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Should the Twins Bring Back Joe Crede?

Last February, Scott Boras client Joe Crede dropped his asking price enough for the Twins to sign him to an incentive-laden deal. He was exactly as advertised, from the glove to the power to the number of games he was healthy, but with the Twins going into 2010 with third base in essentially the same position it was at going into 2009, should the Twins double-dip on their experiment?

Okay, so the situation isn't exactly the same. Crede will be another year older with another injury-plagued season under his back belt, there are a pair of third base prospects that are nearly major league ready (Are they the next Casey Blake / Corey Koskie tandem? No? Right, then.) and the alternatives will be a bit more expensive. But in spite of all those things, the team is still in a similar position as they don't have the one sure answer that they need.

His '09 deal of $2.5 million base with playing time incentives ($50,000 for 400, 425, 450, 475, 500 and 525 plate appearances) and award incentives made his possible payout a reasonable $7,000,000. Suffice it to say he didn't reach any of those, so the Twins paid just the minimum. But according to the FanGraphs value scale, they still believe that Crede would have been worth $8.3 million on the open market for the performance he gave this past summer. How? Because of his defense and the position he plays, and did I mention his defense, Crede was worth 18.4 runs above replacement.

Among third basemen with at least 350 plate appearances, FanGraphs values Crede's defensive performance as fifth-best in all of baseball (behind Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre) in terms of fielding runs above avearge. He also tallied the highest UZR/150 total among third basemen with more than 700 innings in the field.

Long story short? Crede plays some wicked defense. Arguably better than any third baseman on the free agent market.

Joe knows the Twins, and isn't opposed to returning to Minnesota next year. Would playing more regularly on a non-artificial surface play less havoc on his back and knees?

2009 - Joe Crede 90 333 42 75 16 1 15 48 29 56 0 0 .225 .289 .414

We all know the risks involved with Crede, which means the game would be all about how to mitigate those risks to both the player and the club. That means possibly giving him scheduled days off to keep his body as fresh and healthy as possible, not to mention offering a contract that resembles the 2009 version that will pay for good health.

Other free agent options are likely to cost more than Crede. Internal options may not be the health risk, but none of them can flash the leather like Crede, either.

What would you rather do? A Brendan Harris/Matt Tolbert platoon would cost a little less, but not significantly less than a $2.5 million base. Another thought: when (not if) Daniel Valencia gets his callup in 2010, what kind of a player do you want available as a mentor?

There's merit in considering Crede's return, it would just have to meet the right criteria. Where do you sit?