At this point last December, Terry Ryan had made the following offseason roster moves: picked up Torii Hunter's option, picked up Carlos Silva's option and signed free agent Jeff Cirillo to a one-year contract to serve as a backup 1B/3B/DH. As exciting as that flurry of activity was, I think it's safe to say that it pales in comparison to the list of moves Bill Smith has made here in his inaugural winter at the helm of the Twins. Already he has pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal to bring Delmon Young to Minnesota, signed a pair of free agents who are slated to be starters in the infield, and gotten the Twins involved in trade talks with numerous clubs regarding ace pitcher Johan Santana. At this point, it appears likely that the Twins will have new starters manning at least five positions in 2008, and that's the type of shakeup that was needed for an offense that was one of the league's most stagnant in 2007.
Smith has been aggressive to be sure, but that's not to say I'm wild about the moves he's made. I felt that the Twins gave up too much talent in the trade with the Rays. Adam Everett (or "Neverhitt," as we'll likely be calling him in a few months) is a wonderful defensive player but does nothing to solve this team's offensive problems. Mike Lamb is certainly an upgrade offensively at third base, but there are serious questions about his defense and his ability to produce in the lineup as a regular. Craig Monroe will make more money than any mediocre fourth outfielder rightfully should. With all that being said, I'm not overly upset about any of the moves Smith has made and I think they all fit into an intelligent overarching plan that will give the Twins a chance to compete next year but is more aimed at putting the team in position to succeed in the long-term.
To me, the Twins' chances of competing next season are almost completely dependent on whether or not Santana is traded. Despite the tough nature of the AL Central these days, it'd be hard to count out a Twins team with a talented young rotation led by baseball's most dominant starting pitcher. The Twins can be especially dangerous if their offense is above-average, which would be possible with great campaigns from Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Young to go along with competent performances elsewhere. If Santana is gone, it's tough to see this team hanging around with the big boys, unless Francisco Liriano is a lot better than I expect him to be.
In most circles, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Santana will be dealt, likely within the next couple weeks. I'm a little skeptical at this point. Unless one of the bidding teams ups its offer, I could see the Twins hanging onto Santana and re-evaluating in July. And as much as I've been opposed to that notion in the past, perhaps it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.
I guess my feelings about the overall job Smith has done so far this offseason can best be described as lukewarm. He's still got some work to do, and he's got plenty of time to do it. We'll see what else he has up his sleeve.