Random thoughts

Some Monday morning links

Monday, January 11th, 2010

There have been many stories about Joe Mauer’s approaching free agency. And there will be many more.

But EPSN ESPN has blown out its baseball section front with a Mauer story, a story on how the Twins do business and, finally, a poll in which voters weigh in on if Mauer will remain a Twin after 2010.

As our Jim Souhan pointed out, Mauer has the advantage in negotiations.

The Twins scouted Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman when he worked out for clubs recently. But we didn’t think they had a chance to sign him, especially after they stepped up to sign Miguel Angel Sano late last season.

Chapman reportedly is ready to sign – with the Reds. Not Yankees or Red Sox or some other deep-pocketed team.

The deal is believed to be worth $30 million over five years, which is a load of cash for a kid who is not polished and might have makeup issues.

I also agree with a fellow scribe’s tweet that Scott Boras must be seething that Chapman can get $30 million as a free agent while Stephen Strasburg could get only $15 million because he was drafted. But this also is another example of why the draft needs to survive.

Still, the Reds must be salivating over a future rotation of Chapman, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.

Twins closer Joe Nathan has added a bunch of photos to his website.

I visited the Twins offices last week after the staff had some time to move in. The offices are located in the left field corner where the big Budweiser sign sits on top of the building.

I have a feeling that might have been the only time I’ll be in GM Bill Smith’s office because it’s sort of out of the way. All the magic will happen in the pressbox, on the field and in the clubhouses. Smith’s office is near the foul pole. He has a little porch he can walk out onto to watch games. Lucky guy.

Mike Herman, the Twins director of baseball communications, gave me a quick tour of the pressbox. It’s located to the right of home plate and is a little bigger than the old pressbox with more room to walk around. There are separate men’s and women’s bathrooms, a snack room and a work room.

The Twins’ baseball communications office is about three times as big as their old one. They even have a library and an archives room! By the way, if anyone has a 1966 Twins media guide, the club needs one for their files.

I’m going to write this once again. I can’t believe the Twins have a new stadium. And fans are going to love it.

Finally, you ever wonder just how lucrative it is to be a Hall of Famer. Here’s a story about what Andre Dawson can expect. Which will give you an idea of what Bert Blyleven can look forward to a year from now.

Afternoon briefing

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Here are a few tidbits as I gather information for my winter meetings preview, which will appear in Sunday’s editions.

I spoke to someone with knowledge of Joe Mauer’s contract extension talks. There have been some general discussions but serious negotiations haven’t begun. I was told that talks should heat up before the calendar year ends.

And the same person clearly stated that there have been no deadlines set as to when a deal must be completed. This follows up what Mauer tweeted to me earlier in the week. There have been reports of serious negotiations starting and deadlines and such, but I finally got a hold of someone who would know for clarification.

In a perfect world, the Twins would be able to add a solid veteran starter and an infielder.  They would like to re-sign Carl Pavano but there are other options if that doesn’t work out. They have showed interest in Rich Harden and Jarrod Washburn in the past and I haven’t received any indications that has changed. Harden, however, has been linked to Seattle and Boston recently. Washburn remains somewhere on their radar.

Pavano is their main target. I’m sure his agent is checking with other teams to see if there’s a good market for a two-year deal before he rejects the Twins’ offer of arbitration. Should be interesting. I agree with ESPN’s Keith Law. If Pavano can’t find a team willing to offer him more than one year, he’ll have a tough case to make in arbitration because he only has one decent season to go on.

If the Twins bring Pavano back, he’ll join righthanders Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey in the rotation. That leaves a Battle Royale for the last spot in the rotation between Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins (if he’s not dealt), Boof Bonser, Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship.

Obviously, some are stronger candidates than others. A couple could land in the bullpen, but with Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares and Matt Guerrier coming back, there’s not much room. And what if Pat Neshek comes to camp with his mojo back?

Yes, the Twins remain interested in Mark DeRosa, just like they were last year at this time. Yes, there has been some contact with the reps for infielder Orlando Hudson but it doesn’t sound like they are hot on the trail right now. My guess is that the Twins will read how the market will shake out before jumping in on someone.

One potential problem is that the Phillies have signed Placido Polanco for three years and $18 million, which could influence other deals.

I can see a scenario in which Joe Crede is signed just before camp begins, again. Crede’s comeback from his latest back surgery will be monitored. Another half-season of Crede could be just enough time for Danny Valencia to get ready in the minors.

That’s all for now. Keep checking back here for new developments. 

Tuesday update

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The Twins have offered arbitration to righthander Carl Pavano, which comes several hours before the 11 p.m. deadline for clubs to offer arbitration to their free agents.

Pavano is a Type B free agent. If he signs with another club, the Twins would receive a sandwich pick as compensation. The Twins remain interested in re-signing Pavano, who was 5-4, 4.64 for the team after being deal from Cleveland.

Cleveland, ironically, is one of the teams interested in signing Pavano.

“I have spoken to Carl and to his agent and informed them of this decision and we look forward to continued negotiations with them,” Twins GM Bill Smith said in an e-mail.

Orlando Cabrera, Mike Redmond, Ron Mahay and Joe Crede also are Twins free agents. Cabrera is a Type A free agent, but had it written into his contract that he couldn’t be offered arbitration. Redmond, Mahay and Crede don’t have Type A or B status and aren’t expected to be offered arbitration.

