Over the next four days, particularly the next three, it's rumor season for baseball fans. We'll keep you updated here each day with all things Twins-related, so be sure to stick around for conversation and analysis on whatever happens (and a lot of what doesn't, which seems to be the motif of Winter Meeting weeks).
And now, your yearly WM primer...
What the Twins are in the market for
- Starting Pitcher: The Twins would welcome Carl pavano back with open arms if he'd take a deal that was to their liking. While the outcome of Pavstache's future waits to be seen, we know the Twins have shown interest in Brandon Webb and they also submitted a bid for Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma. And naturally, because Jarrod Washburn hasn't retired, some genius thinks he'd be a good fit in Minnesota. Naturally, I disagree.
- Relief Pitcher: Joe Nathan won't be himself. Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier have drawn a plethora of interest and, barring something unforeseen, won't be back. Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Ron Mahay and Randy Flores are all varying degrees of unlikely to return. We know that Matt Capps will be in the mix, as will Jose Mijares. After being tendered a contract this week, we know Pat Neshek will have an opportunity to showcase his talents. But really, beyond Capps and Mijares, all we have are five question marks.
- A hitter: Since we can't predict how things will shake out in the trade market, we'll stay focused on the free agent market. Ideally, I think the Twins would prefer to bring back Jim Thome. But if Thome signs elsewhere or lets Minnesota know that he'd rather play elsewhere, then the front office needs to be prepared for that. Whatever happens, we know a few things about any potential hitter that the Twins will want to bring in. He can't be an outfielder looking for a lot of playing time, or he is then he'd better be able to play some infield as well. He won't be a guy coming off a career year, looking to get paid on a multi-year deal. Right-handed is probably preferrable, as is an ability to smash southpaw pitching.
The J.J. Hardy Sweepstakes
I don't want Hardy traded. I've made that abundantly clear. But in reality, if someone makes some kind of ridiculous offer that just blows your hair back then you'd better be listening.
Cmathewson pointed out LEN III's return, where he highlighted six teams who are allegedly interested in our talented shortstop: the Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Padres, Pirates and Orioles. Most of those we've heard mention of in Hardy rumors over the last couple weeks, but all of them have a need. Let's run through how each team sits at short going into 2011:
Houston: In 2010, Tommy Manzella and Angel Sanchez picked up a vast majority of time at the position. Both players are under team control, neither can hit and Sanchez rated abysmally in the field.
St. Louis: Brendan Ryan is just about to enter arbitration, which means he'll start getting significant raises. He can't really hit, but UZR likes him at short.
San Francisco: Juan Uribe's already found a new job and Edgar Renteria is a free agent. Mike Fontenot is arbitration eligible. The only other player to log innings at short for the Giants last year was somebody called Ryan Rohlinger. Miguel Tejada's around now, although it may be as a guy who could push Pablo Sandoval. Conor Gillespie and Emmanuel Burriss are both infielders on the 40-man roster, but the only one listed as a shortstop is 21-year old Ehire Adrianza.
San Diego: Tejada's obviously gone, Jerry Hairston Jr. is a free agent, but Everth Cabrera isn't going anywhere. He'll be just 24 this year. UZR insists his defense was much better this year, although it still came in below zero.
Pittsburgh: Bobby Crosby is a free agent (it's been a seriously long time since he was any good/Rookie of the Year), Ronny Cedeno hasn't delivered on promise and has generally been just plain bad, and Pedro Ciriaco is the only other true shortstop on the 40-man roster. I can't see how the Pirates would be able to put together an attractive package for Hardy, and I'm not even sure why they'd want him. It's not like they'll be contending anytime soon. (Sorry, Pirates fans, I know it's painful.)
Baltimore: Cesar Izturis is a free agent, as is Julio Lugo. Journeyman Robert Andino is still around, but he's hot a guy you'd like to have starting. Pedro Florimon Jr. is the only other shortstop on the 40-man, but he's 24 and can't hit in the minors.
Outside of Tsuyoshi Nishioka's contract negotiations and this Hardy business, nothing else seems to be brewing for the Twins at the moment. We'll see you in the morning.