December 2010

Coaching switcharoo

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

The Twins coaching staff will not have any personnel changes for the 2011 season, but there will be two coaches who are swapping roles.

Scott Ullger will take over as the Twins bench coach after spending the last five seasons as the club’s third base coach. Steve Liddle will be the Twins’ new third base coach, having previously served as the bench coach since the 2002 season.

The switch has nothing to do with the performance of either coach. Ullger wants to eventually manage one day and the feeling is that this would be a good opportunity for him to work closer with manager Ron Gardenhire.  Liddle also has previous experience as a third base coach, having served in that role at Triple-A in the Twins system, so the change should be a smooth one.

“Gardy talked to both guys and I think they are both excited about it,” said Twins general manager Bill Smith. “It’s something a little new and it will change the routine a bit. Both guys have great abilities in both of those roles and this is the route we’re going to go.”

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TwinsFest still on at Metrodome for now

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

Twins president Dave St. Peter said Wednesday afternoon that he’s currently confident the Metrodome will be repaired in time to host TwinsFest, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 28-30.

The Minnesota Vikings have been forced in recent days to move their final two home games of the 2010 season after a heavy snowfall in the Twin Cities caused the Metrodome’s roof to collapse on Sunday morning. Three panels of the Dome’s roof were torn when the weight of over 17 inches of snow proved to be too much for the inflated roof to handle.

Organizers of upcoming events at Metrodome have been contacted by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to let them know that
repairs to the roof might force some of those events to be canceled.

St. Peter said that
the Twins have been in contact with officials from the MSFC about the Dome’s roof repairs and the club has started to think about contingency plans just in case the building will not be ready. But the feeling right now is that it’s still too early to start putting too much effort into alternate plans.

 

Matt Guerrier to the Dodgers?

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS – The Twins bullpen is expected to have a much different look for the 2011 season since the club could lose a number of key contributors from last year’s relief corps through free agency.

On Wednesday, the Twins appeared to say goodbye to the first pitcher from their large group of free agent relievers.

According to multiple reports, right-hander Matt Guerrier is on the verge of signing a three-year, $12 million contract with the Dodgers.

Guerrier, 32, spent seven seasons with the Twins and played a key role for the club in the late innings over the past few years. He posted a career 3.38 ERA in Minnesota over 472 innings while twice leading the league in appearances. He’s thrown at least 69 innings in each of the last six seasons and since 2007, Guerrier has worked 311 2/3 innings.

Guerrier was a Type A free agent, but the Twins didn’t offer him arbitration, meaning they won’t receive any draft picks as compensation for his departure.

Trade for Hardy nearing?

By:Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Twins and Orioles are in talks about a possible trade that would send shortstop J.J. Hardy to Baltimore but just how close a deal may be is unclear.

The Baltimore Sun first reported Wednesday that the two sides were in “serious negotiations” about a trade involving Hardy. The two teams have talked previously about a deal involving Hardy, as the Orioles have been aggressively pursuing an upgrade at shortstop.

A move to send Hardy to Baltimore would signal that the Twins are confident that they can sign Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a deal before the Dec. 26 deadline expires and perhaps a deal could be close to being completed. If the Twins move Hardy, it’s likely that Nishioka would be the starter at second base and Alexi Casilla could be the starting shortstop.

The Orioles are one of a few teams that have talked to the Twins about Hardy. The Twins were also in discussions with the Pirates on a trade for Hardy last week and Pittsburgh is still interested in the shortstop.

 

Pavano, agent meet with the Twins

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Twins met with Carl Pavano and his agent, Tom O’Connell, on Tuesday afternoon during the second day of the Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. 

Pavano traveled from West Palm Beach to the Winter Meetings to meet with a total of four teams. O’Connell said that the meeting with the Twins was productive but that there is no hurry for his client to get a deal completed with any team.

“We’re being very methodical about this and we’re going to take our time,” O’Connell said. “We’re going to evaluate every opportunity before we make a decision.”

There has been mutual interest between the Twins and Pavano, and Twins general manager Bill Smith told reporters on Monday that he believes it’s still a possibility that Pavano could return to the club.

The Twins seem unlikely to join in a high bidding war for Pavano, who is believed to be seeking a three-year deal. But Smith indicated there are other reasons to think that the starter could possibly end up back in Minnesota.

“Players who have made lots of money in this game I think have maybe different priorities than younger players who may be getting the first crack at [free agency],” Smith said. “Where they play, the manager, the coaches, the teammates, the facilities, the living conditions, the travel, the fans, a winning atmosphere — I  think there are a lot of factors that go though [a player's mind] and I think veteran players weigh them differently than young players.”

Smith added, “I know that Carl Pavano loves playing in Minnesota. He’s enjoyed it over the last year and a half, and I think that’s a factor for him.”

Nishioka’s agent to meet with Twins today

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Twins were scheduled to meet today with Rick Thurman, the agent for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

The Twins have been in contact with Thurman since it was announced they had posted the winning bid for Nishioka’s exclusive negotiating rights on Nov. 26. Twins general manager Bill Smith said last week that the two sides would likely talk again this week as they try to make progress on a contract. The club has until Dec. 26 to work out a deal for the switch-hitting infielder or they will have their approximately $5 million posting fee given back to them.

Indications are that Nishioka is seeking a three-year deal. So far the expectation has been that the Twins will get a deal worked out with Nishioka before the Dec. 26 deadline. But the club could try to get something done well before that date if they are serious about trading shortstop J.J. Hardy in the near future. A number of teams are reportedly interested in Hardy, but it seems unlikely that the club would move the shortstop before they are certain that they’ll get a deal done with Nishioka.

