It’s an extremely important offseason for the Minnesota Twins, who are trying to avoid another 90 loss season and rebuild to a contender. But so far, offseason moves have been quiet, minus a possibly nonimpact trade, and rumors are all Twins fans have to place their hopes on. Since no major stories have broken for the Twins, here are some quick news hits from the past week.
– Apparently the Twins are still pursuing and are in the running for free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who would likely command a three year contract. Last year for the World Champion Boston Red Sox, Saltalamacchia hit .273/.338/.466 (Avg./OBP/SLG) with 14 HRs and 65 RBIs as a switch hitter, his left side being the stronger of the two. Don’t be surprised if those numbers look familiar to you since they closely resemble Ryan Doumit’s stronger 2012 campaign with the Twins (.275/.320/.461, 18 HRs and 75 RBIs). With most reports suggesting that “Salty” is better with his bat than his glove, he might really be another Doumit for the Twins. However, since Doumit’s better switch hitting side is his right side and Salty’s is his left, they could create a nice platoon behind the plate, pending on the starting pitcher. However, Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan seem pretty against the idea of platooning and if they signed him, Saltalamacchia would probably get most of the starts behind the plate.
Although he had a great September, the Twins still seem reluctant to hand over the keys to Josmil Pinto behind the plate. With reports suggesting the Twins are seeking more than just a one year catcher, it doesn’t show much confidence in Pinto long term, who might just need some defensive seasoning in Triple A. Pinto showed he can hit though and the Twins would be much better off for a long time to have a productive hitting, eventually competent catcher in Pinto (who hits free agency in 2020), versus a collection of free agents who cost more money and play for a shorter period of time with the team.
– Since starting pitching is so high on the list of needs for the Minnesota Twins, it isn’t surprising that fans have heard a lot of rumors about pitchers they are targeting and are in talks with. However, there has been little Twins news on the free agency front since the first initial burst of Bronson Arroyo, Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza. It’s fair to assume that these pitchers would wait before signing to see how the market shapes up and slowly but steadily they are starting to fall. Tim Hudson signed with the San Francisco Giants for 2 years/$23 million, Josh Johnson signed with the San Diego Padres for a 1 year/$8 million deal and Dan Haren signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 1 year/$10 million deal. The NL West has obviously been busy but the deal that could have the most impact on the Twins is Jason Vargas’ 4 year/$32 million contract with the Kansas City Royals. Reports say that Nolasco and Garza are asking for big money and long contracts and Vargas’ four year deal should at the very least ensure that it takes a four year contract to sign the higher rated Nolasco or Garza. Are the Twins willing to put themselves on the hook for a big money, 4 or 5 year contract with an aging, non-ace pitcher? For the sake of at least 2014, we all hope so.
– Finally, for those who missed it, interesting new details emerged just over a week ago about Joe Mauer’s 2010 contract negotiations with the Twins. In his new book, Mauer’s agent Ron Shapiro revealed his belief that Mauer could have signed a free agent contract in 2011 worth $300 million dollars over 10 years. Based on this conviction, Shapiro countered the Twins’ initial offer of 5 years/$90 million with a 9 year/$243 million deal. With such a gap between $18 million a year and $27 million per, it’s no surprise that the two sides compromised at $23 million a year (8 years/$184 million). Tons of flak has been directed at Mauer and his “overpriced” contract over the years, but what if he signed the Twins original offer? Would saving $5 million a year be worth it if it probably means losing Mauer to free agency after 2015? It’s easy for fans to be armchair GMs arguing about how much value the great #7 gives the Twins and what he should be paid but all I care about is that he plays for the home team!