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Gun-shy Bill Smith

Bill Smith has been the Twins' General Manager for just over a year now. In that time he has pulled off two major trades.

Both of those deals came last offseason, and neither has been looked upon particularly favorably by the fans. In trading Johan Santana to the Mets, Smith gave up a fan favorite and got in return a package of ho-hum prospects.

We've all seen the talent that Carlos Gomez possesses. However, we also know how raw that talent is. He is only 23, leaving plenty of time for him to mature and grow as a player; but, with that said, there is still a chance he will never realize his full potential and, as a result, become a bust.

The rest of the players received in the Santana trade are even less inspiring than Gomez. The prize jewel of the trade, Deolis Guerra, struggled mightily playing A ball for Fort Myers last season. While he may be only 19 years old and immensely talented, that doesn't make Twins fans any less anxious to see a return for Santana. If he has another down year in the low minors, fans are going become even more restless.

The other two pitchers received in the trade, Kevin Mulvey and Philip Humber, have, at times, been considered top prospects. However, after Tommy John surgery for Humber, and a couple of down years for Mulvey, neither is projected as anything better than a decent middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, at best.

Time has yet to tell on this trade, and in the next couple years we will know, for certain, whether this deal was success or a failure.

The other trade Smith pulled off last winter, Delmon Young, etc. for Matt Garza, etc. has been seen as an even bigger bust than the Santana deal. This is mostly because of the publicity Garza and Jason Bartlett received due to the Rays run to the World Series.

Viewing this trade as a bust, however, is unfair to Smith.

Garza and Bartlett have both been vastly overrated in their time with the Rays. Garza, for Tampa Bay, showed the same thing he showed with the Twins: erratic talent. He just happened harness himself, and pitch his best games, in the playoffs. He was, however, very similar to Young last year: a talented young player that showed glimpses of that talent, but ultimately finished with a mediocre season. And Bartlett, quite simply, may have been the most overrated player in baseball. He had a bad season offensively, and contrary to popular belief, was far from spectacular with the glove.

The perception has been that because Young struggled, and the Rays made the World Series, this was a terrible deal for the Twins. The reality is, however, that the jury is still out on this trade just as much as the Santana deal.

This is not all to say that Smith has done an excellent, or even good, job running the Twins during his tenure. This offseason has been almost inexcusably bad. The reason for that may very well be Smith's trepidation about making another big deal that is frowned upon by fans.

The Twins desperately need a third baseman with power. It is fairly obvious at this point that one won't be found in the free agent market. It is time to make a deal, and give up some of the young starting pitching. At some point, stockpiling young talent becomes pointless if you aren't going to use it to improve.

The Twins have always been the team to trade their stars for young players. Well now it's time to flip the script. The Twins have the young players, they need the right-handed bat, and it's time to pull the trigger.

The central division is very winnable. The Twins are just an Adrian Beltre away from doing so.

Written By: Eric Johnson
Look for his column every Tuesday and check out his blog at http://www.juiceandthekicker.blogspot.com

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