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Rob Antony, the Twins assistant general manager who negotiated the new multiyear contracts for first baseman Justin Morneau and outfielder Michael Cuddyer, said the four-year extension offer the club made some time ago to pitcher Johan Santana still is on the table.
The offer, which includes Santana's current $13.25 million contract for 2008 plus four more years at $20 million per year, is still being discussed with the agents of the two-time Cy Young Award winner, Antony said.
"That's been our number one goal all along. If we could do that, yeah, we'd still like to do that," Antony said of signing Santana.
However, the agents for Santana are looking for a seven-year contract at a minimum of $20 million per year, and the Twins are not going to agree to the extra years.
On the other hand, Antony also said the Twins might be only one phone call away from making a Santana trade with the Mets, Yankees or Red Sox.
"We've discussed names at length with all three clubs," Antony said. "I don't think it's any secret, and basically the first one that steps up or is ready to go, yeah, we could deal at any time. But that's been the possibility for the last couple of months. They have a good idea what it would take to get Johan Santana."
Antony said the fact that Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva departed as free agents helped enable the Twins to structure the contracts of Morneau and Cuddyer. Hunter signed with the Angels, Silva with the Mariners.
"We had some extra money to deal with this year, and that's what ownership talked about," Antony said. "They're not looking to save money this year, they're looking to be as competitive as we can. So we took advantage of that situation to try and sign those guys now."
The Twins have now signed all their players who were arbitration-eligible, without having to go to arbitration, and they should be proud of being able to do that almost every season.Payroll not set
The Twins had budgeted a payroll of about $70 million last year. Twins Sports Inc. CEO Jim Pohlad said that nothing has been set for this season.
"Really, the arbitration process is now just over, and we still might make some more moves," Pohlad said. "That's up to [GM] Bill Smith. I think it certainly will be an increase in payroll, yes, because we're committed to that ratio."
In the past, Pohlad has said the Twins set their payroll at 50 to 52 percent of revenue.
Regarding Santana, Pohlad said: "Oh yeah, everybody's interested in keeping him."Big things for Morneau
The signing of a six-year, $80 million contract was only one of three great things that have happened to Morneau this offseason.
Morneau revealed that he was engaged when a woman calling in on WCCO-AM's Sports Huddle Show on Sunday morning asked a question and then added that she had a 26-year-old daughter.
"I'm engaged," Morneau replied.
Morneau has been dating Krista Martin since the summer of 2006.
The other good thing happening to Morneau is that a baseball field is being named for him in the suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, where he grew up and learned to play baseball.
After the Vancouver ceremony, Morneau will head for Arizona, where this winter he has been working out with about 35 other baseball players under Brett Fischer, a well-known trainer who specializes in getting players ready for spring training.
"Just a lot of strength stuff, a lot of core stuff," Morneau said of his routine. "We do footwork, and then at the end of the day we go and hit on the field and it's right what I need."Lease problem
At present, the Twins don't have a lease, and they are interested in signing a new Metrodome lease that would be in place for the next two seasons before the new stadium's scheduled 2010 opening.
The Twins want a lease that would run through 2011 in case there are delays in the completion of the new park. However, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission has refused to extend a Dome lease past 2010, because if the Vikings somehow get a new stadium approved, the Metrodome could be torn down to make room for the new one.
I can't believe that the commission would kick the Twins out. But that is the situation now, according to Twins executive Jerry Bell. And Bill Lester, who runs the MSFC, wouldn't deny there is a potential situation, but he did say the commission wouldn't kick the Twins out.
So stay tuned, as this situation could get interesting.
As for the new stadium, Bell said the $20 million over the original cost of the stadium that the Pohlad family is coming up with shouldn't increase in the future. "Well, the risk has gone down when we reached agreement with [the construction company] Mortenson on a guaranteed maximum price," Bell said. "We still have to manage it and there still can be issues, but the risk is greatly diminished."Jottings
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, speaking on the possibility of Joe Mauer playing positions other than catcher: "We talked about that last year, about Joe Mauer taking some ground balls at first base, around the infield, third base, just to get out there and do some things. Those situations where last year, where we had Mauer DHing and [Mike] Redmond catching, those are scary stuff. So, you know what, you can put a situation where if you catch Redmond, you DH Morneau to give him a break, and play Joe at first base a day or two, that would be wonderful, probably for his legs and probably for Morneau's."
New Twins infielder Brendan Harris, traded here from Tampa Bay along with outfielder Delmon Young for shortstop Jason Bartlett and pitcher Matt Garza, spoke of Young's run-in with Rays manager Joe Maddon. In the second-to-last game of the year, Young reacted angrily when he was removed in the sixth inning at Toronto after failing to run out a grounder. "They had one little thing at the end of the year, I think, which was more out of frustration," Harris said. "I think that kind of got blown up a little bit. But ... a lot of people jumped on that because [of] his little bat-throwing incident from the year before. ... In our clubhouse, it wasn't that big of a deal."
Texas Christian men's basketball coach Neil Dougherty confirmed to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that former Gophers and Minneapolis Henry guard Brandon Smith has transferred to TCU. Smith left the Gophers in October.