Twins trade Garza, Bartlett for Rays’ young slugger

Twins trade Garza, Bartlett for Rays’ young slugger

Twins trade Garza, Bartlett for Rays’ young slugger

A week after losing Torii Hunter in free agency, GM Bill Smith made a countermove, getting Delmon Young as part of a six-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Twins on Wednesday landed Delmon Young, one of the best young sluggers in the game, as part of a six-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, the first big move by rookie GM Bill Smith.

The Twins sent top pitching prospect Matt Garza, starting shortstop Jason Bartlett and relief prospect Eduardo Morlan to the Rays for Young, infielder Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie.

Young is expected to play left field and hold down the middle of the lineup. Harris could start at short, although he can also play second and third. Smith will leave the final decision up to manager Ron Gardenhire. Pridie, who can play center field, spent 2007 in the minors but could challenge for a reserve spot.

The key to the haul was Young, 22, who hit .288 last season with 13 homers and 93 RBI.

"We think his power is going to continue to improve," Smith said. "He's going to be a middle-of-the-order difference maker in our lineup."

It's likely the first of a few moves that will drastically change the look of the Twins' roster by spring training.

The Twins continue to take offers for two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who could help the club land help in center field and third base. And closer Joe Nathan could be dealt as well.

Adding Young makes up offensively for the loss of Torii Hunter to the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent. The Twins could still be interested in center fielders such as Boston prospect Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees' Melky Cabrera and Mets prospects Lastings Milledge or Fernando Martinez. The Twins also have shown interest in Boston center fielder Coco Crisp and have contacted the agent for free agent center fielder Aaron Rowand.

Moving Garza also raises the possibility that the Twins will try to receive a starter as part of any deal for Santana or Nathan. The Twins have asked Boston for Ellsbury and righthander Clay Buchholz as part of any package for Santana. The Yankees could offer Cabrera and either prospect Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy.

The Angels have called about Santana, and the Dodgers are believed to have showed some interest.

Offensive help

For now, the Twins have solved some of their offensive questions by adding Young. He was the first overall pick in 2003 and is the younger brother of major leaguer Dmitri Young. Delmon Young was named minor league player of the year in 2005. But he also was suspended 50 games by the International League in 2006 for hitting an umpire with a thrown bat. And he was pulled from a game late last season for not hustling but was allowed to play in the season finale after apologizing.

"I grew up a lot over the last couple of years," Young said during a conference call, "getting older and wiser. It's going to happen with some players when you are 18 years old and thrown out to the world with a little money in your pocket."

Harris, 27, hit .286 with 12 homers, 59 RBI and 72 runs scored in 137 games last season. That includes 87 games at short and 47 at second base. He was given the chance to play shortstop on a daily basis last season and liked it. And the Twins like his offense.

"Everyone has to pull their weight at the dish," Harris said.

Pridie, who spent the 2006 spring training with the Twins as a Rule 5 pick, batted a combined .304 with 14 homers and 66 RBI at Class AA Montgomery and Class AAA Durham. Pridie, 24, isn't expected to be in the mix for a starting job.

Garza and Bartlett head south

Garza, the Twins' first-round pick in 2005, was 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) last season. Bartlett hit .265 with five homers and 43 RBI. Morlan spent most of the season at Class A Fort Myers, where he was 4-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 41 relief appearances.

Smith said the Twins have enough pitching depth that the time was right to move an arm like Garza's for a hitter. Morlan has a chance to be a solid reliever. Righthander Juan Rincon was believed to have been part of the original deal before the Rays balked, leading to speculation that Rincon isn't healthy.

"He might pitch winter ball," Smith insisted. "There is nothing wrong with Juan Rincon."

Bartlett was believed to be the Twins' answer at shortstop, but Tampa Bay likes Bartlett's speed.

Adding Young appears to make newly acquired outfielder Craig Monroe expendable. With Young expected to play in left field and Jason Kubel around to DH or play the outfield, at-bats for Monroe look to be hard to get.

"We'll continue to talk to Craig Monroe," Smith said.

startribune.com

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