AJ Pierzynski Trade Starting to Even Out for Minnesota Twins

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIIAugust 16, 2009

Mark Hermann and Chris Hinton for John Elway.

Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippin.

Vlad Divac for Kobe Bryant.

Healthcliff Slobumb for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.

Jim Fregosi for Don Rose, Leroy Stanton, Francisco Estrada, and Nolan Ryan.

Jesse Solomon, Issiac Holt, Darrin Helson, David Howard, Alex Stewart, Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, Darren Woodson and Clayton Holmes for Herschel Walker.

Six years ago, you could have put the Minnesota Twins' acquisition of Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and Francisco Liriano from the San Francisco Giants for AJ Pierzynski on the list of most lopsided trades.

Now, looking back and examining the trade, it doesn't look as lopsided anymore.

Don't get me wrong. This was a great deal for the Twins and a terrible deal for Giants.

Can you imagine a rotation with Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and the 2006 model of Francisco Liriano with Joe Nathan closing the door?

The deal seemed like a good idea at the time. San Francisco, with an aging Benito Santiago (age 38, .279, 11 HR, 56 RBI) was looking for a catcher.

Minnesota had one to spare.

The Twins were left with a dilema. They had AJ Pierzynski (Age 26, .312, 11 HR, 76 RBI) who had amassed career highs in every offensive category, or the unproven home-town boy Joe Mauer (Age 19, .338, 5 HR, 85 RBI in A-Fort Myers and AA-New Britian) waiting in the wings.

The Twins, who always seem to go with younger players, chose to put Pierzynski on the trade block.

The Giants called, offering Joe Nathan (24-10, 4.12 ERA, 200 K in four seasons with SF) and AA player Boof Bonser (41-28, 3.45 ERA, 512 K in four minor league seasons), who had won the SAL Pitcher of the Year award in 2001. Twins GM Terry Ryan didn't think it was even, so he asked Giants GM Brian Sabean to include 19 year old rookie ball pitcher Francisco Liriano (8-12, 2.81 ERA, 173 K in three minor league seasons).

Sabean ok'd the deal, and the rest is history.

Nathan made an immediate impact with the Twins. Taking over the closer role, Nathan recorded 44 saves (second highest season total in franchise history behind Eddie Guardado's 45 in 2002) with a 1.62 ERA, finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young voting, 12th in MVP voting, and was elected to his first All-Star game.

Since taking over as closer for the Twins, Nathan is 21-11 with 228 saves, 286 Ks, and a 1.81 ERA. Nathan's 228 ranks second in franchise history, and is only 26 saves behind Rick Aguilera's 254. Nathan has averaged 38 saves per season while with Minnesota.

Things haven't worked out as well for Boof Bonser.

Bonser was called up in 2006 after 30-22 with a 3.84 ERA and 404 Ks during three seasons in the minors to replace a struggling Kyle Lohse in the rotation. 

Since Boof's call-up, he is 18-25 with a 5.12 ERA and 317 Ks. In 2008, Bonser started the season 2-6 with a 6.16 ERA. He was moved out rotation in favor of Scott Baker in early June. As a reliever, Bonser was 1-1 with an ERA of 5.88.

Bonser had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and has not (nor is he expected to) pitch in the 2009 season.

Things have been up-and-down for Francisco Lirano, as well.

Lirano, after two seasons in the minors (21-16, 3.19 ERA, 378 K) was on the Opening Day roster in 2006 as a reliever. After 12 relief apperances, he made his first start on May 19. Liriano would go 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA, and was highly favored to win the Rookie of the Year as well as the Cy Young Award.

Some news reporters were even bold enough to call Liriano and teammate Johan Santana the next Koufax and Drysdale.

But Liriano landed on the DL on August 11 after elbow inflammation, leaving him with too few innings to qualify for the ERA title and any real chance at any post-season awards. Liriano had Tommy John surgery to repair his left arm during the off-season and missed the entire 2007 campaign.

The rotation has dramatically changed since Liriano's 2006 debut. Brad Radke and Johan Santana have been replaced by Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey. Liriano has also changed. He is 11-15 with a 4.83 ERA since returning in 2008, and is 5-11 with a 5.39 ERA this season. His 11 losses are the most in the MLB.

The reason Giants fans are so bitter about the trade (other than the fact that they gave up all that talent) was that they got absolutely nothing out of the deal.

AJ Pierzynski was a San Francisco Giant for only one season.

Pierzynski played in 131 games for the Giants, hitting a meager .272 compared to his .312 in 2003. He then left for the Chicago White Sox as a free agent during the off-season. where he won a World Series in 2005.

The only reason this trade is still considered lopsided to me is that the Giants basically gave the Twins Joe Nathan, who is considered one of the top closers in the league, and opened the door for Joe Mauer.

Perhaps the reason that this trade doesn't seem as lopsided anymore is Liriano's terrible play. As of August 15, the Twins are 56-61, and are six games behind the Detroit Tigers, who are leading the AL Central while only seven games above .500.

The AL East leading Yankees are 31 games above, the AL West leading Angels are 25 games above, and the AL Wild Card leading Rangers are 16 games above.

But Liriano is still young, and has the tools to regain his old form. Only time will tell if this trade will ever be as lopsided as it once was.


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