Winter Meetings Primer

As the Twins and Bill Smith prepare to play a significant role in possible player exchanges this week, here is a run-down of what Minnesota is looking at going in.

Twins Needs

  •  Center Field
  •  Third Base
  •  Shortstop
  •  Second Base
  •  Designated Hitter
Even with the acquisition of Brendan Harris last week, the Twins are still searching for players who could not only start every day, but play at higher levels than the options currently on the roster at all three infield positions.  Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Harris and others will all be competing for spots, but with none of them sure shots the door is still wide open.

Jason Kubel could be stepping into the DH slot now that Delmon Young is with the team, but just like the situation above the competition is still open.  With all the position players with the team, only left field, right field, first base and catcher are positions where a certain player could be marked as your everyday starter.

Santana Sweeps

New York Yankees:  Latest offer includes Philip Hughes, Melky Cabrera and a "mid-level prospect"...and the offer is off the table on Monday.  If Bill Smith hasn't already turned this offer down he certainly could, because the Yankees aren't serious about Santana if this is all they're willing to offer up.  Unless of course the "mid-level prospect" is Paul O'Neill looking to make a comeback as a DH.

Boston Red Sox:  Jacoby Ellsbury is now on the table, although Jon Lester won't be included in the package...which is fine.  Boston actually has a couple of nice pitching prospects, if the Twins are looking to get a pitcher back in return.  Red Sox infield prospect Jed Lowrie (.291/.386/.448 minor league line) has also been mentioned, immediately making whatever offer the Yankees made above seem a bit underwhelming.  Ellsbury and Lowrie, offered with a pitcher, could make a very tempting offer for Smith.

Los Angeles Dodgers:  As often as they've been mentioned as compatible trade counterparts with the Twins, I've yet to read any (recent) concrete reports linking the Dodgers to interest in our Venezuelan southpaw.  Hopefully this changes at the Winter Meetings, because I still believe they have the most to offer in young position player talent.  Although the Ellsbury/Lowrie combo isn't bad.

Los Angeles Angels of Whatever:  They already have six starters to vie for five slots in the rotation, but for the right package I'm sure they'd find room for Johan.  Jared Weaver would be a starting point from Minnesota's perspective, while Ervin Santana (Santana lite?) and Joe Saunders would likely start the bidding from the Angels side of the border.  Howie Kendrick, and Brandon Wood in particular, would probably be position players of interest in the deal.

Seattle Mariners:  22-year old Adam Jones and 23-year old Wladimir Balentien, both outfielders, would be starting points in discussions with the Mariners, but Seattle is an extreme outside shot.  As close to no shot as you can have without actually having no shot.  General Manager Bill Bavasi has gone on record saying he won't overpay or "mortgage the future", and he might have to do both in order to land Santana.

New York Mets:  With Lastings Milledge dealt to Washington last week, if the Twins want an outfielder from Mr. Met they'll likely look at Carlos Gomez.  Omar Minaya has said Jose Reyes wouldn't be offered in a swap of any kind, including one for Santana, but the Mets would still have options if they wanted to make a push.  Unfortunately for them those options are largely pitchers once you get past Gomez and Fernando Martinez, which doesn't put the Mets in the drivers seat in the Santana sweepstakes.  In fact, it doesn't leave them in the car at all....maybe the trunk.

Joe Nathan Speculation

As much as I love Joe Nathan, if the Twins trade Johan Santana it doesn't make much sense to keep Joe around.  While the Twins will be competetive in 2008, it would take a lot to make them one of the best four teams in the American League, and holding onto one of the game's premier closers for one more season during a reload isn't a smart decision.  Nathan has a lot of value, and the Twins have a lot of holes to fill (even after Santana gets traded...if he does).

Prime suitors for Joe Nathan include Baltimore (Chris Ray or not), Texas (no clear-cut closer), the Dodgers (Takaski Saito will be 38), the Cubs (Ryan Dempster?), Milwaukee (lost Cordero to the Reds)  and Atlanta (Bob "I give up hits because I like it" Wickman).  Oh yes, and Colorado, because even though none of their primary relivers posted an ERA+ below 122 last year:  one was Jorge Julio (just average reliever, really), one was Matt Herges who will be 38, one was Jeremy Affelt (would you trust him?) and one was LaTroy Hawkins (what's up with that herky-jerk stop/start thing he does now?).  If the Twins want to dangle Joe Nathan, they'll have offers.

Conclusions

It's going to be an interesting few days, and if nothing happens for the Twins during the Winter Meetings I would be very, very, very, very, VERY surprised.  Well...maybe only four very's.

We've known that this will be a very pivotal and telling off-season for quite some time, and this could be the culmination of it all.  Continue to check back here for updates, and if you have one of your own that hasn't been reported yet, be sure to post it in a diary on the right-hand side of the page.

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