Garza, Young Highlight Challenge Trade

The Deal
The Twins and Rays dealt from surplus in a blockbuster prospect swap that sent outfielder Delmon Young to Minnesota and righthander Matt Garza to Tampa Bay. Both players ranked as their organization’s No. 1 prospect entering the 2007 season. Rounding out the trade, the Twins received shortstop Brendan Harris and outfielder Jason Pridie, while the Rays got righthander Eduardo Morlan and shortstop Jason Bartlett.
The Big Leaguers
The No. 1 overall pick in 2003 and runner-up in the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year balloting, Young hit .288/.316/.408 with 13 home runs and 93 RBIs for Tampa Bay, playing in all 162 games. His power did not manifest fully as a 21-year-old rookie because of shaky command of the strike zone (127 strikeouts, 26 walks), but Young showed throughout the minors that he has the kind of bat speed and reflexes to be a devastating major league hitter. He reached Triple-A at age 19 and hit a solid .304/.326/.463 at the level in 138 games in over two seasons, ranking as the International League’s top prospect both times. Though he doesn’t have blazing speed, Young runs well enough to cover center field on occasion, but his plus-plus arm makes him a natural in right.

Like Young, Garza rose quickly from the first round of the draft to the big leagues. Little more than a year after taking Garza from Fresno State with the 25th pick of the 2005 draft, the Twins had him on the Metrodome mound staring down the Blue Jays and Indians. He had just completed a breakneck trip through the minors, going 14-4, 2.00 with 154-32 K-BB in 135 innings as he trekked from high Class A Fort Myers. With easy 90-96 mph fastball velocity and a hard-breaking slider, Garza has two weapons with late movement and explosion at the plate. He’ll also mix in a curveball and changeup. Command is the main thing holding back Garza, who will be 24 in 2008, but that should come with more experience.

The two shortstops switching teams offer opposite skill sets. Bartlett, 28, is a viable defender on turf with some on-base ability but little power, as evidenced by his career .272/.341/.362 numbers. According to the Fielding Bible, he ranks as the second-most valuable defensive shortstop in the game from 2005 to 2007. However, he made 26 errors in 2007 due in part to back and neck injuries. Bartlett, a 13th-round pick by the Padres from Oklahoma in 2001, hit .265/.339/.361 in 510 at-bats in 2007. The Twins heisted him from the Padres in July 2002 for outfielder Brian Buchanan.

Harris, 27, spent the majority of his minor league time playing third and second base, appearing in just 35 games at shortstop. He struggled to establish himself in the majors with the Cubs—who took him in the fifth round of the 2001 draft from William & Mary—Expos/Nationals and Reds before breaking through with the Devil Rays in 2007. While a marginal defender at shortstop, Harris batted .286/.343/.434 with 12 home runs in 521 at-bats in Tampa Bay, allowing the club to get B.J. Upton’s bat in the lineup at second base and in center field. Harris, who has been traded in deals involving Nomar Garciaparra and Austin Kearns, also spent significant time at second base. He’s hit .273/.331/.418 in 189 career games.

The Prospects
Pridie, 24, had his breakout season in the minors back in 2004, was a Rule 5 pick of the Twins after the 2005 season and struggled after just missing the Twins’ roster and being sent back to the Rays. His 2006 season was marred by his poor handling of that disappointment and a knee injury, but he re-emerged as a prospect at Triple-A Durham last season, providing the Bulls with sound defense and flashing all five tools. Pridie’s at least an average center fielder defensively with range (thanks to above-average speed) and good instincts, as well as an average arm. Offensively, Pridie has a pure swing and surprising power, especially the other way. His ceiling is considerable if he can balance his aggressiveness with some plate discipline, but his career on-base percentage is just .327 in the minors.

Born in Cuba, Morlan was a third-round pick in 2004, signed for $420,000 and moved to the bullpen in 2006. He had one of the biggest arms in the Twins system, with a fastball that touched 97 mph at times and a mid-80s power slider. However, the 22-year-old Morlan loses fastball command when he throws that hard, and the Twins had him focused on command with a heater in the low 90s, averaging 92-93 mph. His slider remains a plus pitch; at times it has excellent two-plane depth and touches 86 mph, making it a true strikeout offering. Morlan’s fastball lacks significant life, and he doesn’t command the strike zone with it. While he had success in the Arizona Fall League, with 12 scoreless outings, he walked six in 12 2/3 innings, and the Twins believed his lack of fastball command—due to persistent over-throwing and over-rotating in his delivery—limited his ceiling to that of setup man, rather than closer.

Quick Take
Neither principal in this trade has made a habit of biting his tongue when things haven’t gone his way. Young famously earned a 50-game suspension for tossing a bat at a replacement umpire in 2006, and later that year complained to a reporter that he should be in Tampa Bay and not in Triple-A Durham. He also ran afoul of Rays manager Joe Maddon near the end of the 2007 season for reacting angrily to being pulled from a game for not hustling. Young apologized the next day, and the Rays played him in game 162.

A demonstrative pitcher who isn’t shy about letting his emotions show on the mound, Garza openly criticized the Twins in May for keeping him in Triple-A. The righthander had resisted the organization’s mandate that he mix in more offspeed pitches. That resistance and public complaint probably cost him big league time in the first half after the Twins cut bait on Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz.

The raw talent that Young and Garza possess is undeniable, though, and they both shore up deficiencies on their new teams. The Rays now have a potential rotation of Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Garza, Jason Hammel and one of Andy Sonnanstine, Jeff Niemann, Edwin Jackson or J.P. Howell. In other words, they have more starting pitching depth than most organizations. Morlan gives them a candidate for a bullpen in need of new blood. Trading Young also frees up outfield spots for all of Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Upton.

With Young and Pridie on board, the Twins now have the outfield depth to help offset the loss of Torii Hunter—and to not rely on top in-house candidate Denard Span figuring things out in the big leagues. Mike Cuddyer probably wins the other outfield spot and Jason Kubel the DH role. It’s unclear exactly how the infield will shake out, as Harris, Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla all will vie for three spots.

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