Bill Smith: The Pickup Artist

  • Blog Post by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson
  • February 6, 2010 - 4:56 PM


I ... am ... struggling ... to .. write ... these ... words ... I WAS WRONG!

Below is a portion of the foreword that I wrote for the "TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook", which is a must read for any die-hard Twins fan.

Former Twins general manager Terry Ryan on the day Bill Smith became his successor: "Bill was ready [to become a GM] 10 years ago. There isn't a thing he hasn't done ... If some of these owners had come and talked to Bill, he'd have blown them away."

While possibly true, the only blowing he's done so far is the two major trades he's pulled off. Ray Matt Garza is one of the 15 best starters in the American League and SS Jason Bartlett was the team MVP in 2008 and performed admirably when healthy in 2009. Outifelder Delmon Young -- the new Mr. October -- has been a head-scratcher. He can tease like few others,but has enough what-was-he-doing at-bats and defensive mishaps to be labeled a disappointment so far.

There is much debate as to whether the Red Sox & Yankees were truly in the mix for SP Johan Santana, or if Smith only had the Mets to deal with. Even so, two years in, the wrong prospects were gotten from GM Omar Minaya. Smith is also infamous for his free-agent signings of SS Adam Everett, 3B Mike Lamb, and RP Luis Ayala. The two-year, $9 million dollar contract handed to infielder Nick Punto is also highly questionable as is keeping relief pitcher Bobby Keppel around a bit too long this year.

Now, Smith is no Bill Bavasi (only GM in history to lose 100 games with a $100 million payroll -- '08 Mariners). He deserves to be lauded for the Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Jason Kubel, Scott Baker, and Michael Cuddyer contract extensions, the acquisitions the last two years of relievers Craig Breslow and Jon Rauch, and shortstop Orlando Cabrera, and the signings of first-round picks Aaron Hicks (OF) andKyle Gibson (SP) and international phenom SS/3B Miguel Angel Sano.

That’s the good and bad of Smith, and yet, everything above will be far from the lead when discussing his Twins' legacy one day. Paragraph one, heck page one, will involve what happens this offseason, the biggest in recent team memory.

In retrospect, I was too hard on Smith. This offseason, he has kicked ass. While the local TV report that American League MVP Joe Mauer had agreed to a 10-year extension was extremely premature, the move will eventually happen. In the end, it very well may not be a 10-year deal, but six or seven more years of Mauer, regardless of the financial commitment, is a superb move.

Acquiring three former All-Stars -- Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy, and Jim Thome -- to go along with the free-agent signing of reliever Clay Condrey and the re-signing of Carl Pavano guarantees the Twins nothing in 2010. There are no guarantees with a team that has lost 16 of their last 19 playoff games -- including nine straight.

No matter, it's all about putting the team in the best position to win. Smith has done that. Smith deserves credit for recognizing the issues at second base -- they statistically had the worst set of second basemen in all of baseball in 2009 -- for trading center fielder Carlos Gomez while he still has some value, and for convincing Thome, who can still destroy right-handed pitchers, to sign for only $1.5 million.

Imagine the public relations nightmare if the Twins, with the new ballpark, didn't increase the payroll. They have not only increased it; they have exceeded anyone's reasonable expectations. The Twins' opening day payroll last year was $65 million. This year it will be near $96 million.

According to the Chinese Zodiac (in my head after a great lunch at "U Garden" on Friday), Smith is a "Dog." Among many traits, Dogs work well with others. Smith certainly has done that this offseason, which is something I initially had little faith in. And for that Mr. Smith, I apologize.


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