Twins sacrifice offense for pitching

By Jim Callis

July 30, 2001

Monday saw a busy afternoon of trading, with three deals involving 11 players. The action didn’t end until 10:30 p.m. Eastern, as the Twins and Mets negotiated well into the night before agreeing to a swap that sent Rick Reed to Minnesota and Matt Lawton to New York.

It was the Twins’ second deal as Tuesday’s deadline approached—they got Todd Jones from the Tigers for Mark Redman two days earliers—and neither figures to significantly upgrade the team’s postseason chances. Make no mistake, Reed, a 2001 all-star, will improve Minnesota’s rotation, which dropped off significantly after the big three of Joe Mays, Eric Milton and Brad Radke. The 36-year-old Reed throws strikes with four pitches: fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. He’s one of the best control artists in the game, and has gone 8-6, 3.48 with a 99-17 strikeout-walk ratio in 135 innings this year. He signed a three-year, $21.75 million contract in the offseason. He’ll supplant one of two rookies, Adam Johnson or Kyle Lohse, in the Twins rotation.

But the boost that Reed gives Minnesota’s pitching staff may be equaled or surpassed by the effect the loss of Lawton has on the club’s offense. Lawton, 29, is one of the top leadoff hitters in the game and was the Twins’ only good option in the No. 1 spot. He’s hitting .293-10-51 with 71 runs in 103 games, along with a .396 on-base percentage and 19 steals. He’s a solid all-around player, offsetting his lack of big-time over-the-fence power with plenty of doubles and on-base ability. Lawton makes $3.9 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration following this season and free agency after 2002.

Mets GM Steve Phillips has done some masterful work at the deadline. In his last two trades, he has shed payroll by trading veterans to contenders, yet wound up with the best player in each deal. New York picked up lefthanders Bruce Chen and Adam Walker from Philadelphia for relievers Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook on Friday. Chen, who’s loaded with potential, will replace Reed in the Mets rotation. New York was thin on outfielders and had no true leadoff man, and Lawton will help in both areas.

Among the candidates on hand in Minnesota to take over right field from Lawton are Chad Allen, Brian Buchanan and minor leaguer Bobby Kielty. It’s also very possible that the Twins will make another deal on Tuesday, with the Reds’ Dmitri Young a rumored target.