By La Velle
This report has the Twins as one of three teams in the running for Japanese starter Kenshin Kawakami.
I looked into this and, `in the running,’ might be a little strong. The Twins have spoken to Kawakami’s agent but signing him is not as high of a priority as finding bullpen help or an upgrade at third base. (For instance, what if the rumors a month ago that the Twins’ interest in Michael Young are true, or if J.J. Hardy is put into play? That certainly would require a starter as part of the package). Indications were that the Twins aren’t negotiating with Kawakami at the moment.
Kawakami could move to the front burner if the Twins need to deal one of their starters to improve third base or the bullpen. The Twins have good reports on Kawakami and feel he’ll be successful in the majors, but they also know that they have potential in-house replacements in Boof Bonser and Philip Humber. And some believe Brian Duensing is ready for a shot.
That leads me to their bullpen search. They are interested in righthander Brandon Lyon but indications are that he wants to be paid like a set-up/closer hybrid. They have sniffed around other relievers, too. They’ve tried to keep up with Takashi Saito’s rehab from his elbow injury. They’ve kicked around Guillermo Mota’s name in internal discussions. Trevor Hoffman? No need for a 83 mph fastball. Jason Isringhausen? Is he healthy? Juan Rincon? Just kidding.
It has some people at Kirby Puckett Place wondering if the best way to improve their bullpen is from within rather than give a spot to an aging veteran whose is not longer top notch. Remember, this is an organization has gone that route in the past – Tony Batista, Juan Castro, Livan Hernandez come to mind – instead of giving prospects like Jason Bartlett and others a chance.
Someone mentioned to me earlier in the offseason that prospects like Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing could be candidates to help out the bullpen. I don’t think that would solve the Twins’ eight-inning problems. But Rob Delaney could – and he will be watched intently during spring training. I expect Delaney, who was promoted to Class AA New Britain during last season, to debut sometime in 2009 anyway.
And there’s the case of Anthony Slama, who put up sick numbers at Class A Fort Myers and should have been moved to New Britain last year but was caught in a logjam. Could he move quickly in 2009?
There’s still like 150 free agents out there. And there’s still time for trades to be made. But the Twins have talked with agents and clubs about players and haven’t liked what they have heard. So with just over six weeks to go before camp opens, the Twins are looking at other options. Looking to the farm system may not be the best solution but they might not have a choice.