State of the Team
1991 Record: 95-67, first in the American League!
1991 Overview: Uh, they won the World Series, which is pretty good.
1992 Outlook: Strong
Players Lost - Free Agency
The Twins lost a starting outfielder, a workhorse starting pitcher, a former ERA champion, and a guy who once caught a ball while running on the rolled-up tarp (at least, that's how I remember it).
Dan Gladden wasn't very good by 1991. His 80 OPS+ in 1991 was brutal and his defense wasn't great. He only made slightly over a million bucks, but that was a decent chunk of cash in those days. The Twins basically replaced Gladden with Pedro Munoz, who posted a 96 OPS+ in 1992. Munoz had more power, but somehow was worse at getting on-base. Kind of a wash, but at least Munoz was younger/cheaper.
Jack Morris' last act of business with the Twins was pitching 10 innings in Game 7 and leaving with a World Series win. Morris was basically a mercenary and left after one historic season. The Twins basically replaced him with John Smiley (more on him later) and Smiley was great. Morris' 1991 and Smiley's 1992 were eerily similar, although Smiley was 10 years younger.
The Twins also lost Allan Anderson, who had won the ERA title in 1988 and won 33 games between 1988 and 1989. He also hadn't pitched well since then. Al Newman and Junior Ortiz left, but they were bench players. They also lost Steve Bedrosian and Terry Leach from the bullpen.
Players Gained - Free Agency
The Twins did not make a big splash in free agency. I know. I'm shocked too. Although, the year before, they had signed Chili Davis and Jack Morris, so maybe this isn't a fair fake shock at this time. The Twins did bring Brian Harper and Mike Pagliarulo back. Harper was his typical mustachioed, high-contact self and Pagliarulo was just mustachioed and literally nothing else.
Here's a list of players the Twins signed during this off-season: Bob Kipper, Luis Quinones, Mauro Gozzo, Donnie Hill, Keith Hughes and Bill Krueger. It's hard to add that much talent and incorporate it successfully within the existing team. Krueger was decent, going 10-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 27 starts. Kipper was ok, with a 4.42 ERA in 38.2 innings. The other four guys made little impact. Although, Gozzo didn't walk a single batter in 1992! What control! He only threw 1.2 innings and gave up seven hits, but still, no walks! Reverse Moneyball! Plus, he has a great name.
Trades are exciting. The Twins made two significant trades during the 1991 off-season and both trades happened during Spring Training.
On March 17, 1992, the Twins traded Midre Cummings and Denny Neagle to the Pirates for John Smiley. As I stated earlier, Smiley was great for the Twins in 1992. He replaced Jack Morris handily. Of course, he left for the Reds after the '92 season, so that kind of sucked. Cummings had a long career, mostly as a reserve. NBD. The Twins may regret trading Neagle though. It took a few years, but Neagle blossomed into a really good pitcher. From 1995-2000, he was 89-47 and posted a 3.64 ERA in just under 1200 innings. You may remember 1995-2000 as the "whatever the opposite of glory years" era of Twins baseball.
Less than two weeks later, the Twins traded Paul Sorrento to the Indians for Curt Leskanic and Oscar Munoz. Leskanic never pitched for the Twins and Munoz threw 35.1 mediocre innings in 1995. Sorrento was blocked by Kent Hrbek, so it made sense to get some value for him. Sorrento wasn't a bad player though. For the next six seasons, he posted a .267/.347/.477 triple slash, hit 129 home runs and had 439 RBI.
From 1992-1994, Sorrento and Hrbek were basically the same offensive player. Hrbek had a slightly higher OBP, but Sorrento had a better batting average. Both hit 50 home runs and drove in around 190. Both had a 112 OPS+. Sorrento was six years younger and quite a bit cheaper. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
The Smiley trade qualifies as a splash. Smiley made $3.4 million and cost the team two decent prospects. He was coming off a 20-win season and a third place Cy Young finish. The trade worked out really well in 1992, but definitely hurt in the long-term. Had the Twins extended Smiley, it might look different in hindsight. Smiley was awful in 1993 (likely because he missed the culture of the Twin Cities), but then great from 1994-1996. Back to '92, the Twins lost Morris and needed a replacement to defend their World Series crown. Smiley fit the bill quite nicely.
The Twins gave Bob Kipper a million bucks and I can't really see why. I'm not old enough to remember Kipper, but looking at his Baseball Reference page, I can't figure out why he was worth signing. I know the Twins had lost Bedrosian and Leach, but Kipper just doesn't look good on paper. He wasn't awful, but he wasn't good either. Kipper was fine until July, when he completely fell apart. The Twins released him on July 31 and he never pitched another MLB inning. He literally disappeared (not literally, or at all).
My Own Personal Heartbreak
I was ten, Dan Gladden had a mullet and I was only human. Gladden leaving saddened me.
Arbitrary Overall Assessment: C+
The Twins didn't do anything of note, but they did replace Morris with Smiley. The team was already really talented, so that, plus minor tweaks was really all that needed to be done. Did it work out? Well, somewhat. The '92 Twins were really good, just not as good as the A's. They missed the playoffs and wouldn't get back for over a decade.
Next week, we'll look at the 1992 off-season. See you then!