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.