Bill Smith, Minnesota Twins' GM Is Still Cutting the Fat

Ben LayneCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2008

Your Minnesota Twins will make some great acquisitions in the next couple of weeks.

Their names? Francisco Liriano and Michael Cuddyer.

Sure, there are rumors that this team is interested in former Twins reliever LaTroy Hawkins. If they do make this move, it will be a non-event, and may have an effect similar to that of having a former college roommate move in with you ostensibly until he “gets on his feet”, only to sleep on your couch for six months, eat all your food, and not contribute to the bills in any way.

The problem for the Twins is that all their couches, guest rooms, and perhaps even the roof of the house, are already filled with these kinds of guys. You could almost make a whole fraternity of guys on this team right now that are pillaging the fridge without making substantial contributions to this team’s chances of winning.

It’s a full house, and it’s about to get even more crowded.

The Twins' win against the White Sox last night was a major boon to their chances of clinching the division title. In addition to their strong—dare I say dominant—performance, the Cleveland Indians managed to shut out the Detroit Tigers, keeping the Tigers comfortably in the rear-view mirror, while the Twins attempt to bear down on the division-leading White Sox.

Ultimately, the Twins will rely on a (hopefully) good showing against the Sox in this series as proof to themselves, and the media, that they don’t need any more help to get to the postseason, beyond what they already have in their system.

In fact, the Twins might even wait until September call-ups to allow fans in the Metrodome to get another glimpse of Francisco Liriano. They will sell the return of Michael Cuddyer as the right-handed bat they sorely need to better handle lefty pitching, regardless of his numbers this season.

They will point to the return of Liriano as the boost to the pitching rotation everyone was clamoring for, and they will wait for either injury or the expansion of rosters in September to allow this “acquisition” to take place.

Unfortunately for the Twins' brass, while these might be good statements to send out in a press release or in an interview with the placating Star-Tribune writers, it’ll be a harder sell to not only the fans, but the players in the clubhouse.

Tough questions remain if the Twins stay on course and do not do anything to open holes for these players when they return to the Metrodome. Who’s the odd-man out when Cuddyer returns? Odds are OF Denard Span will be shipped back to Rochester, lest the Twins further damage OF Carlos Gomez’s supposedly fragile psyche.

There are more reasons for the Twins to continue hitching their wagon to the Carlos Gomez crazy train. Lest we forget, Gomez was the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade. Those who do not consider this fact when marveling at how long the Twins left Gomez unchecked in the leadoff spot do not understand this team’s strategy in terms of public relations, whatsoever.

Contrary to what the Twins' organization might try to tell the media, and thus, the fans, the Twins are keenly aware of public perception and desperately try to control public perception through nothing but stubborn adherence to the company line.

This would be why they were loath to move Gomez from the leadoff spot and replace him with Span. This move is an admission that perhaps they gave the job to the wrong guy coming out of Spring Training, and that, while Gomez may still someday be an All-Star center fielder, he is not ready to make an immediate impact on this ballclub on a daily basis.

Thus, the trade made for Johan Santana is appreciably less impressive than the rumored packages dangled by the Red Sox and Yankees during the Winter Meetings.

Were they to cut bait with Mike Lamb or Adam Everett to make room for Cuddyer, it would be to show, yet again, that this team is woefully unsuccessful in terms of making impact free-agent signings. Ditto that for Craig Monroe.

Moving Livan Hernandez to the bullpen and designating Boof Bonser/Brandon Bass for assignment, in an effort to call up Liriano also seems too risky a proposition for this team at this point, particularly after Liriano’s weak start to the 2008 campaign.

Were they to make the move to call him up and it doesn’t work out, people will ask why they didn’t make moves to look outside the organization for pitching help. Were they to make the moves and have it work, then they would have to admit that Hernandez wasn’t ever the ace of the pitching staff the Twins' organization desperately wanted to make him out to be.

If they do nothing and still miss the playoffs, they will try to fall back on the “building toward 2010” mantra, but the fanbase clearly seems to have tired of that notion, and rightfully so. Fans anywhere, but especially fans of small-market teams, know how precious these chances are, and they hate to see them to go waste.

Of course, the Twins’ safest course of action, in terms of their pitching staff, is to do nothing, wait until rosters expand, and bring Liriano in without having to move anyone to the minors. I would be shocked if they do anything beyond that.

Unfortunately for Bill Smith, they don’t have that luxury when it comes to their lineup, once guys like Cuddyer and infielder Matt Tolbert return from injury. Something will have to give. Hard decisions will have to be made.

Twins' GM Bill Smith is squarely in the line of fire, especially as the Twins continue to stay in the race for the division championship. If he mishandles this in any way, as we careen toward the trade deadline and beyond to the stretch run toward the postseason, the fans will hold him responsible for wasting a golden opportunity to make the playoffs and compete for a World Series berth.

Bill Smith has to make tough decisions in the coming weeks, in order to trim the fat from this team and ensure that the guys on this roster all have what it takes to contribute to wins both now and in the postseason. It’s time to boot come guys off the couch and make room for some bigger guns.

This is not a time for some warped sense of loyalty or protection one’s ego. It’s time to act for the good of the ballclub and to give the fans what they desperately deserve–an organization willing to reach for a championship.

So, Twins fans, prepare to take the spin machine at full throttle once the trade deadline comes and goes with no action in the Twins' territory.

Michael Cuddyer and Francisco Liriano are your cavalry. Whether that’s enough to compete for a championship remains to be seen.