Wednesday, April 8, 2015

2009: Bill Smith's Lasting Legacy

In the annals of Twins history, the legacy of Bill Smith is never going to be thought of in a positive manner. There are many dubious moments from his tenure at the helm of the Twins organization. During his first year, he had to deal with Torii Hunter, the face of the franchise, leaving via free agency and multiple Cy Young award winner Johan Santana wanting to be traded.

Hunter would head to southern California on a big contract. Santana was dealt for what amounted to be a bag of balls. Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey were sent from New York to Minnesota. None of these players made a significant impact on the Twins big league roster even though Gomez has developed into one of the best players in the National League.

The other big deal at the beginning of Smith's tenure was between Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Hunter's departure left a hole in the line-up and the Twins hunted down former top draft pick Delmon Young. It cost the Twins a hefty price in the form of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, who would help Tampa win the 2008 American League pennant.

Even though these two trades have come to epitomize some of Smith's poor skills as general manager, the Twins are starting to see some positives out from the Smith era.

Smith's second MLB draft as general manager took place in June 2009. The Twins had the 22nd pick in the first round and used it to select college pitcher Kyle Gibson (Mike Trout was taken three picks later but a ton of other team's passed over him as well). Gibson has developed into a nice asset at the major league level and there's hope that new pitching coach Neil Allen will be able to help Gibson refine his change-up.

Minnesota's biggest steal in the draft might have been their eighth round pick a college shortstop by the name of Brian Dozier. Dozier has turned himself into one of the best second baseman in the American League and the Twins are committed to him being a cornerstone as the team tries to rebuild. According to Baseball Reference, Dozier has been worth more WAR than all but two first round picks (Trout and Stephen Strasburg).

Drafting Dozier and Gibson weren't the only major additions during this calendar year. Minnesota was active on the international market by signing Miguel Sano ($3.15 million), Jorge Polanco ($750,000), and Max Kepler ($775,000). Each one of these players has found their way onto top prospect lists and all three could end up being significant contributors at the big league level.

Sano has been highly thought of since signing with the Twins and he should make his major league debut this season. He's one of the best power hitting prospects in the minor leagues and the Twins are counting on him to make a significant impact over in the coming years.

Polanco continues to shine on the defensive side of the ball while showing he could have the skills to stick at the shortstop position for the long run. His offensive numbers continue to improve and last season he became the youngest player since Joe Mauer to debut with the Twins.

Kepler still has a lot of potential and Minnesota has been patiently waiting for him to have a breakout season. He's getting closer to the higher minors and he's already on the 40-man roster. If everything breaks right, he could turn into a very good everyday player with a wide-ranging skill set.

Reflecting back on the Bill Smith years can be kind of depressing. Besides the moves mentioned above, there was the JJ Hardy trade(s), the Matt Capps deal, and the signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. It's starting to look more and more like his additions to the minor leagues during the 2009 season might provide a little light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

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