The Minnesota Twins weren't worried about Delmon Young's troubled past. They wanted his bat, and they wanted it badly.
Young was traded by Tampa Bay to Minnesota on Wednesday night as part of a six-player deal that sent right-hander Matt Garza to the Rays.
In a swap of promising youngsters that's been discussed for weeks, the Twins also gave up starting shortstop Jason Bartlett and minor league pitcher Eduardo Morlan while acquiring shortstop Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie.
The deal was first reported by ESPN.com's Keith Law.
"I've grown up a lot over the last couple of years," Young said on a conference call with the Minnesota media. "I'm getting older and wiser. It's going to happen with some players when you are 18 years old, thrown into the world with a little money in your pocket."
While many in baseball have been waiting for Minnesota to make a blockbuster deal, this wasn't it. The Twins are involved in trade talks involving ace Johan Santana, who can become a free agent after next season.
Young, though, was runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year this season and gives Minnesota an athletic replacement for All-Star Torii Hunter -- at least in the lineup if not in center field.
A seven-time Gold Glove winner, Hunter agreed to a $90 million, five-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels last week, leaving the Twins in dire need of a proven outfielder.
"Coming into the offseason our first priority was to improve our offense," new Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "We took a hit last week when Torii left, but Delmon Young has been the guy we've been targeting since the end of the season. We feel he is the best bat available, and we're excited to get him."
In addition to the Young deal, the Rays are also close to a multiyear deal for reliever Troy Percival, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reports.
Young hit .288 with 13 homers and 93 RBIs in his first full major league season, though he walked only 26 times with 127 strikeouts. He also had 38 doubles and 10 steals.
Young, however, has a hotheaded history for a 22-year-old. The first overall pick in the 2003 draft famously flipped his bat into the chest of a Triple-A umpire in 2006 and received a 50-game suspension for that. He got a three-game ban in 2005 for bumping an umpire in Double-A.
He also argued with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon during a late-season game after he was removed for not running out a grounder.
But Young has unquestionable talent, possessing a rocket arm from his natural spot in right field. He also played center as an injury fill-in, appearing in all 162 games and compiling 16 outfield assists.
"He's got one bad incident on his record. He made a terrible mistake," Smith said. "We've done a lot of work on his makeup, and we've had an awful lot of people tell us he's a very good teammate, he's a fierce competitor, he wants to win, and he's the first one to arrive at the ballpark every day."
Garza gives the Rays, who need help for their rotation, a legitimate starter. One of the game's top prospects, Garza went 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 16 appearances, 15 starts, for Minnesota after he was called up right before the All-Star break.
"He's a guy we project to get a lot better quickly," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "We feel like we strengthened two areas of need, shortstop and starting pitching."
Garza was excited after speaking with Friedman.
"He's ready to roll. That's what I like to hear. He made me feel at home, and all I can feel is that things are pointed on the up and up," Garza said from his home in Fresno, Calif. "It'll be fun to see how it plays out."
Upset by his exclusion from the Opening Day roster in the spring, Garza threw 15 straight scoreless innings after he was promoted from Triple-A this year. He also made 10 appearances for Minnesota in 2006.
Friedman expects Bartlett to be the Opening Day shortstop and Garza to fit nicely next to Scott Kazmir and James Shields, two other young starters. The other two spots in the rotation will be open to competition in spring training.
"The trade is about the present, not the future. We're a better ballclub because of this deal," Friedman said. "To get good young players you have to give up something good, and that's what we did."
Garza was Minnesota's first-round draft pick in 2005, and the hard-throwing righty out of Fresno State breezed through the minors to earn time with the Twins the following season.
His velocity reaches the mid-90 mph range, but the 24-year-old has frustrated his coaches and managers the past two years by relying too much on his fastball without mixing in enough off-speed and breaking pitches to be effective in the majors.
He is 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA in 26 appearances -- including 24 starts -- with the Twins. He has issued 55 walks in 133 innings, and opponents have hit .297 against him.
The good news for Garza is that Tampa Bay plays at Minnesota only twice in 2008, April 16-17. He is 1-10 with a 5.91 ERA in 13 career appearances at the Metrodome.
The Bartlett-for-Harris shortstop section of the swap gives the Twins a 27-year-old in exchange for a 28-year-old. In his first full season as a starter, Harris hit .286 with 12 homers, 35 doubles and 59 RBIs in 521 at-bats. From 2004-06, he played for three teams: the Cubs, Expos/Nationals and Reds.
"You've got to produce," Harris said. "It's an offensive game now. Everybody's got to pull their weight at the dish. At the same time, I view myself as a solid defensive player."
Bartlett was a late bloomer who finally became a regular when he was called up in June 2006. He gave the lineup a legitimate spark that year and batted .309 in 333 at-bats for a playoff-bound team. Like many of the Twins, though, he slumped in 2007 and finished with a .265 average, five homers, 43 RBIs and 23 steals in 510 at-bats. He made 26 errors. Harris had only 11 errors last season.
Pridie, a center fielder, was taken by the Twins in the 2005 winter meeting draft. When he didn't make the team out of spring training he was returned to Tampa Bay and spent the past two seasons in the minors.
Friedman called the right-handed Morlan "one of the best young bullpen prospects out there."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.