GM Smith looking to Twins' 2008 season

GM Smith looking to Twins' 2008 season

Bill Smith spent his first day as the Twins' GM fielding questions from Twins Territory Team members in an exclusive online chat. Smith commented on various topics, including current position players, payroll and Twins' Minor Leaguers.

Moderator: Hi, everyone and welcome to the exclusive Twins Territory Team Web chat with GM Bill Smith. His first official day as GM is today, Oct. 1. Please send him any questions you have as the Twins begin the offseason.

Bill Smith: The first question...

Buck99: How is Francisco Liriano's rehab progressing?

Smith: Liriano is coming along very well. He has been in Ft. Myers at our Minor League training complex all season and is making great progress. He is starting to throw off the mound and we hope he will be able to face hitters before the end of the instructional league. Lastly, he is expected to be in Spring Training ready to go.

steve84084: Is Joe Mauer the answer at third base?

Smith: No. Mauer is an impact player at catcher, and we expect him to continue to be an All-Star at that position.

steve84084: Are you committed to keeping Gardy [Ron Gardenhire] as the field manager? He has been somewhat vocal about not wanting to rebuild and from a fans standpoint and club history, it almost looks like rebuilding is what the Twins may have to do. I'm concerned about this.

Smith: Yes, Gardy is our manager and all of our coaches will be returning for next season. We are looking to rebound, not rebuild, and we are counting on a number of players to have better years in '08.

kilsey: What are the Twins' plans for second base?

Smith: Gardy announced last week that Nick Punto would be the frontrunner if Spring Training opened now. Alexi Casilla is an exciting player but he has made a lot of mistakes in the past two months. His skills remind a lot of people of a young Luis Castillo. We probably have bigger holes to fill than second base.

Buck99: Bill, congratulations on your promotion. You have some big shoes to fill. There has been speculation in the media that Johan Santana may be traded. What are the chances of re-signing Santana?

Smith: We are counting on Santana to anchor our rotation in 2008. He is one of the premier pitchers in the game and with Santana and a healthy Liriano, along with Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey, Matt Garza and a healthy Glen Perkins, our pitching should be good.

steve84084: First, congratulations on becoming the Twins GM. A lot of the talk is about Santana and Torii Hunter, but what I would like to know is how important will it be to keep Carlos Silva?

Smith: We will sit down and discuss Silva with his agent over the next month and hope to keep him in a Twins uniform.

steve84084: Is Sammy Sosa in the picture as a possible DH for next season?

Smith: Unfortunately, we can't discuss other teams' free agents until 15 days after the World Series.

steve84084: One more question, Bill. How weird is it to have the guy you replaced working for you now?

Smith: Terry Ryan is about as good a boss as you could ever ask for. I think our relationship is strong enough that it won't be a case of who is working for whom, but rather we will continue to work well together.

threee11: What Major League team would you love to be able to model this organization after, taking into account philosophy, Minor Leagues, free-agent tendencies, etc.

Smith: There are a number of teams with successful models. Oakland has a different operating philosophy than the Twins, but it has worked well for them. Cleveland may be the best example of what we have tried to accomplish here with the Twins over the past 10 years. Other teams like Arizona and Colorado have done an excellent job of developing young players into Major League contributors.

mlbrian2: Who will play left field next year?

Smith: Jason Kubel has had a very strong last two months of the season and is probably the frontrunner to play left field. However, Gardenhire makes out the lineups and the answer is whoever he thinks is best on any given day.

cjswen: I've read that the projected payroll for next year is $77 - $80 million. Are those numbers in the ballpark?

Smith: Our payroll was in the low 70s this year. It is expected to increase for next year. The Pohlad family has been very good to us in increasing the payroll over the past seven years. Our challenges are more baseball decisions than payroll issues.

kilsey: One of the biggest questions this offseason for the Twins and many other clubs is where will Hunter end up. How close are we to retaining him?

Smith: At the request of Hunter and his agent, there was little or no negotiation during the season. Over the next six weeks, we will step up those discussions and hope to keep Hunter in a Twins uniform.

mlbrian2: Regarding the payroll -- comments on Joe Christenson's article yesterday that it may not be good business decision to keep Hunter?

Smith: We will try to keep Hunter in a Twins uniform. He has been a tremendous player for this organization for the past 10 years and has many teammates who have grown up in this organization with him.

suciu: How will the new ballpark play a factor in the offseason acquisitions?

Smith: Once we get into the new ballpark in 2010, it is expected that there will be additional revenues that will help us keep our top players. We will not receive most of these revenues while we are still in the Metrodome.

kilsey: Who do you see coming up from the farm system to make an impact in the coming years?

Smith: Our best prospects at the higher levels are pitchers. We saw a number of them this year at the Major League level due to injuries. A few more coming include Anthony Swarzak who pitched well in New Britain, Jeff Manship split the season between Beloit and Fort Myers and Tyler Robertson was a stalwart for Beloit helping them get to the Midwest League championship game.

rereit: Who is your role model among GMs?

Smith: Roland Hemond was my first mentor when I worked for the White Sox in 1981 and 1982. He is one of the great ambassadors in the game of baseball. With the Twins, I've had the privilege of working for Andy MacPhail and Terry Ryan who are two of the best in the game. I have great admiration for Brian Cashman of the Yankees and Mark Shapiro with Cleveland.

rereit: What kind of experience as a Minor League GM do you think will help you now?

Smith: I spent three years in Appleton, Wisc. as a Minor League GM from 1983 to 1985. At that level, the focus is all on business operations and that helps me every day when I am dealing with sales, marketing, promotions and finance departments here with the Twins. My experiences in Appleton were on a much smaller scale but the principles were the same and it helps me understand what our business departments are trying to accomplish on a daily basis.

speedyman: Will you sign guys like Santana, Morneau or Hunter to long-term, backloaded deals in order to keep them through the new ballpark opening?

Smith: Backloaded deals can be very dangerous much like credit card debt can be dangerous for a household. If you take on too much backloaded debt, it will tie your hands later on when you're trying to sign the next wave of players.

Jeremiah: With a rather thin free-agent market this offseason, is it safe to assume the Twins will be looking to improve via trades, rather than free agency?

Smith: The Twins will look at all avenues for player acquisition including trades, free agents, waiver claims and the Rule 5 Draft. In recent years, we acquired a number of young players from other organizations when they were in the Minor Leagues. We claimed Matt Guerrier on waivers from the Pirates and drafted Santana in the Rule 5 Draft.

kilsey: If you could pick a player from any other team in the league and sign them, who would it be?

Smith: Major League baseball has strict tampering rules that prohibit team officials from commenting on any other team's players including potential free agents.

etartin: What's the typical day itinerary for a general manager? I assume it's different depending on the time of year. How about a typical day in the offseason and a typical day during the regular season?

Smith: During the season, a typical day at home includes reading all the box scores from the previous day's Major League games, reading the game reports from the Twins' Minor League affiliates, checking reports on players on waivers from other clubs and reading scouting reports submitted by our scouting staff covering other teams -- Major and Minor League affiliates. The afternoon is spent preparing for an evening game, answering mail and returning phone calls from media and other club officials. The offseason schedule varies based on the month. October will involve a lot of review and clean up of reports for 2007. We will spend a week in Fort Myers with our instructional league team and have some year-end organizational meetings. November will begin the transition to 2008. The general managers' meetings are the second week in November and we will prepare to finalize the winter rosters by the end of November.

Moderator: This concludes our Web chat with the Twins new general manager Bill Smith. Thank you for your participation and great questions.