Tagged: Rich Harden

Winter Meetings Primer

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
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.
Third Base
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.
Starting Pitchers
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. 

Wheeling and Dealing

Entering their three-game series with the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota Twins find themselves one game below .500 with 35 games remaining on the regular season schedule. After acquiring shortstop Orlando Cabrera at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins have decided to attempt to bolster their roster for the final month.

The team today acquired relievers Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay, and according to major league sources, won the claim on starter Rich Harden. 
Neither reliever acquired by the team has a dominant ERA, but both could provide an upgrade in the bullpen to help support Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares; Rauch could also contribute in 2010, the final year of his deal.
After getting off to a slow start with a 9.31 ERA in April, Rauch has drastically improved since with ERA’s of 3.46, 2.08, and 1.86 in the months of May, June and July. Thus far in August Rauch has a 5.00 ERA, but has allowed all runs in two of his nine total outings.
Ron Mahay meanwhile has posted solid numbers in half of the months, and less-than-stellar numbers in the other half. Mahay could provide another left-handed option out of the bullpen which could take a load off Mijares.
The additions in the bullpen for the Twins might not be the end of the team’s activity. Before the end of the day Monday, the Twins could also add starting pitching. Major league sources have confirmed that the team placed the winning claim on Chicago Cub, Rich Harden.
In the second half Harden has posted a tremendous 1.80 ERA and has held hitters to a .151 batting average. The sides have until noon Monday to work out a deal, but it won’t be easy. Projected as a Type A free agent, the Cubs could receive two draft picks by holding onto Harden and letting him walk this off-season.
While Harden may seem like a long shot, starter Brad Penny has been called a more feasible option. Reports say the Twins may be willing to pay Penny nearly $1.5 million over the final month which could be enough to put him in Minnesota pinstripes.
Whatever might happen in the final 35 games, the front office is making moves and attempting to make the final season in the Metrodome a memorable one.