Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Win For Bill Smith

Not many people are going out of their way to compliment Bill Smith right now. The Twins are on their way to a second-place finish in what was an eminently winnable division, and that has a lot to do with Smith's inability to get decent value back in the Johan Santana and Matt Garza trades, as well as his inability to find adequate talent to surround the team's outstanding offensive core.

There is one offseason move, however, that Smith deserves credit for, and that's the Joe Crede signing.

Now, I'm not saying Smith deserves credit for simply signing Crede. I don't think that the acquisition was all that elemental to the team's limited success this season. Crede -- who apparently is done for the year -- will have played in just over half the team's games while providing a pitifully low AVG/OBP along with sporadic power. Was Crede better than a platoon of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher, or whatever other internal options the Twins might have produced? Probably, mostly because of his defense. But I have a hard time viewing him as any sort of great, hugely meaningful acquisition.

What Smith deserves credit for is signing Crede to the right type of contract. By all accounts, Crede's notoriously devious agent Scott Boras was initially seeking at least $7 million guaranteed for his client's services in 2009. Many fans were on board with simply splurging and giving Crede the contract right away, noting that the Twins were under budget and likely wouldn't have ended up spending that extra money anyway. While both those things might have been true, I opposed such a signing because to me, a bad contract is a bad contract and those should never be advocated. Smith seemingly felt the same way, because he waited out Boras for several weeks until the price for the oft-injured third baseman came down. Finally, Boras' attempts to play the Twins against the Giants (neither of whom seemed to be adamantly interested in signing Crede) failed and Smith was able to tab Crede to a one-year deal worth only $2.5 million guaranteed, with playing time incentives that could bring him to his originally desired $7 million total.

Crede was reasonably healthy over the first couple months of the season, but as was almost inevitable he broke down after a few months and will likely end the year having appeared in fewer games than he did last year with the White Sox. While he was able to earn about $1.5 million in incentives on top of his base salary, he'll come about $3 million short of the $7 million sum he was reportedly seeking initially. That $3 million may not seem like much to the casual fan who sees millions of payroll dollars thrown around all over the place, but the Twins are a frugal team -- let's not forget that they were willing to take a huge PR and negative clubhouse hit just to shed a few million dollars by trading Luis Castillo at the 2007 deadline. Had they been locked into Crede for his original demand, would the Twins have been as willing to take on the extra salary of guys like Carl Pavano and Jon Rauch, both of whom could be contributors on next year's club as well?

In the end, it's tough to be overly upset about what Crede gave the 2009 Twins, as long as your expectations were properly scaled. He hit some home runs, he played some good defense, and he'll end up missing a huge chunk of the year. From a fan's perspective, it might not matter much whether he was providing this production for $7 million or $4 million. From the front office's perspective, it could matter quite a bit.

8 comments:

Mr Bill Zmith said...

Thanks Nick! Yeah, that's why they hire me, them Pohlad bros.. Read my lips: in the end Cabrera will sign my proposal. I will sit down and wait. I can wait, I'm still waiting for Ron Shapiro to call me. I will hang in there. Lost some pounds but lost no patience.

Jesse H said...

I don't want to be captain bringdown but your standards are pretty low for Bill Smith here. He signs Joe Crede who ends up being the 24th ranked 3B in the league (http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting/_/position/3b/sort/OPS/order/true/minpa/350) and you applaud him because he didn't get ripped off for the poor performance. For the same amount of money and a couple of A ball prospects we could have landed DeRosa who is ranked 16th. For the same amount of money but just 2 extra years we could have gotten Blake who is the 8th ranked 3B. But congrats to Bill Smith for not getting ripped off on a guy that gave about 1/2 a season, a little power, and some nice defense. By the way, they have such confidence that Danny Valencia is the solution next year that they are not calling him up during garbage time to get a taste in the majors.

Nick N. said...

You're preaching to the choir. I never really wanted Crede to begin with. I'm just so used to seeing Smith get ripped off that it's nice to see him... not get ripped off for once.

Schruender said...

It's safe to call the Garza trade the Garza and Bartlett trade now. He's been a beast for almost a full season in Tampa. Maybe if Bartlett was playing shortstop there wouldn't be an O-Cab resigning issue or maybe they would have the opportunity to move someone to third in lieu of Crede.

lookatthosetwins said...

Jesse, Please don't look solely at espn's batting statistics and declare Derosa a better player. Derosa also has missed time with injury, and when he is in the lineup, is a much worse defender. Crede was well worth the amount of money spent on him, and he did have upside past his production. If they can get him on a similar deal next year, I say sign him, and use the rest of your resources at finding a decent shortstop. (Not OCab).

P said...

For what it's worth, the WAR listings at Fangraphs have Crede (slightly) higher than DeRosa, as well as Adrian Beltre, another name that was bandied about last winter. In fact, they have his value this year at 8.2 million, so praising Smith for not getting ripped off seems pretty appropriate. The Cabrera trade, on the other hand, has been a rip-off (he's listed at negative 2.0 million so far with the Twins this year...ouch!)

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