Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crede Can You Take The Twins "Higher"?

Photo from Getty Images
At long last the Twins made a signing that made sense today.

General Manager Bill Smith nabbed oft-injured Joe Crede for one year that will pay the former White Sox third baseman $2.5 million plus incentives. With incentives, Crede's contract could add up to the $7 million which he was initially asking.

The signing comes a day before the mandatory Spring Training reporting date for position players.

Since the contract is incentive-laden, it's clear the Twins have made a sound decision after months of transaction stagnancy. With two clear needs heading out of 2008 (set-up relief pitching and third base), Smith appeared too timid or complacent over the winter months. He failed to land third base free agents Casey Blake (who signed with the Dodgers) or Ty Wigginton (Orioles). The Twins also missed on making a trade with the Cubs for Mark DeRosa (Indians).

In the meantime, Smith flirted with possible setup men, including Eric Gagne (Brewers), but settled on rather dismal-sounding retreads.

[On the contrary, I think Billy Beane's claim that relief pitchers -- particularily closers and setup men -- who come into games where the home team is already leading, are vastly overrated. My belief comes from my following of the Bill James school of statistics (and you can certainly read more about it here). Therefore, it's clear third base was more an issue for the Twins than filling Pat Neshek's goofy spot on the rubber. ]

Smith's crowning achievements this offseason were previously limited to re-signing Nick Punto, avoiding arbitration with Matt Grrrrr, and agreeing to a longer-term contract with Jason Kubel.

All may be well now. Crede has been a good player in the past.
Everything is relevant to his health, so keep this in mind. Each sentence written about Crede starts with: When healthy ...
  • Crede is a hell of a fielder.

  • Crede is a right-handed power hitter.

  • Crede plays like a Twins player, strong on fundamentals.

  • Crede could stabilize the Twins batting order and provide much the team has been missing.

  • Crede could man third base while we find out if Double-A prospect Luke Hughes is developing as hoped.

  • Crede is a former White Sox player and could provide a certain leadership lift if the two teams are stuck in a one-game situation again.

  • Crede is only 30 and could have a few extra years of strong play left in him.

Of course, each of those instances begin with a big "if".

Conversely, when Crede falls apart physically, Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris can fill in while the Twins avoid a masssive contract weighing them down.

In November I wrote about Crede being a poor choice for the Twins, but with all other major options heading to other teams, Crede's signing is more positive as March looms.

This is far better gamble than a Mike Lamb or Tony Batista aquisition.
At worst, this is a solid shot at improvement; at best, it could result in another trip to the American League playoffs.

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