Before we get started with a useful thought exercise, let's get the caveats out of the way.
In constructing an all-new Twins lineup out of ex-Twins players — with the help of St. Paul Academy senior Tommy Verhey, who has been getting a first-hand look at the Star Tribune sports department this month as part of a senior project — several things must be considered.
We paid little attention to salaries. We paid no heed to what the Twins received in return in several trades. We thought nothing of players who would be displaced in this fictional lineup.
Our only mission was to see if it was possible to create a functional lineup, 1-9, of former Twins players now on other teams.
We would not have done this, of course, had the Twins been better at the plate this season. Even after a 4-3 win Wednesday, and in spite of a pitching-fueled 20-17 record that has them in first place in the AL Central, the Twins are last in the majors with a .220 batting average. They're also 28th in on-base percentage and tied for 23rd in OPS.
It was, then, with a great deal of hindsight and more amusement than finger-pointing at the front office, that we successfully completed this list — and talked about it on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast with Chip Scoggins.
Here's the ex-Twins batting order and how the players left the Twins (Tommy's work) along with a quick comment on how things are going this season:
1 Luis Arraez (L), 1B: Traded to Marlins in 2023 for starting pitcher Pablo Lopez and two prospects. Arraez won the AL batting title last season and has been above .400 for the Marlins this year. Lopez has been terrific. This was a classic strength-for-strength trade that both teams are benefiting from, but there's no doubt the Twins lineup misses Arraez.
2 Lamonte Wade Jr. (L), CF: Traded to Giants in 2021 for SP Shaun Anderson. Wade had a strong 2021 season for the Giants, tailed off last year but has an OPS over .900 this season. It's safe to say the Twins didn't envision Wade being this good. Anderson pitched four games for the Twins in 2021 and has bounced around since then.
3 Brent Rooker (R), RF: Traded to Padres in 2022 alongside reliever Taylor Rogers for starting pitcher Chris Paddack and reliever Emilio Pagan. Rooker was ineffective in a limited role last season, but after landing with the A's this season he has thrived. His numbers in 2023: 10 homers and a 1.084 OPS in 104 at bats.
4 Mitch Garver (R), C: Traded to Rangers in 2022 for SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa and pitcher Ronny Henriquez. I like the Twins' catching situation, but Garver slides nicely into this pretend lineup.
5 Nelson Cruz (R), DH: Traded to Rays in 2021 for starter Joe Ryan and starter Drew Strotman. Cruz still looks good at age 42, but there is also no way the Twins would undo this deal based on how good Ryan has been.
6 Gio Urshela (R), SS: Traded to Angels in 2022 offseason for SP Alejandro Hidalgo. The consummate pro, Urshela has been missed. He hit .285 for the Twins last year and he's hitting .302 for the Angels (though just three of his hits have been for extra-bases). On a team that has lacked quality at bats and that just demoted Jose Miranda, Urshela would be a nice luxury even if he is a relatively expensive one ($8.4 million in 2023).
7 Eddie Rosario (L), LF: Signed free agent deal with Cleveland in 2021. No real regrets here as the Twins maximized the best of Rosario before letting him walk.
8 Spencer Steer (R), 2B: Traded to Reds in 2022 alongside Steve Hajjar and Christian Encarnacion-Strand for SP Tyler Mahle. Dealt as a prospect, Steer has been good in 2023 with a .738 OPS and positional versatility for the Reds. With Mahle out for the season after also dealing with injuries last year, there has to be an element of regret.
9 Christian Encarnacion-Strand (R), 3B: Traded to Reds in 2022 alongside Hajjar and Steer for Mahle. Encarnacion-Strand is tearing up Class AAA and has fans clamoring for a call-up.
Long story short: Three-fifths of the Twins projected starting rotation in 2023 came via trades mentioned in this lineup. Even if the Mahle trade has worked out poorly, the logic is evident and has formed the basis for the team's strength this season.
I still think it's fair to lament the loss of Arraez even as Lopez continues to emerge. The Wade trade in 2021 felt strange and has only become worse. And Urshela would be a useful player this season.
Would you trade this lineup for the current one?