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12/09/08 12:54 AM EST
Depth has Twins ready to make moves
Club feels out options as Winter Meetings open in Vegas
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- The Twins came to the Winter Meetings with two needs to address: the left side of the infield and the bullpen. But on the first day of the Meetings at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the bigger topic surrounded what the ballclub may be willing to give up to fill some of its holes.
With the free-agent market thin on third-base options, especially since it appears that Casey Blake is on the verge of signing a three-year deal with Dodgers, and with the price of relief pitching seemingly higher than they are willing to pay, the Twins appear more likely to explore the trade market to find solutions.
The areas where the Twins appear to have depth are starting pitching and the outfield. And Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony indicated Monday that the club isn't afraid to tap into those resources if it means finding a way to fill its needs.
"We look at every different possible scenario that makes us better," Antony said. "Last year we cashed in on some depth in the starting pitching when we traded Matt Garza to get Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. We've done it before. You look at every individual situation. We're not afraid when we have some depth to address other needs."
Most of the buzz surrounding the Twins on the first day of the Meetings centered on the availability of Young.
The 23-year-old outfielder has been the focus of trade speculation after manager Ron Gardenhire told a Fargo, N.D., newspaper last week that he didn't envision the 23-year-old in his starting outfield. Gardenhire said that Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Michael Cuddyer were his preferences for the three outfield spots.
But while teams have expressed interest in Young, there didn't appear to be any serious discussions happening on Monday involving the outfielder. The Phillies are looking at Young as an option to replace Pat Burrell in left field, but they appear unwilling to give up Jason Donald -- a top prospect on the infield -- and it would take more than just Donald to obtain Young anyway.
The Giants and Rockies are also rumored to be among teams who have inquired about Young, but those two clubs don't appear to be in talks with the Twins about Young right now.
It seems to make sense that the Twins might trade one of their five outfielders -- Young, Span, Gomez, Cuddyer, or Jason Kubel, who is also the club's DH -- to ease their logjam.
Antony acknowledged Monday that other teams, aware of the Twins' surplus, have asked about their outfielders. Still, Antony again stated that the Twins are comfortable with the idea of heading into next season with all five outfielders.
"I think you have to put the best team you can together," Antony said. "We have depth, and we have quality. Other teams see that and there are teams that have asked about all of those guys at one time or another. But that doesn't mean that you want to give that up. You can go up from a surplus to a shortage in one injury."
Another area of depth that the Twins could turn to is their starting pitching. The Twins relied on their five young starters to help carry them to within a game of the playoffs last season.
The Twins know that it would be advantageous to keep those five pitchers together, as they are all under the age of 28 and set to make less than $500,000 each next season. But the club also knows that it has other young starters in the Minor Leagues who could fight for a spot in the rotation should they move a pitcher.
"Would we ideally like to keep all five? Sure," Antony said. "But it all depends on what player you are talking about and whether you would even be willing to give up one of those five pitchers. They are all pretty good. They are young, inexpensive and when you see what guys are getting out there on the free-agent market and how the prices jump up, we already know the quality that we had last year in those guys."
Exactly which pitcher might be available is uncertain. Some reports have said that teams have inquired about right-hander Kevin Slowey in possible trades. Although Antony wouldn't address which pitchers might be available to move, he did indicate that none are off limits.
"I think if you are trying to address needs and get better, if you make too many people off limits then you are going to really limit your ability to do that," Antony said. "That being said, for some guys you have to be really bowled over to part with them."
Although the Twins would like to bolster both positions on the left side of the infield, it seems more likely that the team will try to address only one on the trade market. The bullpen doesn't appear to be as big of a need considering the club's pitching depth in the Minor League system.
The ideal situation for the Twins this week before leaving Las Vegas would be to find a way to fill at least one of their infield holes. And they hope it is made easier by the fact they're looking to fill two positions.
"It helps a lot, because if you are only looking for a third baseman then you are very limited," Antony said. "If you are looking for a third baseman or a shortstop, that opens up a lot of other possibilities."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.