In November of 2009, Bill Smith set the tone for an extremely active offseason when he traded Carlos Gomez to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy. It was a relatively major deal, and one that turned out well for the Twins, who got a quality -- though injury-shortened -- season from Hardy at shortstop while Denard Span took over in center field.
Of course, Smith's trades haven't always gone so smoothly. With his pattern of buying high and selling low, I can only hope he doesn't invest much money in the stock market. He's dealt away players like Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Wilson Ramos and Hardy only to watch them thrive elsewhere; meanwhile, acquisitions such as Delmon Young, Matt Capps, Jim Hoey and the entire Johan Santana package have largely fizzled in Minnesota.
But it's not just Smith's history of getting fleeced that has me believing the Twins would be wise to stay away from the trade market this offseason. Based on the current roster composition and state of the franchise, I don't see any players that the team both can and should be dealing away.
Among those with movable contracts, there are few on the major-league roster with meaningful trade value. It's not hard to see the Twins shopping Francisco Liriano this offseason, but they'd be getting rid of him with his value at a low point; as mentioned earlier, this is a habit Smith must get away from. The same goes for potential trade candidates like Kevin Slowey (who's probably as likely to get non-tendered as traded), Danny Valencia and Denard Span.
One could point to Carl Pavano and his $8 million salary as an expendable asset, but the veteran righty led the team in innings pitched by 60 frames this year. With so much ongoing health uncertainty in the rotation, it's tough to argue that Pavano is dispensable unless the return is very appealing.
Of course, the Twins could look to the minors for prospects to package in a trade, but should they really be doing that? While it's not unthinkable that the team could return to contention next year with a lot of good breaks, the front office should really be building with an eye toward 2013 and 2014, when their next wave of organizational talent will be nearing the majors. Trading away from that group for more immediate help simply wouldn't fit with the direction this organization should be going.
The Twins have a lot of needs to fill, but they lack areas of strength from which it would be prudent to trade. Unless Smith can get uncharacteristically creative and pull a rabbit from a hat, I'd prefer to see the club upgrade its roster almost exclusively through free agency.
That can prove a challenging and expensive proposition, but fortunately they'll have some funds to work with this winter.