It’s about damn time.
After sitting idle for most of the offseason, the Minnesota Twins finally addressed the most glaring hole on the team’s roster by inking former White Sox third baseman Joe Crede to an incentive-laden, one-year contract.
According to Twins official website, the deal is worth $2.5 million and includes incentives that could push the final value of the deal to $7 million. There is no doubt that if Crede, an All-Star in 2008, can stay healthy and reach those incentives he will be worth every penny.
The signing comes as a surprise to many after the Twins ended negotiations with Crede’s agent, Scott Boras, earlier this month. Boras—up to his usual tactics—kept raising his request for a base salary, going from a reasonable $5 million to $7 million, despite a barren market for Crede’s services.
Never a team to get suckered into outbidding themselves—or often bidding at all—the Twins walked away.
As the Twins reported to Fort Myers this week, it seemed that a reprise of last year’s unexpectedly productive Brendan Harris/Brian Buscher platoon at third base was a lock.
On Friday night, however, talks between Boras and the Twins heated up again and a deal was struck rather quickly. Apparently sitting at home during Spring Training makes some ballplayers a little uncomfortable.
If Crede can stay healthy this season, he will fill a major need for the Twins as a power-hitting third baseman. His right-handed bat will fit nicely in the heart of the order to break-up the club’s trio of lefties Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Jason Kubel.
Unfortunately, despite his power, Crede doesn’t offer much in the way of batting average or on-base skills. This comes through in his .257/.306/.447 career line which is boosted a bit thanks to playing the bulk of his games in Chicago’s bandbox stadium.
If there is a silver-lining, it’s that he did improve both his walk and strikeout percentages last year, posting career-bests in both. This could be a sign that he’s maturing as a hitter and gaining better command of the plate or it could have been a fluke due to a less-aggressive approach at the plate while dealing with a back injury. Only time will tell which is the true story behind last year’s improvements.
Making up for his short-comings on offense is the fact that Crede—again, if healthy—will prove even more valuable on defense. Throughout his career Crede has earned a reputation as an elite defender at the hot corner, and as advanced statistics continue to improve our ability to objectively evaluate a player’s defensive contributions, Crede’s defensive value has grown increasingly more apparent and quantifiable. Needless to say, improved defense at the hot corner is something the Twins’ pitching staff will appreciate.
All of Crede’s upside is counterbalanced by his recent injury woes. Crede has had two major back surgeries in the last two seasons. He hit .248/.314/.460 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs last season for the White Sox. But the All-Star played sparingly in the second half because of recurring back trouble, which also limited him to just 47 games in 2007.
In short, he’s a great defender and he’s got some serious pop. This is good. On the flip-side, he doesn’t hit for average, get on base at a good clip, and he’s missed 177 games in the last two seasons.
On paper this is a good, safe signing for the Twins with the potential for some serious upside. Admittedly, that comes with the caveat that Crede must prove he is 100% healthy in spring training and stay that way to have a major impact. If he is unable to avoid the injury bug the team is only out his $2.5 million base salary and can roll with the surprisingly effective Harris/Buscher platoon who combined to hit .274 with 11 home runs and 96 RBIs last season.
The team would undoubtedly prefer Crede stay healthy all year, play incredible defense at the hot corner, post offensive numbers similar to his career best 2006, and solidify third base in a way the club hasn’t seen since Corey Koskie departed after the 2004 campaign.
All that’s left to do now is sit back and see if Crede’s back is up to the task.