1. Does the addition of Joe Crede make the Twins substantially better, or are fans setting themselves up for disappointment?
Dan Wade (Bleacher Report): I think he does make the Twins substantially better, but with the way fans have greeted his signing, they may still be disappointed. Crede provides a defensive upgrade over anyone at third, save maybe Nick Punto, and could provide good power from third, which the Twins have lacked over the last few years.
Whether Crede finds his 2006 form or not, I like this signing. It’s so low risk, and it doesn’t block a serious prospect (Danny Valencia, in my mind, is still a year or so away), and it could have solid upside.
Marty Andrade (Bleacher Report): Count me among the naysayers. At best, Crede forecasts as a light-hitting, average-fielding third baseman. At worst (and much more likely), this year should represent Crede's last year as a major league caliber player at barely above replacement level value. I would put his OPS under .700 and would put him just below the median point in Zone Rating and Range Factor on defense.
He's no better than a Brian Buscher/Brendan Harris platoon, and I think he represents a downgrade from Matt Macri, who is ready for a long look in the majors. By midseason the Twins will be embarrassed by the left side of their infield. The money spent on Crede was wasted.
Nick Nelson (Nick and Nick’s Twins Blog): I would definitely tend toward the latter. Crede is a fine player and, if healthy, fully capable of improving the team's performance at third base, but Twins fans in general seem to be viewing him as much more than he really is: a mediocre hitter and strong fielder who carries major injury concerns.
If he can stay on the field, Crede probably gives the Twins more at third base than a Harris/Buscher platoon, but the difference isn't as huge as many seem to believe.
Andrew Kneeland (Bleacher Report/Twins Fix): It is a huge addition, but not worthy of all the praise fans are giving it. For a historically stoic-during-offseason franchise, any move is a big deal, and Crede is a big name. The added power and defense will make the team better, but it does not vault them to "World Series Contenders." Not yet anyway...
Josh Johnson (Josh’s Thoughts): This topic has been beaten to death ever since Joe Crede's name was thrown into the mix. I personally think that this improves our team quite a bit, but I don't think this is going to put us over the top. With that said, I believed we had the best team in the Central prior to the signing of Joe Crede, and I believe we have the best team after the signing of Joe Crede.
2. Should the Twins continue their pursuit of Juan Cruz, even if it means leaving Jose Mijares in AAA?
DW: Now that Boof Bonser is shelved for the year, Cruz becomes an even better signing. Outside of Nathan, the Twins don’t really have a true flamethrower, which every bullpen should have. Mijares is close, but there are concerns about his durability and I think those are well founded.
Cruz can now be had without moving Mijares, but even if Jose has to spend part of the year in AAA, the Twins should seriously be moving in Juan Cruz’s direction.
MA: Sure, pursuing Juan Cruz actually makes sense. This would seem to doom any deal. As for Mijares, we can't make too much of his limited action in the majors last year, and he still has options, so it makes complete sense to vet him some more at AAA.
NN: Cruz would represent a real, substantive upgrade for the bullpen, and I think he'd be a great acquisition. The tricky thing is that the D-Backs are going to want something decent in return to make the whole sign-and-trade process worth their while.
If the Twins can entice Arizona with an expendable player like Phil Humber, they should pull the trigger. If the Diamondbacks are requesting a valuable prospect, then the Twins should considering pulling back or else just signing Cruz straight up and parting with their draft pick.
AK: Heck yes the Twins should continue their pursuit. Mijares is still a young pitcher, and needs the extra fine-tuning anyway, so if he were forced to Rochester, that matter would settle itself. Cruz is the best free agent reliever available, and it would be great if the Twins could sign him to a two- or three-year deal. With Pat Neshek back next year, how deadly could the Twins' bullpen be?
JJ: Juan Cruz could be the "missing link" that this team is looking for. The offense seems quite a bit improved from last season, the rotation should be better after a year under their belts, and yet the bullpen is still of some concern to me.
