Twins will try to create a stir at Meetings
Minnesota looking outside organization to bolster left side, bullpen
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins ended the 2008 season one game away from making the playoffs, proving to the club that it needed only minor tweaks heading forward, not a major overhaul.And so far this offseason, the club's actions -- or lack thereof -- have seemed to back up that sentiment.
It's been a silent offseason in Minnesota, with the team not making a single signing or acquisition. But part of the reason for the Twins' inactivity seems to be based on the fact that all of baseball has made very few moves in either free agency or through trades."It has been quiet, and I don't know when it's going to break loose," Twins general manager Bill Smith said on Monday. "We continue to try to be aggressive on a few fronts, but we can't do much with the way things are right now. This logjam will break here eventually, and we'll be ready." With the annual Winter Meetings set to take place from the Bellagio in Las Vegas on Dec. 8-11, the expectation is this period of inactivity in baseball won't last much longer. And for Minnesota, that could mean the end to its offseason stalemate. Heading into this winter, the Twins have made it clear that there are two areas that they must address: the infield and bullpen. Those needs haven't changed as the club approaches the Winter Meetings. So far, Minnesota's only tangible pursuit has been free-agent third baseman Casey Blake. The Twins and Blake's agent, Jim McDowell, have had many discussions that has included talk of the "framework of a deal." But as of last week, no official offer had been made to Blake by the Twins. The fact that no offer has been made is partly a result of teams being unsure how to gauge their offers. Since no big-name free agents have inked deals yet, clubs are waiting to see where the salary ceilings will be in this weakening economy. One thing that pundits believe could finally shake up the market is the passing of Monday's deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their "Type A" and "Type B" free agents. Still, it seems like a big signing, like CC Sabathia perhaps, will have to take place before the market opens up for other, less sought-after free agents. Smith recalled that last year it was the signing of Torii Hunter by the Angels on Thanksgiving that finally got other free agents to begin inking deals. "I think it's going to take one of those events again," Smith said. "But right now, everybody is waiting back. Some teams are waiting for others to move and hope that affects the market." The Twins weren't expected to be active on the free-agent market this winter, as their only real interest has been in Blake. But the fact that other teams are waiting to see how things play out has also affected the trade market -- which if Minnesota doesn't land Blake seems to be the more appealing avenue for the club to fill its holes at third base and shortstop. Although it's been a quiet rumor mill for the Twins this winter -- a return to normal following last year's unusual occurrence where the spotlight was focused on them -- Minnesota has made contact with other ballclubs concerning possible trade targets. And there is reason to believe the Twins are willing to give up some talent to get a power bat for the left side of the infield. Just a year removed from the trade with the Rays that brought Delmon Young to Minnesota, the Twins are now reportedly shopping the 23-year-old outfielder to other teams. With a surplus of outfielders, the Twins could afford to move Young if he could net them a significant talent for either third base or shortstop. So just who might the Twins be seeking in return? Smith has maintained his policy to not comment on his team's potential targets -- either through free agency or the trade market. But some of the names that have been mentioned as interesting the Twins this offseason are third basemen Garrett Atkins of the Rockies and Adrian Beltre of the Mariners and shortstops J.J. Hardy of the Brewers and Yunel Escobar of the Braves. The chances of the Twins filling their holes in the infield and the bullpen from outside the organization seem small at best. Instead, Minnesota will likely turn to some candidates from within its organization to help solidify some positions. "We're looking at free agents and we're looking at trades, but again, we continue to evaluate our own people because there are going to be some young players in our system that get a chance to compete for a job on this club," Smith said. With the Twins determined to keep with their youth movement that was successful last season, it appears that this low-key offseason for Minnesota will continue -- with perhaps a move or two taking place. It's certainly looking to be a very different winter than the one Smith had in his first year as GM when he overhauled the roster. But while it may be a quieter offseason considering that most of the Twins' pieces are in place, Smith made clear again that there is still plenty of room for improvement. "It certainly is not as dramatic as it was a year ago, but we still have a lot of work to do to get ready for Opening Day and really the start of Spring Training," Smith said of what the Twins must do in the coming months. "We'll continue to pursue many avenues to try and get ready for the start of the spring."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.