Not quite as high-profile as last year, but I'm getting a sense of something coming to a head.
- Third Base
This December it seems the off-season for Minnesota will roll not just on what our own club's initiatives are, but what moves other teams make. Or don't. Between the Twins losing out on Mike Lincoln earlier this last week and talks breaking down between the Twins and Casey Blake on Friday, we're not hearing too much about being proactive. But you can read between the lines, and it's clear that the front office is ready to make this team better.
La Velle E. Neal III says the Twins aren't interested in chasing Rafael Furcal around the bidding war circle, because of the two reasons most of us could guess in his regard: injuries and money. He also says "Among third basemen, I have not heard the names Joe Crede or Kevin Kouzmanoff mentioned." I'm glad to hear there's no (public) interest in Kouzmanoff; the lack of interest in Crede doesn't surprise me, but I think on a one-year deal he could pay off big for somebody this season.
As for the guys we've heard about this week...
Mike Lincoln - With Minnesota being "barely outbid" by the Reds, the 'pen's going to need to be bolstered in some other way. He'll be 34 next season, and posts some decent strikeout numbers to go with a decent amount of walks, but after a pair of Tommy John surgeries in his history (and not pitching in the majors since '04), this reeks of another attempt to get better by squeezing the last drops of use from a veteran. He would have been a smart gamble, sure, but A) he wasn't so good that the Twins can't find his kind of effectiveness somewhere else and B) the Twins didn't budge on their offer for a guy who would have been lucky to pitch 70 innings next summer.
Casey Blake - I'm not opposed to the Twins signing Blake, but I'm opposed to them signing him to a three-year deal. So, essentially, good for them for refusing to bog down their financial future by gambling on today. A three-year deal would have seen Casey turning 39 in August of his final season, and for as decent as he's been, that's a little absurd to expect any organization to take that sort of hit...unless it's the Yankees or Red Sox, and they're fine right now. Mike Schmidt hit .249/.337/.405 in his age-38 season. Wade Boggs hit .311/.389/.389. George Brett hit .255/.327/.402. Pie Traynor was 2-for-15. Of course, all four of those men are in the Hall of Fame...but if most Hall of Fame third basemen can't hit well at 38, why does Casey Blake expect us to pay him at that age? Hell, the Dodgers won't even do it. Right, Dodgers?
Moving on from those two guys, there's a plethora of names that are being bantered about. Garrett Atkins and Adrian Beltre are back in the conversation, Yunel Escobar is worth researching, and LEN III brings up Jason Donald as well as Huston Street. Nick Punto is drawing interest from more organizations than the Twins, Delmon Young is the topic of a few phone calls from teams looking for a young corner outfielder, and apparently Ron Gardenhire likes the trio of Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Michael Cuddyer in the outfield. A lot of names and rumor-mongering, but no answers yet.
Last winter, I feel like things were a bit more focused. Torii Hunter had already signed with the Angels, and while moving Johan Santana was a massive and inevitable event, we knew that would likely be the one meaningful move made in regards to the big league club for the next season. This year it's a bit more obvious that the Twins are waiting for the stars to align a bit, and that's in regards to a number of things: how they solve third base, who they chose to start at short, and if they can find a veteran reliever without chopping off a leg. There's a real sense that the Twins are willing to make a move to land a legitimate player on the left side of the infield, and adding legitimate (see: established) players in the off-season isn't a regular occurance.
Keep checking back as the Winter Meetings roll on tomorrow, we'll have regular updates.