Welcome to the Winter Meetings

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

The Winter Meetings have gotten underway here at the Dolphin and Swan Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

There has already been some movement with the news yesterday of Jayson Werth’s seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals and the Red Sox this morning announcing their trade for Adrian Gonzalez.There is also some buzz this morning about a possible trade between the Orioles and Diamondbacks for Mark Reynolds.

As for the Twins, the team has plenty of needs to address this week although it remains to be seen how much the club will get done. Traditionally the Twins have been quiet during these meetings and have used this time to lay the groundwork for future deals. But that could always change. It was quiet in the lobby regarding the Twins last night since the team had organizational meetings to kick off the week, but today things should really get started.

The Twins are expected to meet with Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s agent, Rick Thurman, of the Beverly Hill Sports Council today. All of the expectations have been that the club will be able to get a deal done with the switch-hitting Japanese middle infielder. It’s a deal that will likely be in the three-year range.

J.J. Hardy’s future is also a big question mark heading into this week with a number of teams reported to be interested in the shortstop. The Twins could listen to offers for Hardy, but until they can sign Nishioka, the club might deem it best to wait before moving the shortstop. It’s also possible that the Twins could keep Hardy and Nishioka. We’ll just have to see what transpires.

That’s about it for now. Carl Pavano’s agent, Tom O’Connell, was around the hotel lobby last night and should be a popular man this week with Pavano considered to be the best free agent starter on the market besides Cliff Lee. The Nationals have strong interest in Pavano, although the Twins have expressed that they would like to bring the veteran starter back as well.

Follow me on twitter @kellythesier and on the blog, as well as twinsbaseball.com, for updates throughout the meetings.

Thome to play in 2011?

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS – It appears that Jim Thome is going to be back for his 21st season in the Majors.

Thome’s agent Pat Rooney told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Thursday night that the 40-year-old slugger has “no intention of retiring” and that the Twins, in addition to some other teams, are in the mix for Thome’s services.

“We have been in contact with his agent and I’ve told him we are interested,” Twins general manager Bill Smith said on Friday morning.

After the Twins’  2010 season ended with a loss in Game 3 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, Thome told reporters that he was leaning toward returning for another year but he would go home, talk to his family and see how he felt before making a decision. And now it appears he’s ready to play at least one more season, perhaps more.

Smith has made it clear all offseason that the Twins would love to have
Thome back in Minnesota for the 2011 season.  The expectation is that
the Twins and Rooney will likely talk again next week at the Winter
Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Thome is coming off a very productive season with the Twins after signing a one-year, $1.5 million, incentive-laden contract last January. The veteran slugger batted .283 with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs in 108 games for Minnesota. He also had a 1.039 OPS — his highest OPS since the 2002 season when he was with Cleveland (1.122).

The Twins loved the leadership that Thome provided in the clubhouse and the impact that he delivered on the field, particularly after Justin Morneau went down with a season-ending concussion on July 7. Thome has also expressed how much he enjoyed his time in Minnesota.

Currently, Thome sits eighth on the all-time home run list with 589 home runs and the Twins would love to see him pursue the 600 home run mark while wearing a Twins uniform. But with other teams in the mix and Thome coming off such a strong season, it remains to be seen if he’ll be playing in Minnesota next season.

So would the Twins pursue another big bat if Thome does end up signing elsewhere?

Smith has said that the club’s two primary goals this winter are addressing the middle infield and the bullpen. Last winter, the Twins were vocal about their desire to improve the depth on their bench and they did so by signing Thome. Now it’s a little more unclear if they’d search for another big bat if Thome doesn’t return.

“As we go though the winter, we’ll be looking to put the best team on the field possible,” Smith said. “We’ve got to solidify our middle infield and our bullpen because that is where we have the most players coming off the roster. So we have to fill those holes first and other than that, the rest is hypothetical. We’ll see what happens with Jim Thome and move forward.”

Twins avoid arbitration with Repko and Neshek

By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins have avoided arbitration with outfielder Jason Repko and right-hander Pat Neshek.

The club agreed to terms Thursday with Repko on a one-year, $600,000 contract and with Neshek on a one-year, $625,000 deal.

Repko and Neshek are two of the 10 arbitration-eligible players that the Twins had to decide whether to tender a contract to by 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday night.

The Twins will likely tender contracts to the majority of their remaining arbitration-eligible players by the deadline, including shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Repko, who will turn 30 later this month, filled the role as the Twins’ fourth outfielder, playing all three outfield positions, after being called up to the Majors in June. He batted .228 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 58 games for the Twins.Last season, Repko earned $500,000 and he was primarily used as a defensive replacement late in games.

Neshek, 30, spent the majority of last season at Triple-A Rochester in what was his first year back following Tommy John surgery. He posted a 5.00 ERA in 11 relief appearances with the Twins (nine innings) and had a 3.89 ERA in 30 appearances for Rochester. His $625,000 for the 2011 season is the same amount that he made in 2010.

UPDATE: Twins tendered contracts to the remaining 26 players on their 40-man roster for the 2011 season, including Hardy. Clay Condrey, who had been thought to be a non-tender candidate, was actually outrighted off the roster a month ago and elected to become a free agent. The Twins now have seven remaining arbitration-eligible players: pitchers Matt Capps, Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey, outfielder Delmon Young and infielders Alexi Casilla and Hardy

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