Has this been Bill Smith's best move?

All winter Twins fans were impatiently waiting for Bill Smith to do something.  We needed a top short reliever.  We needed a power hitting third baseman who batted from the right side.  Fans weren't very patient, but Bill Smith was.

Bill Smith was confident that a third base platoon of Brian Buscher and Brendon Harris would be acceptable.  Yet, he continued to monitor the health of Joe Crede.  We all know who represents Joe Crede and that his agent had high expectations for a large, multi year contract.  As the winter moved on towards spring, options for Crede thinned as Bill Smith and the Twins continued to show up and watch him work out.

With spring training only days away, Crede and his agent accepted what Bill Smith and the Twins were willing to incentive laden one year contract at a base salary of $2.5mm with an additional $4.5mm incentives beginning at 250 plate appearances and maxing out at 525. 

Bill Smith's patience and tenacity paid off as the Twins got an excellent defensive third baseman who swings from the right side with some power.  Crede is providing exactly what the Twins hoped for and appears on track to hit around .250 Average with 25 or so home runs.  At his current pace he will earn most, if not all, of his incentives...between $6.5mm and $7.0mm. 

Only time will tell whether or not Crede will continue playing as he has, will stay healthy and whether or not the Twins will be in the playoffs.  But it is clear that Mr. Smith played his hand well with Crede and his agent.

But what does the future hold?  It was clear that Crede agreed to this one year deal in an effort to prove to all teams that he was healthy to earn a bigger long-term payday next winter.  Will the Twins be at the table when negotiations begin anew this November?

Odds are low the Twins would sign Crede to a three or four year deal at $10mm a season or more.  But don't be surprised when the Twins offer arbitration this November.  Should Crede accept, the Twins would end up paying market value for another year of Joe Crede while Danny Valencia gets himself ready to be their every day third baseman. 

But it is likely Crede wouldn't accept arbitration.  And this is what makes Bill Smith's actions last winter a real winner.  I expect that with another solid year, Joe Crede will be a Type-A free agent.  If so, the Twins will receive a first or second round pick from the team signing Crede and a supplemental first round selection. 

Yes, we were unhappy for much of the winter as Bill Smith held his cards close to his chest.  In the end, the Twins got an all-star third baseman for 2009 on an incentive laden contract and very likely two high draft picks in the 2010 draft.  Now that, in my opinion, is an excellent deal and probably the best Mr. Smith has done since taking control of this organization.


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