When Bill Smith took over as Twins' GM back in 2007, he wasted no time in completing his first roster purge, removing Josh Rabe, Luis Rodriguez, Lew Ford and Tommy Watkins from the 40-man roster just weeks after the regular season came to an end. I lauded the move at the time, noting that Smith was immediately "trimming the fat" and creating space on the roster for more useful players. Terry Ryan had a tendency during his years as GM to allow marginal players to occupy valuable roster spots for entirely too long, so this initial move by Smith seemed to bode well.
Indeed, Smith has subsequently shown a willingness to part with players, even if doing so reflects poorly on his earlier judgment. This was displayed perhaps most prominently when the Twins cut the disappointing Mike Lamb midway through the 2008 season despite having him signed through '09, forcing the club to eat millions in remaining salary. This offseason, we've already seen the organization part ways with Philip Humber and R.A. Dickey, and yesterday the team outrighted Brian Buscher from the 40-man roster.
It's no secret that I've always had a soft spot for Buscher; I certainly think he can serve a purpose if used correctly and I wouldn't have minded him as the left-handed side of a third-base platoon this past year. He's a patient hitter who makes good contact and often provides quality at-bats off the bench. Yet, he's not a strong defender at third base, doesn't have the speed to pinch-run and can't hit left-handed pitching. There's no denying that there are much better uses for a roster spot than a player with a skill-set as limited as Buscher's. There's a chance he could remain with the organization, but I suspect he'll look to get a fresh start elsewhere and I wish him the best if that's the path he chooses.
The goal now, as always, is finding a superior player to fill Buscher's spot on the 40-man roster. There was some thought yesterday that the Buscher move would serve as the prelude to an acquisition of Akinori Iwamura, who sources in Tampa Bay had reported was on the verge of being traded. Midway through the afternoon, though, it was revealed that Iwamura was headed to the Pirates. That scratches one high-ranking option off our list of potential upgrades at second base for the coming season.
In any case, Buscher's departure leaves an open spot on the 40-man roster, and a few more could open up in the near future depending one what happens with impending free agents Orlando Cabrera, Joe Crede, Mike Redmond, Ron Mahay and Carl Pavano, not to mention others like Buscher who are candidates to be outrighted.