This is an amazing deal for the Twins.

They were able to trade Carlos Gomez for J.J. Hardy ,and they didn't even have to throw in Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra! So the Santana trade still has a chance to be a success!

Seriously, this is a smart move, or at least a worthwhile what-the-heck trade of two players coming off terrible years.

Hardy had a slightly higher OPS and plays a more important position, shortstop, one the Twins have been trying to fill since they made one of the great mistakes in franchise history and let Greg Gagne leave in free agency.

It's dicey to trade for a National League player and assume he'll perform better in a superior league, but if Hardy can come anywhere close to his performances in 2007 and 2008, he'll be exactly the kind of player the Twins have been trying to find _ a productive righthanded hitter who can hold down a spot on the left side of the infield.

This also opens the way for the Twins to give Delmon Young every opportunity to become an impact player. I don't have any faith in the guy, but there is enough talent there to justify giving him one last chance to play every day. Now the outfield is set with Denard Span in center, Michael Cuddyer in right and Young in left. If Young fails, the Twins can move Jason Kubel to the outfield and find a DH, or go looking for an outfielder, which is easier than trying to find a power-hitting shortstop.

Say this for Bill Smith: As reticent and cautious as he seems in conversation, he's not afraid to make deals. Even terrible deals.

I gave the Twins the benefit of the doubt the day they traded Santana, figuring, with their track record of fleecing other teams in similar deals, they must have a hidden gem coming back from the Mets. As it turns, out they took the ``best deal on the table'' when the Red Sox and Yankees backed away.

It was a rookie GM mistake, partially caused by manager Ron Gardenhire's insistence that he didn't want Santana's trade status as a distraction in his clubhouse. I think the Twins could use more ``distractions'' with 2-something ERAs.

Now we know the Twins should have turned down the Mets and gone into the season with Santana, knowing that they would either get another year of having a true ace, or one of the big-money teams would eventually come back with a better offer.

If you want to be an optimist, you can say that if Hardy again plays at an All-Star caliber level, he will be as helpful to the Twins as many of the players they tried to get from the Red Sox and Yankees in the Santana talks.

But this deal is confirmation that Gomez, the supposed jewel of the Santana trade, was an abject bust, a raw talent who displayed no ability to refine his skills. I liked the guy, liked that he played hard, loved the way he went after balls in the outfield, but his approach at the plate and his knuckleheaded plays doomed his Twins career.

Upcoming: I'm covering the Gophers-Illinois game (my please-don't-bet-money-on-this pick: Gophers 38, Illinois 31), then hosting Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on KSTP am-1500. I have a few guests lined up to talk NFL, Vikings, NBA basketball, the Wolves and the Wild, and I'll tell you what I saw at the Gophers game.

This is a rare weekend where I get to watch all the NFL games on TV, which means I'll be asleep on my couch by 3 p.m.

I'm still recovering from working with Russo all day Thursday at the Wild game. is there such a thing as second-hand caffeine? I'm still shaking.

As you were.





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