Fans at TwinsFest on Saturday had a chance to ask Twins owner Jim Pohald, president Dave St. Peter and General Manager Terry Ryan questions for an hour. And they fired away.
One interesting one - one that we ask Ryan in various ways each year - came from a fan who noted the major deals Zack Grienke, Johnny Cueto and others landed during the offseason. His concern was that the Twins will never be able to pay an ace pitcher a $200-plus million deal over several seasons.
Here's Ryan's entire answer.
``You have to be careful on distributing your money,'' Ryan said. ``Obviously we have Joe Mauer and that wasn't a cheap contract and the Pohlad Family stepped up when he's coming off his MVP year. And ultimately we had to get him from behind the plate, where we all know that he's best suited for our team (but) it's just not going to work that way.
``Because of this ballpark and its revenue generated and luxury taxes, we can afford some of that. But the best way for us to go about developing a pitching staff is like a (Jose) Berrios and a (Tyler) Duffey. Just like in the day when we had (Brad) Radke and (Eric) Milton and Johan Santana. You want to draft and develop your own or you want to sign from the international market and develop your own. Then you will have then for six or so years.
``We have to do a better job when we pick out those certain contracts. We can afford some of that but you don't want to get too carried away because you can tie your hands. You want a little flexibility.''
It's easy to glean from those comments that the Twins won't be chasing after a big time ace on the free agent market any time soon.
Another fan wanted to know what the thinking was behind the Aaron Hicks trade - because Ryan has traded away Denard Span, Ben Revere and Hicks in recent years.
``You have a lot of good points there, unfortunately,'' Ryan said. ``Bear with me here. I think (Byron) Buxton has a chance to be pretty good.'
Pohlad then cut in.
``I will say the Twins have had a history of trading away my favorite player,'' he said. ``I won't say that it was Aaron Hicks but I won't say that it wasn't.''
Later on, Ryan talked about John Ryan Murphy, the catcher he landed for Hicks.
``He's a very similar catcher to Jonathan Lucroy with the Brewers,'' Ryan said. ``That's kind of who we match him up with.''
Several questions about Joe Mauer were asked by the audience.
No. 1: He was borderline Hall of Fame as a catcher. Will he ever move back behind the plate?
``If we would ever get any O.K. from a physician we would consider it,'' Ryan said. ``Unfortunately, there isn't a physician - especially the concussion experts - that could trust that he isn't going to take another bop on the head on a foul tip or a collision at the plate - although collisions at the plate are a forgone conclusion nowadays.
``If he took the wrong type of foul tip off the mask and got knocked silly, I couldn't forgive myself. So he's going to be a first baseman. And I do agree with you. I think if Joe would have stayed behind the plate he would have become a Hall of Fame candidate. He was excellent back there and unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be.''
No. 2: Can he be a .300 hitter again?
``I don't know why he won't,'' Ryan said ``He's healthy. I'm hoping for a bounce back with him. Obviously, we can use him. I don't know where Paul (Molitor) is going to hit him, probably two or three. He's a big key to this ballclub. We need to get him going.''
No. 3: Is Ryan tired of answering Joe Mauer questions?
``Unfortunately he's playing a position where you are looking for guys to hit the ball over the fence or at least a Mark Grace type guy who is going to drive in over 100 runs,'' Ryan said (FACT CHECK: Grace topped 90 RBI three times but never reached 100). ``I get it and understand it and I'm with everybody here. We know Joe can do better than what we saw in 2015 and that's what we're hoping in 16.
``He's not going to be a home run hitter. If he hits more than 15 home runs I will be shocked. We'll take 10-15.''
No. 4: Did the defensive shifts get in his head?
``I think that got in his head a little bit, and I'm not sure if I have asked him about it because I don't want to make a bigger thing out of it than it needs to be. Anybody who has had that shift I think their mind starts to grind away and they start to try to beat the shift instead of trying to stay within themselves.''
Other notes from TwinsFest:
Read more about this tomorrow, but J.R. Graham has lost a ton of weight. He ended the season weighing around 205 but checked in on Saturday at 175 pounds. He stuck to a diet during the offseason which, in addition to his workout regimen, led to the meltdown.
Three players out of options as we head into camp: Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana and Michael Tonkin. I can see a scenario in which Arcia and Santana make the team as reserves. Tonkin might have a tougher time sticking in the bullpen.
I asked Byron Buxton if he is going to help Miguel Sano learn the outfield. ``I'm just going to make sure I don't get run over,'' he said. That brings up a good point. Communication will be huge. If Sano is in right field, Brian Dozier must race out after a pop fly not worrying about a collision.
Joe Vavra is back from managing Melbourne in the Australian Winter League. Former Twins minor leaguer Justin Huber was the GM. Luke Hughes (remember him?) was a player-coach for Perth.
Max Kepler (ear infection) will not attend TwinsFest this year. Kennys Vargas is playing in the Carribean World Series and won't be here as well.