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Anthony Varriano
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Gonzo Waiver Trades for Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins

08/17/2014 7:30pm
last edited:08/18/2014 1:01am

With the waiver trade deadline just two weeks away, Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins' front office still have some work to do despite unloading Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia for marginal returns and a few dollars they won't use. However, the veteran jettison has created roster spots for Trevor May and Tommy Milone, but the big problem in Minnesota now is a throng of young, capable bullpen arms that don't have roster spots because of veterans like Brian Duensing, Jared Burton, and Anthony Swarzak. Guys like Michael Tonkin, Ryan Pressly, and, perhaps, Alex Meyer or even Trevor May, should be pitching those innings.

Duensing has the most value given his 2.28 ERA and 173 ERA+, and although he's striking out two fewer batters per nine innings compared to last year, he's also giving up two fewer hits per nine innings, lowering his WHIP to 1.246 from 1.475 last season. Duensing can't fill the role of a setup man, but should be pretty effective in the seventh inning, and the Yankees sure could use some help in the seventh inning if they're going to climb the AL East standings. I propose Terry Ryan and the Twins look further into the future, past the mid-level prospects, and pitch Duensing for 19-year-old Austin DeCarr. DeCarr has two plus pitches – a fastball that reaches 96 mph and a hard curveball – and although his changeup needs a lot of work, he could end up a No. 3 starter around 2018. 

I would have traded Anthony Swarzak last season when he tossed 96 innings at a 2.91 ERA and 139 ERA+, but apparently there wasn't much need for long relievers in last year's playoff race. Swarzak's value is in his ability to eat innings and spot start, and despite an ERA above four this season, his ERA+ (96) indicates he's close to an average replacement pitcher. In fact, he's on par with JA Happ and has pitched better than Drew Hutchison of the Blue Jays, whose starters and relievers have been equally underwhelming. If they want to stay in the AL Wild Card race, a guy like Swarzak could help get them there. Swarzak doesn't warrant much more than a player to be named later, and that player will depend on how many innings or starts he makes, like the Correia deal with the Dodgers. 

Burton will be the most difficult and most Gonzo trade to pull off because he's old and awful. He's got a team option for next year, so he'll be a free agent at the end of the year anyway. It would have been nice to move him when he was a serviceable setup man back in 2012, his first year away from the Cincinnati Reds, but Ryan and the Twins thought it would be best to give a two-year deal to a 30-year-old reliever with a long and documented injury history. Now Burton is hardly a serviceable middle reliever, but lucky for us, the Reds' bullpen is pretty atrocious, yet they're just three games back in the NL Wild Card race. Burton's ERA+ of 90 is nearly 20 points higher than JJ Hoover's, who has still managed to somehow pitch 52.2 innings, five more than Burton. I'd trade Burton for a bucket of balls at this point. Dumping the rest of his contract and allowing Tonkin, Pressly, Meyer, or May to pitch those innings is enough of a return for me to be satisfied with the trade, and I think many Twins fans would agree.

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Anthony Varriano is editor of GoGonzoJournal.com, an online, literary journal that investigates the use of Gonzo rhetoric in mainstream media. Find more Gonzo sports stories at GoGonzoJournal.com/sports, including a wild trip to the 2014 MLB All-Star Game.

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