Inside the Delmon deal
The Rays deal to trade Delmon Young to the Twins hit a late snag, but both teams were focused enough on the pieces they wanted to prevent the hurdle from killing the deal as negotiations headed into the night Wednesday.
In the early afternoon Wednesday, just as the Rays were completing their new stadium unveiling, word emerged that the teams were close to a trade centered around Young and 24-year-old righthander Matt Garza. But it appeared the Rays were caught off guard by the timing of the news, as seen by Andrew Friedman's abrupt departure from the stadium festivities.
One source said the teams were close to closing the deal Tuesday. But the Rays obviously didn't plan on making a such a monumental roster move that might steal thunder from the highly anticipated stadium unveiling. As talk headed into evening, and both teams remained hushed, the feeling was that something was going to happen.
Reached on his cell phone late afternoon, Young said he hadn't heard anything. Infielder Brendan Harris, who was part of the deal, had received calls all afternoon from friends and family who heard about the rumor. In fact, when a Times reporter called his cell phone and got his voice mail, Harris immediately called back, seeing the 727 area code on the number and thinking it was the Rays with news.
Harris sounded disappointed about a looming trade: "I kinda thought I had carved a niche for myself here. This would be the third time I've been traded. It's not like I'm a bad clubhouse guy or anything."
Apparently what was holding up the deal was the Rays' health concern about Twins reliever Juan Rincon, who was reportedly the third player coming to Tampa Bay initially along with Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett. Tampa Bay was wary of the status of Rincon's elbow -- he has arthroscopic surgery the elbow following the 2005 season and occasionally dealt with fatigue in the joint -- but Rincon's agent, Ed Setlik said Wednesday night, "If he's got elbow problems, that's news to me. He was throwing 94, 95 at the end of last season. I don't even know where to start with that claim."
Rincon, who was one of the AL's top late-inning middle relievers from 2004 to 2006 before struggling last season, also served a 10-game suspension for violating MLB's substance-abuse policy in 2005.
That wasn't enough to hold up the deal. The Twins ponied up 21-year-old minor league reliever Eduardo Morlan, who spent most of last season dominating hitters in the Florida State League with Fort Myers. Morlan, who was born in Cuba and grew up in Miami, has a 2.82 ERA along with 337 strikeouts in 274 2/3 minor league innings over four seasons and would likely start next season at Double-A Montgomery. So Friedman had to be happy to add another arm to the stable of young pitching in the minors.
The Twins obviously liked Rays minor leaguer Jason Pridie, the last piece of the deal. They selected him in last year's Rule 5 Draft before returining him before spring training. It also now explains why the Rays added Pridie to the 40-man roster last week, considering talks between the teams began at the GM meetings in Orlando in the first week of this month.
But as far as the key figures of the trade, both sides knew what they wanted.
"They insisted on Garza, they wanted Bartlett," Twins GM Bill Smith said. "We were equally as insistent on getting Delmon Young."