Smith Gives Hank the Royal Flush

That’s how La Velle Neal in the Star-Tribune sees it, in a column headlined, "New Twins GM shows he knows how to play poker":

Hank Steinbrenner demanded action. Peter Greenberg was ready for a nine-figure negotiation. The media wanted details.

And yet, unless Twins GM Bill Smith slipped down to the gym for a workout between negotiating sessions, there wasn’t a noticeable drop of sweat from his brow all week during Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings.

Neal gives Smith credit for ignoring Steinbrenner’s attempt "to bully him into a decision with an early-week deadline."

It’s an interesting take, and not one generally shared in New York and Boston, where Smith has been portrayed as vacillating and possibly disningenuous — telling teams what it would take to trade for Johan Santana, then asking for just a little more when the teams agreed.

Indeed, it seems from media reports (which need their requisite grains of salt absent named sources) that it’s actually been Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman who have been the pillars of strength in this deal. Smith reportedly shopped their offers around, appearing to beg someone, anyone, to come in and offer more for his ace. The Sox and Yanks, meanwhile, stayed firm, refusing to offer more than what they believed Santana to be worth.

By failing to agree to a deal, Smith may be allowing a team like the Mets or Dodgers to swoop in with a sweeter offer. More likely, he’s increased the possibility that neither the Sox or Yanks will be inclined to give him the same deal later in the offseason. After all, Steinbrenner, for whatever it’s worth (and it’s not worth much), has since declared Hughes, Kennedy and Cabrera — along with Chamberlain and Cano — "as close to untouchable as you can get."

So, yes, while it’s great that Smith didn’t buckle under the blatantly artificial deadline imposed by Sir Hank, I don’t know that inaction in the face of pressure is necessarily a sign of strength.

18 comments… add one
  • Don’t you love how Minnesota is trying to play it all off in their favor? They clearly lost out by not dealing Santana. The Twins aren’t going to make a run in 2008(ESPECIALLY with Detroit now back in the mix), so keeping him until the trade deadline only diminishes his value.

    Atheose December 10, 2007, 10:20 am
  • Smith definitely overplayed his hand here. If he decides to call up the Yankees again, he shouldn’t be surprised to find that the Hughes/Melky offer is beyond his reach.

    AndrewYF December 10, 2007, 10:37 am
  • Just to set the stage before assessing how well Smith, Cashman/Steinbrenner, Theo, et al did:
    Smith was shopping the best pitcher (in the prime of his career no less) in a post-Barry Zito market and was playing the two largest budget teams (one of which is clearly short an ace) against each other, and at a time when both of those team’s farm systems are as deep as they’ve been at the same time in decades.
    So far he didn’t get what he wanted in that environment.
    No matter what, to me that does not qualify as Smith having achieved much of anything – so far.
    Smith proved that he won’t give Santana up for anything else than what amounts to a great deal for Minnesota. But Theo and Cashman proved that they will not be played off one another to give up the prospects that they each want most to protect. And again, for all of them, I add the caveat – “so far”.
    I was particularly happy/proud of the Yanks holding firm because I think of the three, they were the most desperate going in. As time goes by and Santana is not dealt, Minnesota starts moving up in that regard.
    But so far I don’t think much of anything has happened other than marknig of territory by all involved, a demonstration of prudence on all sides and maybe – just maybe – over-reaching from Smith. Of course, if a Yankee pitcher gets hurt or if a trade eventually gets made that nets Smith 2 of the Sox 3 (Ellsbury, Bucholz, Lester) or 3 of the Yanks 3 (Hughes, Cabrera, Kennedy), Smith becomes a genius.
    But so far, and I say this fully acknowledging my bias, if I were forced to identify and early “winner” in this territory-marking, I think the Yankees were the ones with the most brass carjones here based solely on the need they have and all the young guns they could have dealt.

