The Twins made their first offseason addition yesterday, acquiring outfielder Craig Monroe from the Cubs for a player to be named later. Monroe is a notorious Twins killer, having posted a career line of .322/.356/.544 against Minnesota during his years with Detroit which dwarfs his overall line of .256/.303/.446.
While it's not known yet what the Twins will give up for Monroe, it seems clear that it won't be much of anything. The Cubs were almost certain to non-tender the arbitration-eligible Monroe, so they had no leverage to command anything in a trade.
In that respect, this is a low-risk deal. The big problem here is money. Monroe had a brutally bad 2007 campaign, hitting .219/.268/.370 while making $4.8 million. Entering his final year of arbitration, Monroe would likely make a similar amount next season. Speculation is that the Twins will either try to negotiate a deal that pays him less, or they will non-tender him. This much is certain: despite the fact that they will likely have some money to burn this offseason, the Twins can't afford to pay a fourth outfielder $5 million, nor can they afford to depend on Monroe in any sort of significant capacity if they are serious about fielding a more competitive team in 2008.
The acquisition of Monroe has garnered some Tony Batista comparisons, which is frightening yet understandable:
Craig Monroe (career): .256/.303/.446
Tony Batista (career): .251/.293/.453
Monroe does not generally hit for a good average and his on-base skills are obviously lacking, but his power is enticing. His .446 career slugging percentage is no great shakes, but had he posted it for the Twins last year he would have ranked fourth on the team in that category. (Of course, one of those who'd have been above him, Torii Hunter, is on his way out the door.) Monroe has hit 20 or more home runs three times in his five-year career; with Hunter and Rondell White gone the Twins have a total of four 20+ homer seasons among players on their rosters (three of which belong to Justin Morneau).
When Bill Smith made his first move as a general manager by dropping a few lesser players on the team's roster, including Lew Ford, I said that the key would be finding superior players to replace the ones that were dropped. Monroe qualifies as a significant offensive upgrade over the departed Ford as a fourth outfielder. This acquisition could be a good one, but it depends on several conditions. If the Twins plan to pay Monroe anywhere close to $5 million or plan on making him a regular player at any position, then this deal could be a disaster of Batista-esque proportions. If they can get his price down to a couple million bucks while using him as a backup and perhaps a platoon-type at DH or left field, he could be a useful player and a much-needed power threat off the bench.