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12/06/07 6:01 PM ET
Deals don't come to fruition in Nashville
Twins will continue ongoing talks about Santana and Nathan
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In 13 years as the Twins general manager, Terry Ryan never once stepped up to the podium at the Winter Meetings to announce a trade or a big free agent signing.
Heading into this year's gathering in Nashville, it appeared as if Bill Smith would make it to the big stage in his first year as GM.
Instead, the trend of non-activity for the Twins continued.
The trade that everyone expected to happen this week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort did not come to fruition. The Twins leave the Music City with Johan Santana still as their ace and no deal involving the 28-year-old left-hander appearing imminent.
Expectations are that the Twins still are looking to trade Santana before the start of Spring Training. But the team doesn't feel rushed to complete a deal for the two-time Cy Young award winner until it's the right one.
"I think it's critical that we have the patience to try to make a good deal," Smith said. "Making no deal is probably better than making a bad deal. Like we said all along, if our worst case scenario is that Santana is our Opening Day starter then that's really a pretty good scenario."
Smith has refused to address specific trade talks involving Santana but heading into the week it appeared as if the Yankees and the Red Sox were the top two contenders in the race for the pitcher. Following the Yankees' setting a deadline for a deal on Monday and watching it pass with no solution, Boston became the sole focus of the trade rumors.
Two potential offers by Boston, one featuring left-hander Jon Lester and another headlined by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, are still sitting on the table but the Twins look ready to wait and see what else might arise.
The Mets have jumped back into the mix and feel like they could have the pieces it might take to complete a deal. The Rangers and Mariners have also expressed interest, though both seem much more unlikely destinations for Santana.
Other contenders could still factor into the race, such as the Dodgers. They acquired Andruw Jones on Wednesday night which made some of their outfield depth expendable. The Angels have shown that they can step up efforts quickly, much like they did when signing Torii Hunter to a five-year, $90 million deal.
Yet the front-runner for a potential deal still appears to be the Red Sox. No further talks between Boston and Minnesota were expected on Thursday afternoon as the Red Sox contingent headed back to Beantown. That doesn't mean that more will not take place in the coming days, although the Red Sox didn't seem eager to rush a deal either.
"I think both sides agreed just to have an open dialogue going forward," Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said Thursday morning. "I don't see any need at this time to put on a deadline or an ultimatum of any kind. I respect the position they're in. They have a lot of big issues facing them and we'll be there to talk."
The big issues on the table for the Twins heading forward continue to be how the club will fill out its roster as it moves forward. Holes certainly remain at both third base and center field. The expectation is that at least one of those open spots will be settled in a Santana trade -- that is if one gets completed.
Minnesota could look to add some veteran pitching to a staff that without Santana or free agent Carlos Silva will be extremely young. And closer Joe Nathan is another potential trade target as he could help bring in other positional prospects.
One thing that's certain is the Twins are far from being done with trying to improve their club this winter.
"Right now we have the best team we can get but we're going to continue to pursue other avenues to make it better," Smith said.
The Twins didn't complete any deals during the Winter Meetings. Earlier in the offseason they acquired outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and Minor League outfielder Jason Pridie in a six-player trade with the Rays; and acquired outfielder Craig Monroe in a trade with the Cubs for a player to be named.
Rule 5 activity:
The Twins did not select a single player in the three phases of this year's Draft, but lost a total of six players in the organization. Those include right-handers Tim Lahey and R.A. Dickey and outfielder Garrett Guzman in the Major League portion.
The Twins came to Nashville with the hopes of completing a trade for Santana. That didn't happen but perhaps more groundwork was set for a future deal.
The Twins priority still is to settle the Santana situation by the start of Spring Training. The team has holes in center field and at third base, with at least one of those needs hopefully to be filled by a Santana trade.
GM's bottom line:
"We're disappointed that we didn't get a chance to make the club better. But we've still got some good players."
-- Smith, on his team's lack of activity during the week