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Twins / Rays Swap Former Top Prospects

I apologize for not posting anything yesterday; with the huge trade news coming for the Rays my previous obligation was at DRaysBay.  Speaking of that deal let's analyze it.

The Rays traded former top pick and outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris, and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie to the Twins for starting pitcher Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett, and minor league reliever Eduardo Morlan. The original deal had reliever Juan Rincon going to St. Petersburg rather than Morlan, but the Rays concerns about his health forced the Twins into placing Morlan in the mix - the Rays would compensate for the lack of a major league reliever by agreeing to a deal with Troy Percival before the trade went official.

Young has an amount of potential that can be otherworldly, but the fact is last year he was barely above average. So says his 5.7 VORP and line of  .288/.316/.408 with an OPS+ of 91. Delmon did show some signs of gaining that potential 30 homerun power with 51 extra base hits - 38 doubles and 13 homeruns - and stole 10 bases, but his plate approach and discipline were awful and he only average 3.51 pitches per plate appearance, here's a look at his pitch selection thanks to Josh Kalk's PITCHF/x site.

To put it gently Delmon needs to learn what a strike is. The comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez are cute, but take a look at their first full seasons compared:

Young is slightly younger than either Vlad or Manny were, but the low on-base and slugging numbers jump out at you - same with the low homerun amount. At this point Delmon compares more to Jeff Francoeur than anyone else, and while his potential makes or breaks this deal for the Twins, has he even been progressing?

Posting career minor league lows in the most hitter friendly park in the organization usually isn't a good sign, especially not for the former top prospect in baseball. Delmon will have to grow into his power and learn to draw walks in order to become the superstar that everyone expected him to be, but by then it might not be with the Twins.

Remember Gary Sheffield admitting to bombing with the Milwaukee Brewers to get dealt? While there's certainly no proof of that - and I won't speculate that he was working to get out of town - Delmon was benched for the final game of the season for not running out a groundball and earlier in his career had made some comments about "doing [his] time" and "bolting" at the first chance. Assuming he's matured a bit it'll be interesting how he reacts to the trade - adding motivation or perhaps a bit of distaste for being underappreciated.

Delmon should upgrade a Twins offense suffering the loss of Torii Hunter, and may find himself and his deadly arm in left field - depending on what Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire decide to do with Michael Cuddyer.

Jumping to the Rays top piece of the puzzle and the second most valued player in the deal let's focus on 24 year old Matt Garza. It wasn't too long ago that Garza, like Young, was a top rated prospect in all of baseball, last year he posted a VORP of 11.3 to go with a 5-7 record and a 3.69 ERA in 83 innings pitched. The usually accurate Garza saw his walks per nine rate went from just barely over 3 to 3.47 after posting numerous minor league seasons with walk rates below 2.3. His strikeout rate also dropped from 9.29 and beyond in the minors to 7.27.

Garza features a very good upper 90's fastball and sharp breaking curve that make him a formidable frontline pitcher, but again like his counterpart possesses questions about coachablility and just how much of his potential he'll harness. That being said the Rays third best starter last season was Edwin Jackson, and Garza provides an upgrade over him by quite a wide margin.

Clearly the Rays will be improved in that area, and Garza's xBABIP suggests he's not quite as hittable - or at least shouldn't be - as his BABIP were to indicate. Another item to ponder is Garza's splits - an ERA over 5 at the hitter friendly Metrodome and one under 2.5 on the road.

The two teams swapped starting infielders with the Rays getting the defensive wonder Jason Bartlett and the Twins getting the more offensively gifted Brendan Harris. The former has posted RZR's over .850 two of the past three years and even last year - his worst numbers wise - he still outdid Harris' in RZR by .030 points while Harris' OPS was .078 points higher so this part of the six player swap works out well; the Rays assemble the final piece to their best infield defense ever - Evan Longoria, Bartlett, Akinori Iwamura, and Carlos Pena - and the Twins get a bat to replace Nick Punto at second.

Perhaps the biggest question about those two is which Harris and Bartlett will show up; the first or second half slash stats of each player:

The final pieces of the deal were minor leaguers; the Twins re-acquired Jason Pridie who just two years earlier had been acquired through the Rule 5 draft but returned. Pridie's numbers last season in Durham were impressive, but his BABIP, which raised from .335 to .362 and saw similar jumps in the rest of his stats in a hitter friendly park.

To make up for Rincon the Twins sent their 4th ranked prospect - per John Sickels and Kevin Goldstein - reliever Eduardo Morlan. The Cuban Cigar of Death, Morlan struck out 99 in roughly 63 innings between high-A and double A last season. Morlan features potential triple digit heat and the potential to be a cornerstone closer. The comparisons to being the next Joba Chamberlain are around, but Joba is projected to be a starter, Morlan is purely power reliever material.

It's hard to judge who the short term winner is - I'd call it a tie despite the Twins gaining 31 units of VORP to the Rays 26 - and while each of the players will play a role, it really comes down to Delmon's next five years versus Garza and Morlan's next five years.