And the Bill Smith era begins with....well, a kind of queasy feeling.
The rumored trade for outfielder Craig Monroe is going to be spun as a risk-taking move, and maybe even a steal. It will be taken as a sign that the Twins are willing to part with minor league talent to win now. Focus will be place on Monroe’s 30 home run power and RBI ability in 2006, and on the effect injuries had on him last year. But most of all, Monroe’s right-handed bat will look like a possible replacement for Torii Hunter’s offensive production.
And all of these are kind of true.
But there are other truths, too, and they’re truths that lead to a queasy feeling inside. Starting with:
Monroe is not as good as his numbers.
Simply put, Monroe is a right-handed version of Jacque Jones. His power is balanced out by his lack of plate discipline, and his numbers were enhanced by where he was hitting in Detroit’s lineup. In 2006, he hit 28 home runs and tallied 89 RBI, both impressive totals. He also hit just .255 and got on base at just a .301 clip. If you’ve been pining for those all-or-nothing at-bats that Jacque used to take, you’re going to like Mr. Monroe.
He’s older than you think.
Monroe burst onto the scene with Detroit just a couple of years ago, so it’s easy to think of him as a prospect. He’s not. He’s going to be 31 by the time spring training starts and one way or the other his decline started last year, when he hit just .219. Whether that was due to the patellar tendonitis and back problems, his age, or some combination of both doesn’t really matter. Either way, there’s no real upside here beyond 2008.
Believe it or not, the Twins came into this offseason with money to burn, having something like $25 million that they could throw at free agents or retaining players like Hunter. Monroe is now going to take up at least $5 million of that, unless they have the foresight to insist that they negotiate a contract with him prior to the trade, which is REALLY unlikely to have happened for a player of his stature.
He’s likely not worth the prospect they gave up.
If the Twins gave up anything more than a warm bucket of spit, they likely got rooked in this deal. If Monroe wasn’t traded, he was going to be non-tendered and would have been available on the free agent market. It’s unlikely the Twins would’ve had to pay him the salary they’ll need to now if they had gone that path.
The only real positive news here is that the Twins have reduced their risk level a bit if Hunter leaves. But they did so by acquiring a bargain level veteran who isn’t as good as his stats, with very little upside, who they’re likely paying too much. And so Twins fans are left hoping that the Twins know something that we don’t. Or we’re left trusting that the Twins scouting is doing a better job than they’ve done the last couple years with similar players.
Or we’re left embracing a slightly familiar queasy feeling.