On the first day of free agency, the Twins have acquired OF Craig Monroe from the Cubs for a player to be named later. After all the speculation about making some big trades involving Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, or some young pitchers, the Twins first attempt to improve the offense is largely reminiscent of the veteran acquisitions they have made in the last couple years. Monroe is a career .256/.303/.446 hitter as mainly a corner outfielder, but hit a putrid .219/.268/.370 in 392 at bats in 2007. I'm not particularly fond of Monroe, but, as long as the Twins have not already reserved a starting spot for him in 2007, this trade is an acceptable start to the Twins' offseason plans. Monroe is a low-average hitter with no on-base skills and plus-power. He has played a limited amount of centerfield in the majors, but has well below-average range there and would not be a good replacement for Torii Hunter. As an option off the bench, Monroe is a great acquisition; as a starting outfielder, Monroe is another example of the typical Twins acquisition over the last couple years that has not worked out. As for his contract, Monroe is entering his third year of arbitration eligibility, after making $4.775M in '07 and $2.8M in '06. After his poor performance in 2007, I would expect his salary to decrease, but he will still certainly get at least a couple million dollars in 2008.
In an interesting twist, the Twins acquired the former Tiger from the Cubs one day after the Tigers acquired former Twins' OF Jacque Jones from the Cubs. In other news, 3B Ryan Braun of the Brewers and 2B Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox were named the NL and AL rookies of the year, respectively, and the Cy Young Award winners are expected to be announced shortly.
UPDATE (6:56 PM 11/14): Apparently, I did not understand this trade and its finances completely when I posted yesterday. To start, if Monroe goes to arbitration, he would get a raise in salary, presumably somewhere between 5 and 6 million dollars. However, the Twins do not have to offer him arbitration, as they could either non-tender (basically, release) him by 12/1 or sign him to a contract before arbitration. Another catch, though, is that he can only accept a 20% pay cut from the previous season if he's not cut, so the lowest his salary could be next year is $3.82M. Another option is that the Twins could non-tender Monroe and then try to sign him as a free agent, in which case they could sign to whatever amount they wanted, but they would have to compete with any other teams that might have interest (and I'm not sure how the players' union would feel about a move like that). A final note is that, as a provision of the trade, the Twins do not have to give up anyone if they end up cutting Monroe. With these thoughts in mind, I would still feel disappointed if the Twins are planning to start him next year. As a bat for the bench, I think it is a great acquisition, and I'm not worried about them overpaying for him for 1 year, since I think most of the acquisitions this offseason should be young, pre-arbitration hitters (my offseason plan here).