Baseball's winter meetings are next week, and it feels like the entire baseball world is holding its breath until then. We've had the big Nelson Cruz signing, and Boston has snapped up a pair of pretty good position players, but as far as pitching is concerned - which is where a lot of this year's big guns are in the free agent class - nothing has yet been done.
Let's cycle through a lot of the names we've been reading about recently and see how they apply to the Twins.
Alex Rios, Dayan Viciedo, Nick Markakis
When it comes to outfielders, these guys aren't the cream of the crop. The Twins still apparently have interest in Rios, the soon-to-be 34-year old outfielder who shouldn't play defense and whose offense is, at best, highly suspect. Mike Berardino does give one alternative.
For teams that miss out on Torii Hunter, Dayan Viciedo could be the consolation prize. Cuban slugger still just 25. Non-tender or trade?— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) December 2, 2014
Viciedo is much roughly eight years younger than Rios, and he's hit 60 home runs in the last three seasons, but he's also hit .250/.294/.425 in that period. I'd agree that getting Viciedo for left field is better than not doing anything, but finding a guy who can play decent defense would be a plus.
If Viciedo is non-tendered today, he's probably a name worth watching. It's worth wondering if the White Sox would consider swapping potential non-tenders. Would Chicago do a Duensing for Viciedo flip, in an effort for both teams to get value out of the change-of-scenery mantra?
The final guy in the "might hit, can't run, shouldn't field" category is Markakis. His option was declined but the Orioles still have interest, as do the Blue Jays, Giants, and Braves. His power has fallen off the planet the last two years, but he does offer decent on-base skills. I'd have to believe he'd make every effort to latch on with a contender before falling back on the Twins for a job, though.
Per Wolfson's very revealing update from earlier today, the Twins have checked in on Aoki "but there's no real traction at the moment." Aoki should be an ideal target for the Twins: he's a decent defender who gets on base and shouldn't cost an arm and a leg. But everyone else sees him the same way, which would make him a good find for anyone.
What's nice about Aoki is that his game isn't predicated on power as much as it is on discipline and intelligence and a little bit of speed, meaning a two or even three-year contract for the nearly 33-year old isn't as dangerous as it would be for other players. In three MLB seasons he owns a .287 batting average, a .353 on-base percentage, and good defense in right field. If this guy isn't on your list of wish-list targets for the Twins, he should be.
Edinson Volquez, Jake Peavy, Francisco Liriano
Include Peavy with Aoki in the no-traction department, possibly thanks to both players being represented by Creative Arts Agency or possibly thanks to the Twins not exactly being a desirable destination. Peavy may prefer to return to San Francisco, who have more money to play with since they've lost out on Pedro Sandoval.
Volquez, meanwhile, is represented by Greg Genske - also known as Francisco Liriano's agent. And Brett Anderson's agent, but we'll get to him guys in a bit. Considering Liriano's tenure with the Twins and Genske's familiarity with the situation, it would be a surprise to see him recommend Minnesota. At the same time, Volquez used excellent ground ball rates to his advantage and had a very good season in Pittsburgh with Liriano. Still, Volquez wasn't as good as his ERA, and it would be foolish to lavish a large, multi-year contract on him.
As for Liriano? He's had back-to-back very, very good seasons. He's burning grass at a rate better than 50% on balls in play, the strikeouts are coming in bunches, and when he pitches like that the suspect command is easily overlooked. It shouldn't be, because we've felt that first hand, but it is. It feels highly unlikely that there will be a reunion here, and not just because Liriano would cost the Twins their second round draft pick.
Kris Medlen, Brett Anderson
Here are the unhealthy guys. Medlen is recovering from Tommy John and probably won't be ready for Major League action until the middle of the season. Atlanta could non-tender him today, but they've also been discussing a two-year contract which would give them some value in the future as they allow Medlen to finish his rehab this season. There hasn't been a connection made between the Twins and Medlen, but if he's non-tendered I'm sure the organization will be taking a close look.
Anderson is an intriguing pitcher in a lot of ways. Rich Harden had the same kind of thing, although better numbers: a good pitcher who just can't stay healthy long enough to show off his talents. As two risk-reward pitchers, they're very interesting options on the market and I'll be interested to see how their seasons shake out.
Brandon McCarthy, Justin Masterson
It sounds like the Twins will meet with Masterson's agent at the winter meetings. McCarthy, whose name has been issued in terms of "Minnesota will be targeting pitching in this tier," hasn't had a direct connection with the team for a little while. Both players seem like achievable targets, and both pitchers would certainly make the Twins' rotation better on paper. I imagine we'll learn quite a bit about Terry Ryan's intentions with both players next week.
Right now, these two pitchers are my preferred targets. I like the peripherals and what they could bring to Minnesota's rotation, and between their ages and probable contract demands I don't think any of it is asking for too much of a leap of faith.
Probably assumed, but never reported: told #MNTwins have officially made Torii Hunter an offer. Working on whether it's 1 or 2 years.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) December 2, 2014
BECAUSE IT AIN'T OVER YET, BABY.