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Patrick Reusse

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Rays' payroll cutting allows Twins to land established starter

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- There is quite a dance taking place with the future of baseball in the Tampa Bay area. Earlier this month, it was announced the Rays had signed on for the pursuit of an $800 million stadium in the Ybor City area of Tampa. This would require a great deal of public investment, and there is no plan yet in place from which to draw that money.

Meantime, the Rays seem to have embarked on a controversial strategy to demonstrate the need for a new stadium:

Rather than building enthusiasm for the upcoming season, they have talked publicly of the need to reduce payroll, and took a pair of bold actions on that front on Saturday night.

It could be pointed out the Twins tried the desperate approach – all the way to volunteering for contraction – in the late 1990s and start of the 2000s without success. It wasn’t until three straight division titles from 2002 to 2004 helped generate some enthusiasm that Hennepin County’s financing plan was approved by the Legislature on May 20, 2006.

Target Field opened in 2010, Miami got its new stadium in 2012, and that has left MLB with only two locations suffering because of aged, unappealing stadiums: Tampa Bay, with Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and Oakland, in whatever the Coliseum is being called these days.

I was talking to Marc Topkin, the Rays reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, on Monday and he said the front office was being asked to reduce the payroll from the high 70s in millions to the mid-60s.

Mainly, I wanted to ask Topkin about the Twins’ chance to acquire starting pitcher Chris Archer. Topkin’s answer was it was highly unlikely Archer would be traded – that a package including Max Kepler, Nick Gordon and a top pitching prospect would not be enough.

His message was that if the Twins wanted a starter from the Rays, the one they could get was Jake Odorizzi.

And that’s what happened on Saturday night:

First, the Rays designated for assignment Chris Dickerson, an All-Star in 2017, rather than pay his $5.95 million salary. They brought in C.J. Cron ($2.3 million) from the Angels to take his place, and hope to trade Dickerson in the next 10 days.

As the smattering of Rays followers in Tampa Bay were digesting that, the word got out around 9:45 p.m. Eastern that the Twins had acquired Odorizzi from the Rays, and did so by surrendering their fourth best shortstop prospect in 21-year-old Jermaine Palacios.

It was announced Thursday that Odorizzi had won his arbitration case for $6.3 million, at the same time it was revealed Twins starter Kyle Gibson had lost his case.

Odorizzi and the Rays had gone to arbitration two straight years. He had beaten them and received a $4.1 million salary in 2017.

The Rays were on the hook for $6 million even if they had beaten Odorizzi in arbitration, so he was going to get traded either way.

The Twins and the Rays had been talking about this trade for a month. They asked about Archer, even made an offer, but the true possibility of getting a deal done was for Odorizzi.

The latest Twins prospect ratings on have shortstops Royce Lewis and Gordon Nos. 1 and 2, and shortstop Wander Javier at No. 5. Palacios was rated No. 28; well thought-of by people who watched him in Class A last season, but expendable for the reward of a badly needed veteran starter.

Odorizzi throws in the low-90s with a mix of as many as six pitches. He’s from southern Illinois, near St. Louis, and he’s a big hockey fan. We should be able to handle that need for him in Minnesota.

The Twins are going to make room for Odorizzi by putting Michael Pineda on the 60-day disabled list. They can do the same for Anibal Sanchez by putting Trevor May on the 60-day disabled list. He’s coming back from Tommy John and the team’s timeline had May on the mound in mid-May.

The injury to ace Ervin Santana, the timeline for May, the lack of optimism over Phil Hughes’ future – the Twins had to make a move for an established starter, and Odorizzi qualifies.

Reusse: Vikings' QB room could become quite the 'happy' workplace

The quarterback room for the 2018 Vikings could turn out to be the most cohesive workplace this side of Starkey Laboratories.

If General Manager Rick Spielman is able to complete all the moves that surely are going through that devious brain of his, Kevin Stefanski will have continued in the secondary role of quarterbacks coach, Case Keenum will be back on a cost-saving transition tag, and Teddy Bridgewater will be back for the same piddling salary of $1.354 million that he was paid in 2017.

The Vikings already gave their kick in the shins to Stefanski, a coach who has been with the organization since 2006. It was apparent for more than a week before the NFC title game that Pat Shurmur was going to depart as offensive coordinator to become the head coach of the New York Giants.

Spielman allowed his pals in the national media to go with the storyline that Stefanski was the No. 1 candidate to replace Shurmur. Then, the Vikings went to Philadelphia and the Eagles turned the NFL’s No. 1 defense into a confused mess in a 38-7 route.

Suddenly, Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer decided that the No. 3 guy in the Eagles’ offensive brain trust, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, had to be a mastermind. They went to Philadelphia, had a quick sitdown, and dropped Stefanski like a bad habit as the leading candidate to be the offensive coordinator.

When a guy has been around an organization for over a decade and the path to being a coordinator has been cleared, and you pass him by, a first-class organization would have allowed Stefanski to leave for a better opportunity.

That eliminates the Vikings, of course.

Stefanski had a year left on his contract, so Spielman blocked his attempt to join Shurmur as the Giants’ offensive coordinator.

The Vikings are being lauded by selected media lap dogs and much of Purple fandom for having added a raise to Stefanski’s salary for 2018. Hooray. The message to Stefanski remained that 12 years of work at Winter Park wasn’t as valuable on a resume as three hours of carnage in Philadelphia on Jan. 21.

My favorite part of the DeFilippo hiring is seeing him referred to as “Flip’’ on fan sites. You didn’t know who he was until a few days before the Super Bowl, and now he’s joined Phil Saunders as “Flip’’ in Minnesota sports nomenclature?

You members of the Vikings can-do-no-wrong club slay me.

As for Keenum, he became the quarterback after leading three scoring drives in the second half of a 20-17 victory in Chicago on Oct. 9. The Vikings went 10-1 after that and entered the NFC playoffs as the favorites to reach the Super Bowl in their home cathedral.

The Vikings were able to get Keenum on a cheap deal, and now it’s time for him to cash-in in bigly fashion. The two options had been advertised as: pay him handsomely for one year with the franchise tag, or let him leave as a free agent.

Now, the idea has surfaced of putting Keenum on a transition tag, which would give the Vikings the right to match another team’s offer.. The idea here would be to stifle the market – teams knowing they could make a deal for Keenum as their quarterback solution and wind up not getting him – and allow the Vikings to keep him for several million less than the franchise tag.

Anything to deal a short deck to a player … that’s the Vikings’ long-held philosophy with their uniformed workforce.

Pulling that stunt on Keenum would be less underhanded than getting the NFL to claim the Vikings have the right to “toll’’ Bridgewater’s contract. The fact that Spielman has been able to convince some media and most Vikings fans that this is all on the league – that the Vikings have nothing to do with an effort to carryover Teddy’s meager contract to 2018 -- is more preposterous nonsense.

Spielman manages to get away with this all the time. He never says anything of value for public consumption, and yet his prevarications are often taken as gospel. Amazing.

As I suggested in Tweetland, Bridgewater didn’t damage his knee skiing at Afton Alps; he damaged it working for his employer. A season of rehab is a season of football. He has spent four years working on a rookie contract, and he deserves the freedom that comes with being a free agent – either a solid deal from the Vikings, or the ability to find one elsewhere.

Yeah, those would be some upbeat quarterback meetings:

Stefanski, rejected from the important job and stifled in his chance go elsewhere; Keenum, stifled on the free market after finally becoming an NFL quarterback with value; and Bridgewater, completely robbed after working his way back from a devastating injury suffered on a practice field.

That would be the Vikings’ version of class, right there in a plush new meeting room in Eagan.