For many years, the Minnesota Twins have been correctly perceived as a frugal (read: "cheap") organization that was typically unwilling to sign "name" free agents.
Forays into free agency have produced such busts as Livan Hernandez and Bret Boone. These were scrap-heap signings and reclamation projects at best. In the case of Hernandez, there was reason to believe he could eat innings as a starting pitcher. Instead, he spent too much time eating other things.
With a new stadium opening in 2010, there is a fair expectation that the Twins will be willing to spend more money in the name of fielding a competitive team. With the way this organization develops talent, it's not about buying expensive free agents with eye-popping contracts. It's more about keeping the players they develop for more than just their arbitration years.
Saturday, the Twins signed third baseman Joe Crede to a one-year deal. It's not a huge investment, as they are only paying Crede $2.5 million guaranteed for this season. The only way it becomes a huge investment (up to $7 million) is if Crede stays healthy and is productive enough to justify having him in the lineup practically every day.
Of course, it's not a sure bet Crede will do any of this. He's been felled by back surgery each of the last two seasons. Agent Scott Boras, who could probably convince a team to sign a dead guy for $1 million plus incentives, says Crede is 100 percent. I'll believe it when Crede crosses that 525 at-bat barrier in his contract.
To do that, Crede not only has to prove he's healthy, but he has to prove that the last two seasons are nothing but a back-related aberration. My guess is that if Crede goes for anywhere near the .237/.293/.412 he's posted in 502 at-bats over 2007 and 2008, Twins fans will be seeing a lot of the Brian Buscher/Brendan Harris combination at third base. The Twins have shown a willingness to eat small one-year contracts in the past when they haven't been working out. They'll do it again with Crede if he doesn't give them any reason to keep him around.
This is, however, a huge positive for the Twins. They have had a need at third base for a long time. We can only hope that their decision to pursue Crede is a sign that the organization is more willing now to sign veterans to fill holes when they don't think they have the personnel on hand to do it. Crede is not a Livan Hernandez or a Bret Boone. He's a guy teams would have wanted at the right price, but he and Boras scared them off with demands of eight figures. The Twins waited it out, knowing no one would meet those kinds of demands for a guy off multiple back surgeries.
It's the right move at the right time. Now, the team benefits from a slugging third baseman who may just relish the opportunity to burn his former team 19 times in 2009.