The Minnesota Twins have been relatively quiet since shoring up the shortstop position with the acquisition of J.J. Hardy one month ago. As December begins and the year winds to an end, the hot stove is heating up, and this week transactions will begin to come one after another.
Baseball officials began arriving in Indianapolis for the 2009 Winter Meetings on Sunday, and the event will run through Thursday when it concludes with the Rule Five Draft. As Bill Smith and company settle in, they’ll begin work on a roster that has questions remaining at second base, third base, and in the rotation.
Over the next four days rumors will run rampant; some will be legitimate while others will be blown out of proportion or possibly completely fabricated. Here are some players and teams to watch as possible connections this week.
Second base and the second spot in the lineup are a huge hole for the Twins. Both Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert are capable of filling the hole, but neither will upgrade it to the level that several potential targets might.
Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson are the two premium second basemen remaining on the market after Placido Polanco signed last week, and they may be the team’s key chances to upgrade plate production in the infield.
Chone Figgins is gone, but the Twins never likely had interest anyways. Mark DeRosa and Pedro Feliz remain available, and the Twins could potentially talk with both of their agents this week.
While the team has had interest in free agent Adrian Beltre, unless his reported demand of $10 million annually drops, he won’t be signing in Minnesota anytime soon.
The best solution for the infield seems to be to fill second base and then look toward third base when that task is completed. The third base options are less desirable than Hudson and Lopez.
Four starting pitchers should be watched this week: Carl Pavano, Jarrod Washburn, Ben Sheets and Rich Harden.
Unless Pavano accepts the team’s arbitration offer by the Monday deadline, he’ll be on the free agent market. The Twins are expected to continue work on a potential multi-year deal, and there seems to be a decent chance he stays in the Twin Cities.
If not, the Wisconsin native Washburn and the Twins seem to have mutual interest. After the two veterans, formerly injured starters Sheets and Harden have both reportedly drawn some level of interest from the team as well.
The Florida Marlins are one key team to keep an eye on. Starter and Minneapolis native Josh Johnson isn’t likely going anywhere, but second basemen Dan Uggla may. If the Twins are unable to sign a free agent there may at least be some talks.
Another team with a second basemen is the Cincinnati Reds. As they cut payroll this off-season, one player reportedly available is Brandon Phillips. If the Twins run out of options elsewhere, he too may be talked about.
Dark Horse Names
Ronnie Belliard, 2B – Playing in favor of Orlando Hudson at times last season, Belliard did a decent job. He hit .277 with 10 homeruns and 39 RBI in 110 games.
Robb Quinlan, OF/1B – The utility man has reportedly had talks with the team thus far and could join the roster as the backup outfielder and first basemen.
Joe Crede, 3B – If the Twins decide the third base options aren’t worth the price, it remains very possible that Crede could be re-signed late this off-season.
Glen Perkins, SP – While Perkins is on the Twins roster, he is a potential trade target to watch. Eligible for arbitration and a raise, if the Twins don’t feel they have room in the rotation or bullpen, he could be moved.