Even though Mijares pitched outstanding last season, I don't think that he'll replicate those numbers, and a half-season in Rochester wouldn't hurt him at all. Adding Cruz would be a significant upgrade for our bullpen, which was our "Achilles' heel" in 2008.
3. How should the Twins honor Carl Pohlad? If you were asked to design one, what would your arm patch look like?
DW: Skip the montage and go for two moments of silence. One before opening day this year, and one before the first game in Target Field. As for the patch, two flags on the wings with 1987 and 1991 and a CP in the center. White type on black background just doesn’t seem right for Carl.
MA: The Tengu were mythological creatures who guarded the forests and mountains of Japan. They were fierce and skilled warriors, and soldiers often sought out Tengu in hopes of becoming great warriors themselves. They were considered both malevolent and honorable, but few who rendezvoused with them kept their sanity. As Tengu were to warriors, Carl Pohlad was to businessmen.
His business exploits are the stuff of legend. He once purchased a public transportation company, made it profitable, used government money to buy another business (an airline), and then sold the transportation company, now an empty husk of broken and failing equipment, back to the government. Some say he was playing the state of Minnesota for suckers from the beginning, and that's probably right.
When it came to the Twins, it must be remembered Pohlad was perfectly willing to contract the team when it was in his best interests. He was a great businessman, but he lacked loyalty or morals; he was all that was wrong with businessmen today. But under his watch the team enjoyed some of its greatest successes, along with a decade of darkness.
The patch I would design for Carl Pohlad would be of a Celtic Sword, gripped by a warrior, with a dollar bill skewered on the tip.
NN: Since I never met Pohlad and didn't know much about him as a person, I don't have much input on this topic. I thought the patch they wore in honor of Pohlad's wife, Eloise, a few years ago was pretty nice.
AK: A black circle with a white "C" and a white "P." Maybe a game or two dedicated to him during the regular season. Nothing more, nothing less. (Maybe they can play his "hip-hop" radio station during inning breaks. I wonder how many people would throw up...)
JJ: I'm not creative enough to post a reasonable answer for this. Probably just one that says "Thanks, Carl!" and has dollar signs, the new stadium, or two World Series rings on it or something.
4. Who will surprise us in Spring Training the way Denard Span did last year?
DW: Steven Tolleson is the guy I think is the most likely to break camp with the team, stealing the utility spot from Matt Tolbert. Danny Valencia will turn some heads too, but, like Span last year, will end up back in the minors irrespective of how well he plays.
MA: Danny Valencia, Steve Tolleson, and Trevor Plouffe should be the prospects to watch. All three are close to being major league ready. Luke Hughes might come into camp swinging a sweet bat, but the one guy everyone will probably miss is Matt Macri. The guy can hit and should be in top form. Age-wise he's at the peak of his production value.
Another guy to look forlornly at is Jason Pridie, who won't be playing for the Twins out of Spring Training unless there's some sort of terrible bus accident.
When putting my money on the one player I suspect most capable of a Span-like charge, Macri is the winner.
NN: My top candidates would be Steven Tolleson and Brock Peterson.
AK: I would keep a special eye on Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez. Both were not the most patient hitters last year, and reports are saying that their swings have matured greatly this past offseason, particularly Gomez's. It will be fun to see them in action this year.
JJ: If Luke Hughes would be with the club throughout all of Spring Training, I think he would have opened up a lot of eyes with his bat. He's going to be playing for Team Australia, so it will be hard to get a good look at him when he could miss a few weeks with the team.
Other than him, I expect Steven Tolleson to surprise a lot of people. He's a guy who could have been our starting shortstop this season had he not missed some time last season, which forced him to remain in Double-A all season. I expect him to be talked about quite a bit this Spring.
Tolleson is a good all-around player who could very well start for us at some point this season. Many don't believe he needs a lot of seasoning in Triple-A, and I have even heard some people suggest that he could push Matt Tolbert for a spot on the roster.