Twins Acquire Craig Monroe: Updated
As for Monroe, Twins fans should remember him as a former Detroit Tiger who has absolutely killed Twins pitching in his career. He's a right-hander who will turn 31 on February 27 who has a career .256 batting average (although last season dragged that average down -- he hit .204 in 49 AB's for Chicago after being shipped over from Detroit, where he hit .222 in 343 AB's). However, Monroe has always hit for power -- since 2003, his HR numbers are 23-18-20-28-12 (again, 2007 was a downer for Monroe), and the Twins certainly needed to add some power to the team (especially if they lose Torii Hunter).
I'm willing to give Monroe a chance -- I have no idea why he was so bad last year, but for the Twins to take a chance on him I assume that they've scouted him sufficiently to have determined that he's likely to return to his pre-2007 form next year. The biggest downside on Monroe is his salary -- he made $4.775 million last season and is arbitration eligible, meaning a salary of around $5 million is likely even following his struggles. If he turns out to be damaged goods (i.e. he plays like he did in 2007), that's going to be a hard contract to swallow -- although the Twins would only have to deal with it for 1 year (it's not like, say, signing Barry Zito to a horrendously large contract that lasts approximately forever -- that would just be downright stupid).
Monroe isn't the answer to anything -- at least not by himself. However, I could see Monroe playing a positive role for the Twins next season; if, that is, that Twins go out and find more pieces to add to the puzzle. Think about it like this -- Monroe is basically replacing Rondell White and Lew Ford, so he doesn't have to do much to help the team improve in 2008.
UPDATE: This article on the Twins website points out an interesting aspect to this acquisition that I either missed in the early announcement of the trade, or that wasn't in the earlier discussion. (UPDATE 2: The Star Tribune story written for tomorrow's paper contains a discussion of this aspect of the deal) Essentially, the Twins plan on speaking with Monroe with the goal of signing him to a contract for next season that would involve a pay cut from the $4.775 million he made this season. The Twins were willing to give up a player to be named later, described in the article as a "low level prospect," in order to negotiate with Monroe exclusively for the next few weeks. If they can't come to an agreement, the Twins are then likely to non-tender him to avoid paying an arbitration award that is likely to exceed $5 million.
A lot of fans were ragging on Bill Smith for making this deal, but I think it's creative and demonstrates that Smith is willing to use the system to his advantage in order to benefit the Twins. I strongly suspect that this is just the first in a series of moves that will be forthcoming as he attempts to make the Twins offense more potent for next season.