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Third Base, Third Base, Third Base!

How about "Relief Pitcher"?

MLB Trade Rumors tells us that Adrian Beltre's contract wouldn't be a problem, it's the players necessary to do the deal haven't come into celestial alignment.  Jayson Stark says the Twins are still in pursuit of Beltre, while Jim Moloney says the Twins are keeping their fingers in the window for Casey Blake...but they're looking at Hank Blalock.  Our own Joe Christensen says the Twins are still focused on finding someone to set the bar at the hot corner, but asking prices have generally kept things at a stand still.  In addition to the trio of names above, he mentions Garrett Atkins and Bill Hall as well, but in the end Joe C. believes the Twins won't get their third baseman.

While the organization has been predictably silent, or far more sly, as we approach the trade deadline, it has to be asked:  What is Minnesota's greatest need?  There were a flurry of moves over the winter, of all shapes and sizes, and with many of those moves being a bit more high-visibility than we're used to it's hard to blame a fan base for being a little more antsy.  We had a taste of the action and we want more.  We have a scratch, and we want it itched.

The vacancy at third base has been an issue for a few years now, that's hard to ignore.  But unless you believe Luke Hughes will be ready to step up in 2009 there isn't an answer in the system that could be ready before 2011.  At least not a long-term solution with a decent ceiling.  Danny Valencia and Diebinson Romero are both at least two years away and there definitely isn't anyone else that's closer, and although Hughes is presenting the organization with a great case for promotion this summer it's not as though his trajectory to the majors has been lit with fire.

But shifting gears to 2008, a season which hasn't been the typical "season of growth" we expected, this is a team that's poised to make a run.  Third base isn't a strength, but it isn't the greatest weakness, either.  There are two holes in the Minnesota pitching staff, and everyone knows exactly what they are.

First, Francisco Liriano belongs in the starting rotation.  This we know.  This, the Twins organization also knows.  But whether you think Genske's an idiot or not (and he is), the truth of the matter is that the Twins would be better with the young southpaw taking the mound every five days.  Sure, the process of making that happen isn't as easy as flipping a switch, but the sooner it happens the better off we'll be.

Second, the bullpen still needs help.  With Jon Rauch traded to Arizona and Damaso Marte not on the radar, my sights continue to look to the west coast.  The San Diego Padres dealt starter Randy Wolf this week, putting themselves into sell mode.  If that's accurate, Heath Bell would be a superior addition to the 'pen.

Last, in my mind, is third base.  With Brian Buscher's hot play and Matt Macri in Rochester, they've filled their roles adequately.  For the long term there will be a need for a better solution, and even for 2008 an upgrade would mean a great deal, but I'm of the opinion that improvements of sub-par performances would serve this team better in the short run.

Nevertheless, it certainly appears that Minnesota's number one priority is for third base; at least that's the front they're playing.  As a result, keep checking back here over the weekend, as one-by-one we'll run through the pros and cons of each of the third basemen on the Twins' wish list:

Garrett Atkins
Adrian Beltre
Casey Blake
Hank Blalock
Bill Hall

[Note by Jesse, 07/25/08 11:34 AM CDT ]  Hey all, be sure to swing by Josh's Thoughts.  I just saw he has a fairly comprehensive list of bullpen arms that could be good fits with the Twins, including a couple of names listed above:  Damaso Marte and Heath Bell.