Mauer update

There was a yahoo! report late last night that Joe Mauer had set a Opening Day deadline for contract negotiations.

I found that rather odd. This is the same Mauer who, at the end of the season and again last week at his MVP press conference, said that he’s not the type of guy to say he needs a contract done by a certain date.

I texted Mauer last night, and he responded today with the following:

“Sorry for the late reply. Just got back to FL and it feels great. As far as that report, that’s news to me. Don’t know where that came from.”

Historically, players who begin their walk year break off negotiations to concentrate on the season. Mauer, I feel, is a little different. His agent, Ron Shapiro, has a history of taking negotiations into a walk year. The combination of Mauer and Shapiro makes it hard for me to believe that they would really shut things down.

The X factor, of course. is the player’s association. I’m sure the union sees Mauer as the rising tide that lifts all boats and might push for such a stance. Shapiro’s track record says that he’s his own man.

Even if it was true, you can’t convince me that Shapiro would turn down a big offer in June if it’s the right number.

Other stuff

There has been contact between the Twins and Joe Speed, the agent for former Gopher Robb Quinlan. The Twins could use a bat off the bench, and Quinlan could back up at first, third and the outfield. Quinlan, does have some interest from other clubs and might opt to sign with a National League team.

“I’m sure we’ll get together at the winter meetings and explore if there’s a good fit,” Speed said.

Third base prospect Danny Valencia has agreed to play winter ball in Puerto Rico. That’s a good move because he has a lot to prove in camp. Not sure which team he’ll play for yet.

Update: Valencia will play for Ponce in the Puerto Rican league. He either left tonight or is leaving tomorrow. 

And, yes, Miguel Angel Sano is now known as Miguel Jean. After using his mother’s last name he now uses his fathers. It’s not the first time that’s happened. Remember David Arias? Most Red Sox fans call him Big Papi.

Game 163 was the final straw for TBS and Chip Caray

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Chip Caray and TBS have parted ways after Caray finished a shaky year with at least one botched call during the Twins-Tigers two-teams-enter-one-team-leaves AL Cental tiebreaker.

The back breaker was the following call during a lineout:

“Line drive. Base hit. Caught out there. The runner tags. Throw to the plate. On target. And in time! A double play!”

Of course, some friends told me that TBS’ entire presentation wasn’t easy on the eyes and was hard on the ears.

Broadcasters are going to make their share of mistakes during games (I have a greater appreciation for their work after filling in on KFAN a few times). It’s unavoidable. But it seems that Caray is coming off of a rough season.

Still, there’s one unanswered question: Why was TBS involved anyway?

Live from Chicago

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

I’m here for Thanksgiving with the family and, I must admit, the last thing on my mind is the Bears-Vikings game this weekend. All everyone here is talking about is if Lovie Smith will get fired or will Mike Martz be the offensive coordinator next year – and if the 11-point spread on Sunday is too low.

Know what I’m looking forward to? Marian Hossa debuts for the Blackhawks tonight, and he’ll be on the same line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Wild fans might not want to read this, but you might be better off rooting for a bad year or two so you can draft high enough to get top young talent then add a Hossa. The Hawks have won seven straight games going into tonight’s throwdown at San Jose.

Now that Mauer-palooza has died down (until he signs a contract extension), I wanted to pass along some tidbits from brother Jake Mauer, whom I chatted up at his brother’s press conference on Monday.

Jake will manage Class A Fort Myers next season but just finished running the Twins’ rookie league team. One player he’s really high on is righthander Adrian Salcedo, an 18-year old out of the Dominican Republic who was 4-4 with a 1.65 ERA for GCL. He walked just three batters and struck out 58 in 61.2 innings.

Salcedo has touched 93-94 on the gun but stays in the low 90′s and has very good movement on his fastball. “He’s got a great arm,” Mauer said. “And he works hard. He’s the type of kid who will go home at the end of the day and keep working.”

I’ve heard of Salcedo, but Mauer then tossed out a name I didn’t recognize: Manuel Soliman.

Soliman originally a third baseman but hit .189 in two seasons in the Dominican League. So the Twins have turned him into a pitcher. He was 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA in DSL play this year with 20 walks and 55 strikeouts in 71 innings. The numbers scream that he’s new to pitching, but Mauer thinks Soliman has a live arm and a lot of potential.

So I’ll be tracking Solimon during the season. I’m guessing he’s learning how to throw other pitches than a fastball.

Mauer also saw Kyle Gibson during instructional league play and, like everyone else who has seen him, he came away raving about the top-shelf talent the Twins first-round pick showed.

“The first couple (innings) he was just kind of feeling his way,” Mauer said. “The last inning, he dominated.”

Our whole conversation started with Mauer talking about how his younger brother will (he used the word, `absolutely’) improve on his 2009 season. Then I asked him how things were in the minors.

“La Velle, Kyle Gibson is going to be good,” Mauer started. I would have loved to ask him about more players but I had other interviews to conduct.

Jake should have an interesting team at Fort Myers next season. In addition to Gibson, he should eventually have outfielders Aaron Hicks and Jose Morales and infielder Ramon Santana - if those guys don’t make Fort Myers out of spring training.

That’s all for now. Next week will be busy as I zero in on Twins targets heading into the winter meetings Dec. 7-11 in Indianapolis. Enjoy the holiday!

Update: Here’s the lastest from Pat Neshek about his rehab.