A.J. Pierzynski is a complicated player in Twins’ history. He played a big part in keeping the Twins here and was an all-star catcher on the 2002 team that won the division and beat the Moneyball Oakland A’s.
Over the course of his six seasons as a Twin, he spent half that time as the starting catcher, hitting .301 with 26 home runs and 193 runs batted in. Pierzynski’s promise to continue as an all-star catcher was there going into the 2003-2004 offseason, but the Twins had a local kid named Joe Mauer, that had much more to offer for the team’s future.
On November 14, 2003, the Twins took into favor the promise of Mauer and shipped Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Pierzynski had a one-and-done year with the Giants and signed with the White Sox the next off-season. The Twins, however, are still reaping the benefits of acquiring these three pitchers as their acquisition of Liriano brought forth the opportunity to bring Jhoan Duran into the Twins organization.
Nathan needs no reminder of his impact on the Twins. Not only did he become the best closer in franchise history but also one of baseball’s best relievers of the 2000s.
Bonser was a cult hero with the Twins as a rookie in 2006 making 18 starts and finding success at home in the Metrodome. The success of his rookie year was short-lived as it never carried over into the next two seasons. Bonser spent 2007 as the Twins fifth starter and split time between the rotation and bullpen in 2008.
Following an injury that kept him out all of the 2009 season. The Twins flipped Bonser to the Red Sox for minor-leaguer Chris Province who was out of baseball after one year between Double-A and Triple-A.
Then there is Liriano, the key figure of this trade and the leg of the trade that lives on today. Liriano was a staple to the Twins’ rotation until the 2012 trade deadline. While he was struggling to be consistent at that time after his 2006 Tommy John surgery, the White Sox still called the Twins, seeing value in the lefty. In return for Liriano, the Twins received LHP Pedro Hernandez and infielder Eduardo Escobar.
Hernandez was around for the 2013 season with the Twins making 14 forgettable starts and accounting for a 6.83 ERA on the season. He went 8-3 over 16 starts for the Saints in 2015.
Escobar didn’t immediately become the player that most Twins fans remember him. Once he became an everyday player for the Twins in 2014, that’s when fans began to notice him as a utility infielder that could certainly help this team flourish.
Escobar’s time as a Twin was most memorable in the 2017 Wild Card season when he hit 21 home runs, drove in 73 runs, and posted a career-high (at the time) with a .758 OPS.
As Escobar built off his success in 2017 the next year, the Twins were not able to do so as a team seeing themselves as sellers during the 2018 trade deadline. On July 27, 2018, the Twins traded Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks and in return received a couple of outfield prospects and a pitcher named Duran.
While Jhoan Duran worked his way through the minors as a starting pitcher. In 2022, Twins fans came to know Duran as their best rookie and best reliever. His time with the Twins looks to be certain until he is eligible for free agency in 2028. A lot can still happen between now and then though.
There is a possibility the Twins continue growing branches of this trade history lineage tree, in hopes a player of Duran, Escobar, Liriano, or Nathan’s caliber is received in return.