Following the latest Millers post-season collapse this past October, it was clear something needed to change in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the team’s best pitcher, Garrett Gooden, would be leaving in free agency in the next few weeks, as would a key veteran slugger, Russell Bell. Making matters worse, the organization was not very excited about the free agency crop in general.
“We mostly spent November working on extensions with our own players,” Millers assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz says. “Once it was clear Gooden and Russ weren’t coming back, we felt comfortable being patient.”
Kantrovitz wasn’t lying. The Millers would agree to 5-year extensions with Edgardo Cordero, Chris Stranathan and Dieter Kokke, a 4-year extension with Dan Tigue, 3-year extensions with Doug Zeidman and Ernesto Encarnacion, and they added a year Jim Kilpatrick’s deal too.
From November through January, the organization ultimately signed depth players like Alfredo Ortega, Sam Tewes and Jim King, but fans were getting restless. The team was in much worse shape than the previous season, and that roster wasn’t even good enough to win the Cup.
“We were in trade negotiations all off-season,” Kantrovitz continues. “Teams understandably were waiting to see how their free agency played out, but once most of the key veterans had signed, we were able to make the trade for Yoel.”
On February 2, the Millers agreed to a trade with St. Louis that would send five minor league prospects for Yoel Londor and a third round draft pick.
The Millers needed a third baseman and felt Londor would adapt well from shortstop, which he has. His defense at shortstop had fallen below average last season, and with free agency on the horizon Londor was willing to make the move.
A few days after the trade, the team and Londor agreed to a a 5-year, $135M extension. As the old saying goes, who wouldn’t switch positions for One hundred and thirty five million dollars?
The Millers next big move came a week before opening day. The team had agreed to send 4 pitchers and three first round draft picks to Charlotte for the #3 overall pick in the draft.
“We wanted Tony Chapa,” Kantrovitz confides. “Of course, once we traded the pick again, he fell to Vancouver. Fuck.”
After a 12-9 month of April, disaster struck on May 6. Staff ace Edgardo Cordero was diagnosed with shoulder inflammation, and he was going to miss at least four months. His season was likely over. The front office was crushed.
“We didn’t have a lot of money to make moves,” the assistant GM would say. “So we felt like there was no way to get reinforcements. Then one day, the GM came in, and he just said, “F it. Let’s go all-in.” And just like that, every prospect was available, even the #3 pick which we had acquired specifically for a player we loved.”
On May 22nd, the Millers and Austin Bats made headlines when they announced that Greg Boyle was heading to Minneapolis for two highly regarded, CBL-ready youngsters, Elton Hedgecock and Juan Gonzalez.
“To be honest, we had no idea that Jose Perez was going to be available at all when we made the trade for Greg,” Dan says. “Austin paid for Boyle’s salary, which was a lot of money, so we saw him as a Cordero replacement rental. We knew the price was high, but we needed the veteran anchor.”
Following their 12-9 April, the Millers were nearly unbeatable in May, going 24-4 and entering June with a 36-13 record.
Boyle has pitched well since being acquired, but Gonzalez has been dominant for Austin. He’s 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 7 starts. Austin certainly has no complaints at this juncture with the deal. The Millers mostly need Boyle at his best in the post-season, but the cost looks far too high if Gonzalez is anywhere close to as good as he’s been.
The Boyle trade would quickly take a back seat, however, as the Millers would make another headline grabbing move, this time with divisional foe Erie. The Millers sent four of their top prospects, CBL rookie Danny Chapman and the #3 overall pick for Jose Perez and a 4th rounder. Perez was a free agent at season’s end, and the Millers were broke. Most experts were stunned. Did they just sell the farm for one season of Jose Perez?
Ultimately, no, but it cost the organization Robert Reynolds as well. The team waived the injured former MVP, and once Golden State wisely put in a claim, the Millers repurposed that cash and agreed to a five-year extension with Jose Perez. Greg Boyle remains likely to test free agency.
With the Millers continuing to play well into June, the team made yet another blockbuster trade, this time acquiring proven power hitter and stone hand defender Jayson Philmon from Colorado. The organization again sent out several talented prospects, with CBL pitchers Dan Tigue and Bob Schulman accompanying the 3 prospects.
The shake-up has not seemed to have any negative effects on team morale, likely because the CBL roster has remained mostly in tact. The Millers followed up their 24-4 May with a 22-4 June, giving the team a 46-8 record between the two months.
“The past few months have been the most significant organizational months probably in the history of the Millers,” a season ticket advertisement reads. A nearby fan sees the ad and notices me reading it as well. He laughs, then makes a great point.
“Fucking morons. Calling May and June the most significant months just points out how they always choke. Let me know when October is their best month.”
See all the players traded in case you don’t give a crap about the story.
To MIN: SS Yoel Londor, 3rd round pick (became CF Jeff Travis)
To STL: 3B Ben Brennan, SP Bob Sasules, CF Ernesto Diaz, LF Luis Melendez, 1B Phil O’Nan
To MIN: #3 overall pick (traded again)
To CHR: #17 overall (became SP Steve Rainey), #21 overall (became RF Wally Hirtzel), #23 overall (beacme 2B Dave Golan), SP Satoshi Nakamoto, RP Jose Alonso, RP Bob Sweigart, RP Christian Cardenas
To MIN: SP Greg Boyle, cash considerations
To AUS: 1B Elton Hedgecock, SP Juan Gonzalez
To MIN: SP Jose Perez, 4th round pick (became LF Ken Kleve), cash considerations
To ERIE: SS Liam Castro, SP Jose Jimenez, LF Danny Chapman, CL Antonio Martinez, CL Chris Borer, #3 overall pick (became 3B Johnny Peagler)
To MIN: RF Jayson Philmon
To COL: LF Bob Piccolo, CF Raul Martinez, SP Dan Tigue, SP Bob Schulman, CL Kevin Boarman