The trade of Phillies catcher Johnny Estrada for Atlanta pitcher Kevin Millwood is largely considered the most unexpected trade backfire in years, but a strong case can also be made for pitcher Carlos Silva and infielder Nick Punto going to Minnesota for high-priced left-hander Eric Milton.
2004: To the naked eye, Milton had a pretty good season for the Phils, including a 14-6 record and a near no-hitter against the Giants on July 25. But in Silva, the Twins received just as much quality at a fraction of the cost.
The budget-crunched Twins discovered a solid No. 3 starter in Silva, who started just one game the previous two seasons in Philadelphia. In his first season in Minnesota, he went 14-8 with a 4.21 ERA, even lower than Milton’s 4.75. The most impressive comparison is Silva allowed 20 fewer HRs than Milton (23 to 43), and surrendered only 35 walks to Milton’s 75.
Silva represents the bargain gem Twins scouts discover year after year. As for the other throw-in, Punto, another former R-Phil, the Twins received a serviceable, starting second baseman.
2005: The Twins are baseball’s miracle franchise, perennial playoff contenders operating on a shoestring budget and fielding few superstars. In terms of pitching, they’re especially stingy with their walks, but Silva is downright ridiculous about it. As of Friday, he had more wins than walks, which is almost unbelievable (6-3 after 14 starts, five walks, 3.55 ERA).
2001 in Reading: Never dominant, but always steady, Silva was a horse in Reading, finishing second in the Eastern League in innings pitched with 180. For the season, he went 15-8 with a 3.90 ERA, establishing his reputation as a pitcher that surrendered few walks, allowing just 27 on the season, an incredible feat for the young minor leaguer.
Ed Wade's decision to trade him: For some reason, the Phils, in their infinite wisdom, were concerned he didn’t have the tools to be a starter because of he lacked a breaking pitch. With foresight 20/20, his heavy sinker, changeup and economy of walks would have been just what the doctor ordered for Citizen’s Bank Park. The Twins scouts knew it, grabbed him cheap, and converted him a starter outright.
As for Milton, the Reds--perhaps the only franchise with worse scouting than the Phils--are paying the price big time for all those home runs, already surrendering 27. For the season, he’s 3-9 with a 7.70 ERA. There are rumors the team will eat contract just to get him the hell out of Great American Ball Park.