October 2007


Santana, Hunter and Silva notes

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Cleaning out the notebook here:

(*) The National League scout I spoke to regarding Torii Hunter also said that from what he’s hearing, the Twins have yet to make it known that Johan Santana would be available in a trade. He said if Santana were available, his team would be among those lining up with an offer. Keep in mind, however, that Santana does have a full no-trade clause, which was triggered when he won the 2006 Cy Young Award.

(*) I know Rondell White has been a pin cushion for criticism, but he remains a favorite of beat writers wherever he has played. I sent him a text message after seeing his name on the free agent list yesterday, asking if this means he’s going to keep playing. His response: “1 % chance! All da best big Joe.”

(*) When writing that Carlos Silva had changed changed representation on Monday, I should have noted that his new agents — Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro — negotiated Carlos Zambrano’s five-year, $91.5 million extension with the Cubs this past season.

(*) The Houston Astros made quick contact with Torii Hunter’s agent, Larry Reynolds. That was a surprise team for me, but apparently they’re ready to move Hunter Pence to RF. Add the Astros to a list that almost surely will include the Rangers, Yankees and White Sox, and could grow to include the Braves, Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Nationals and Cardinals.

Hunter and Twins in a deep freeze

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

There have been rumblings from the Twins’ front office for some time that Torii Hunter and his agent, Larry Reynolds, were keeping the team at arm’s length instead of delving into negotiations. New GM Bill Smith, like his predecessor Terry Ryan, is extremely guarded about contract discussions, so we knew the details weren’t going to come from the Twins.

Finally yesterday, Hunter acknowledged this, saying, “I don’t think there’s going to be any negotiations,” during this exclusive 15-day negotiating window for the Twins. Asked which side had halted the talks, Hunter said, “I think it was more me telling them.” Here’s our story from today’s edition.

What I’ve heard is this: Hunter and Reynolds were adamant about wanting to work out a long-term contract extension last winter. But when no deal was reached, they notified the Twins with a letter at the end of spring training that they preferred not to negotiate during the season. When the Twins made their three-year, $45 million offer in late August, Hunter and Reynolds signaled that negotiations might as well be tabled until Hunter could test the open market.

This helps explain why there haven’t been any negotiations since the season ended, though Smith is hinting the Twins could renew efforts during this 15-day window.

I have received a few e-mails today with readers basically saying good riddance to Hunter and calling him greedy. But to me, both sides are responsible for letting it get to this point. The Twins could have made their move last offseason, offering Hunter security at a time when he still had the risk of getting hurt in the final year of his deal. Now, he has earned the right to test free agency.

For those who think Hunter was foolish to turn down 3/45, I think you are grossly underestimating today’s market. A National League scout told me yesterday that 5/75 million was a low estimate for Hunter, and that he expects him to get $90 million, probably from the Yankees. Asked who he’d rather have Hunter or Andruw Jones, the scout said Hunter, adding that it isn’t even close.

Hunter to file for free agency today

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Torii Hunter will indeed file for free agency today, his agent, Larry Reynolds said. Today is the first day players can do so, and Hunter wasted no time.

This is merely a formality, as the Twins still have an exclusive 15-day negotiating window. Other teams cannot make financial offers, but they are allowed to express interest and discuss the length of terms during this window.

“We want to see what may or may not be some of Torii’s options,” Reynolds said. “And the filing is just the start of the process.”

Update: Carlos Silva filed for free agency today, as well. Throughout the game, the list of players who filed was long. Some other names of note: Alex Rodriguez, Luis Castillo, Shannon Stewart, Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Sean Casey and Kerry Wood.

Twins pick up Nathan’s option

Monday, October 29th, 2007

As expected, the Twins officially announced today that they have picked up closer Joe Nathan’s option, which will pay him $6 million for next season. Nathan knew it was happening last week, and the team simply waited to announce it until after the World Series.

This means the Twins have seven players under contract for next season at $30.9 million. The others are Johan Santana ($13.25 million), Joe Mauer ($6.25 million), Nick Punto ($2.4 million), Jesse Crain ($1.05 million), Dennys Reyes ($1 million) and Mike Redmond ($950,000).

Built to last

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

When October started, the story was parity. Seven of baseball’s eight playoff teams weren’t even in the postseason last year. As Jayson Stark noted, seven different teams had won the past seven World Series, and the Rockies had a chance to make it eight.

But now the Red Sox are one win from their second title since 2004. After going 86 years between World Series titles, they’re making it look easy. As the T-shirts in Red Sox Nation say, “This is our century.”

Ken Rosenthal has been watching from dugout level during the postseason, and he sees this as just the beginning for Boston.

Consider which players were the biggest contributors Saturday night in the Sox’s 10-5 victory over the Rockies in Game 3: Jacoby Ellsbury, rookie. Dustin Pedroia, rookie. Daisuke Matsuzaka, rookie. Hideki Okajima, rookie.

… That’s how it is with the Sox now, one rookie topping another. They’re not going to enjoy many seasons like this one, when they incorporate a Pedroia and Ellsbury here, a Matsuzaka and Okajima there. But right now, they’re the closest thing in baseball to a dynasty, a team that should be good for a long, long time.

To compete with the Yankees, the Red Sox have built themselves into a super power, accomplishing Theo Epstein’s goal of becoming a “scouting and player development machine.”

Meanwhile, the Yankees are in chaos. As the Red Sox fell behind 3-1 to Cleveland in the ALCS, New York was parting ways with Joe Torre, after Steinbrenner and Sons had seemed indecisive for days. Even if Cleveland had advanced to the World Series, the Red Sox could have entered the offseason feeling as if they’d gained the high ground in that never ending battle.

Granted, the Red Sox haven’t accomplished this success cheaply. They’re spending almost as much as the Yankees these days, especially comparing to the Rockies, Indians, Diamondbacks and Twins. But this is still impressive, assuming Boston finishes the job.

***

Speaking of dynasties, allow me to congratulate the Faribault Girls Swimming & Diving Team, which won its 13th consecutive Big 9 conference title yesterday. My half-sister, Julia Olson, is a senior co-captain, and I couldn’t have been more proud, watching this amazing team extend its run.

None of us know how Coach Ken Hubert does it. Based on the seed times, the Falcons were expected to finish sixth this time, 150 points off the lead. It came down to the final event, but Faribault wound up first again, 24 points ahead of Rochester Century, 36 ahead of Rochester Mayo. By tapering the girls’ workouts, Hubert gets them to cut massive chunks of time in this meet, and it somehow works, every year.

The run started in 1995. The seniors from that team are now in their thirties. It’s become a tradition to dunk the coaches in the pool after winning the conference meet. Hubert is no dummy. Even with his team a 150-point underdog, he arrived with a change of clothes. Congratulations again Falcons, and best of luck at Sections and State.