By Joe Christensen
Joe Crede is seeking a base salary of closer to $7 million than $5 million, which could decrease the likelihood that the free agent third baseman lands with the Twins, the Star Tribune has learned.
Crede made $5.1 million last season with the White Sox, and Twins officials have bristled at committing even $5 million to a player who was limited to 47 games and 97 games the past two seasons because of back injuries.
Yet the Twins are well under budget. After letting their payroll reach $74 million in 2007, their Opening Day, 25-man roster projection is at $60.15 million. That includes the $1.3 million they have agreed to pay righthanded reliever Luis Ayala, pending a physical.
Crede, 30, was an All-Star last season with the White Sox, batting .252 with 16 home runs and 59 RBI over the first half. The back injury limited him to one home run in 39 plate appearances after the All-Star break.
A first-time free agent, Crede is willing to settle for a one-year deal, but he’s not looking for a discounted base salary, and he’ll want incentives that will pay him with other elite third baseman if he stays on the field. Adrian Beltre will make $12 million this year, and Eric Chavez will make $11 million. Those could be reference points.
But Crede has proven to be an elite player — a dangerous righthanded hitter who plays top-notch defense — when he’s on the field. So most teams would welcome the incentive payments.
If $7 million guaranteed sounds steep for the Twins, consider that they offered Casey Blake a two-year, $14 million contract with an option for 2011 before he accepted his three-year, $17.5 million deal with the Dodgers.
One of Blake’s best attributes is his durability; he has averaged 598 plate appearances over the past six seasons. But he also is nearly five years older than Crede, who insists he has overcome his back issues.
Crede had a herniated disk in 2007, and the corrective surgery left him with a nerve impingement last season. He has since had minor surgery to remove that impingement, and agent Scott Boras said Crede will be as ready as any player when spring training begins.
The Twins want to continue monitoring Crede’s workouts, but there are indications that Boras is deeper into negotiations with other teams. A San Francisco television station has reported that Crede has a one-year offer from the Giants. No word yet on whether the Twins have made an official offer, but they have had continuing discussions with Boras.