Twins have built a repeat division winner through scouting and smart trades, contrasting them to Those Soulless Number Crunchers By the Bay. One of his paragraphs requires a bit more context, though:

Ryan, as it has turned out, traded judiciously. For Milton, he got Carlos Silva, who has become the team's most successful starting pitcher, with a 5-0 record and a 3.11 earned run average. For Pierzynski, he got Joe Nathan, who has replaced Guardado as the closer and has gained 12 saves in 13 opportunities and has a 1.37 E.R.A.
Local Minnesota writers reamed the Twins for trading Eric Milton and A.J. Pierzynski, lamenting the moves as a sign that ownership couldn't or wouldn't pay for a competitive team, or else used the moves to echo the club's demand for a new ballpark. Both of these moves were fully defensible on baseball grounds even before the new players showed what they could do: Milton was overpaid by any reasonable standard and Pierzynski had lost his job to the best catching prospect in years.

Any club, on any budget, can improve itself by drafting well and trading players it no longer needs for those it does. Trading overpaid players and surplus talent is a good thing, whether you're the Twins or the Yankees. Now if Minnesota could just do something about the talent distribution within the organization -- if they could use some of their spare outfielders to DH for their middle infielders, they'd win 105 games.

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