    IronHorse (yf) December 10, 2007, 11:03 am
  • as my buddy sf always says [and i correct him every time ;) ], we don’t have to declare winners and losers in negotiations, it is as interesting to study the process… [disclaimer: that was not an exact quote, so i don’t want to incur sf’s wrath, but i believe it captures the essence of a sentiment he expressed to me a week or so ago]…i on the other hand think that the nature of any negotiation is to feel like you came out at least a little better than the other side…both sides can walk away happy, but it’s nice to think you maybe had an edge…maybe that’s the case here, and why there’s so much spin from all angles…no real loser…the sox and yanks didn’t allow the twins to extort their best prospects from them, and the twins didn’t allow the big boys to bully them…

    dc December 10, 2007, 11:13 am
  • This is unrelated, but interesting: Okajima just did an interview for a Japanese radio station, and it’s translated here:
    http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/2007/12/the_okaji_inter.html
    “Y: What was the most memorable game this season? I know you must have
    many, but just one that you can think of now.
    O: The one that I was probably most excited about was the game I saved against the Yankees [on April 20]. It was at Fenway Park, it was against the arch enemy, Yankees, and it was my first ever save in the Major League. Everyone was very excited about it, and all of the teammates came to congratulate me. It was like winning the pennant. I was very happy.”

    Atheose December 10, 2007, 11:17 am
  • Agreed, dc. I don’t see how the Twins have lost anything yet. I think it’s an overstatement to declare anyone a “pillar of strength” in these dealings, at least at this point.
    The Twins still have their prized asset, how have they lost anything at this point? Trading partners tend not to get desperate in December. And the fact of the matter is that none of us know what was truly on Smith’s table last week. Could he really have had Hughes et al? Ellsbury et al? We just don’t know what he really turned down, or what the Sox and Yankees really determined wasn’t in their best interests.

    SF December 10, 2007, 1:24 pm
  • I agree with you, SF. Way too early for winners and losers. Santana will get moved before the end of Spring Training, but if you’re Smith, why rush?

    ponch - sf December 10, 2007, 2:15 pm
  • “If you’re Smith, why rush?”
    Because the Yankees could pick up Haren, and the Sox could deal Coco. I think Smith should get something done soon before teams decide it’s time to move on, and get other deals done. Maybe I’m just exaggerating.
    A victor has yet to be seen, and it could be/include a team not the Sox or Yankees.
    And I’m glad people are sticking up for the Cashman and Hank on this one. Huges could be an ace.

    Pat (SF) December 10, 2007, 4:03 pm
  • Way too early for winners and losers.
    You guys are no fun.

    Paul SF December 10, 2007, 8:56 pm
  • Smith is taking a decent risk. A bet that either Hughes, Kennedy or Ellsbury will have a rough start and their respective team will concede his trade demands, is a good one, since they are all rookies.

    RS Fanbase December 11, 2007, 7:52 am
  • To me 150M + 3 top prospects is a staggering, ridiculous price for any pitcher, even the great santana. I still see that as a serious disadvantage for Smith going forward.
    and…
    as much as twins fans and many others like to think that “David” refused to be bullied by “Goliath” here, isn’t Hank’s “take it or leave it by the end of the day” a time-tested negotiating ploy?

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 11, 2007, 10:41 am
  • Andrews yes it is, it is also an effective one typically.
    The sox also used a common ploy which is this is what we will offer you not a cent more. If you dont like, it move on.

    sam-YF December 11, 2007, 10:44 am
  • ” blatantly artificial deadline”
    Paul, please explain. The deadline passed, and the yanks moved on.

    Anonymous December 11, 2007, 10:45 am
  • The deadline passed, and the Yanks moved on — 12 hours later. If Smith had come back Tuesday morning accepting the Yanks’ offer, Steinbrenner wouldn’t have said, “Sorry. The deadline’s passed.”

    Paul SF December 11, 2007, 12:03 pm
  • “The deadline passed, and the Yanks moved on — 12 hours later.”
    I don’t seem to recall that any exact times were put out there, and even if a deal had happened Tues AM, I don’t think it’s fair to call the deadline “blatantly artificial”, unless, of course, one wants to get in their usual snarky jab at the yanks…

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 11, 2007, 12:32 pm
  • The deadline was the end of the day Monday, yet both sides were talking Tuesday. The Twins rightly ignored the deadline, and Cashman rightly ignored it, too, until he realized the Twins simply weren’t budging from their request.

    Paul SF December 11, 2007, 12:57 pm
  • The end of the day Monday would be 11:59 pm, right?
    The purpose of the deadline was to bring the negotiations to a close, within a short window, one way or the other. That’s what happened. You’re wrong in calling the deadline “blatantly artificial”, unless you want to be anal about an exact hour and minute.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 11, 2007, 2:00 pm
  • “the Twins simply weren’t budging from their request.”
    This is incorrect too; the reports I read said the twins backed off their demand that IPK be included with Melky and Hughes.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 11, 2007, 2:02 pm

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