Coming into the season, Danny Valencia was expected to turn the corner and entrench himself as the third baseman of the future for the Minnesota Twins.
Of course, many things change in baseball and, on Sunday, the Danny Valencia era came to an end when he was shipped to Boston for a minor league outfielder.
Many Twins fans are happy with the move despite the tears being shed by women in and around downtown Minneapolis, but it's strange to see what was once a rising star in 2010 (.311 with seven home runs and 40 runs batted in in 2010) crash down to earth so quickly.
The first reason for Valencia's demise might have been his attitude. There were times when the attitude angle seemed overblown by the local media covering the Twins, but it may have been another case where a square peg didn't fit into the round hole of the Twins' clubhouse.
There have been several examples over the past couple seasons of players (Matt Garza, Delmon Young, Jason Bartlett, Kyle Lohse) who haven't jelled with the culture that manager Ron Gardenhire has created in Minnesota, and that's usually led to a kick out the door. Valencia could've been the latest victim of this.
However, Valencia took some of his shortcomings onto the field with him. Valencia started to pull everything to left field, and pitchers noticed that he was almost always looking for the fastball. With that, Valencia's average took a tumble to the Mendoza Line, and his play in the field suffered.
Meanwhile, 2012 was shaping up to be a pivotal year for Trevor Plouffe as well. Plouffe, a first-round pick for the Twins in 2004, had never translated his minor league success up to the major league level.
Plouffe's struggles were extremely evident in the field, as he committed 11 errors in 45 games at shortstop in 2011. The challenge for the Twins was to not only find a way to convert his power bat to the majors, but find a place where he was comfortable in the field.
On May 9, the Twins accomplished both of those when Valencia was sent to Triple-A Rochester, and Plouffe (who was hitting .140 at the time) moved from the outfielder/utility role to third base.
Since then, Plouffe has shown the promise that Twins scouts saw back in 2004. Plouffe has hit .282 with 18 home runs and 36 RBI since May 10, and that was enough for the Twins to give him a vote of confidence, as he's due to return from the disabled list (bruised thumb) later this week.
In the end, Plouffe delivered what Valencia couldn't at third base. The Twins have needed a power bat at the hot corner since Corey Koskie left prior to the 2005 season, and Plouffe has shown that potential ever since Valencia took the bus ride to Triple-A.
The Twins no longer had a use for Valencia and decided to trade him once Boston claimed him on waivers. Now the Twins will hope that Plouffe's hot hitting will continue and end the team's seven-year drought at third base.