Sid Hartman: GM Smith says Twins aren't close to trade

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2009 - 9:34 PM

Bill Smith didn't sound optimistic on the trade front, saying the team doesn't want to give up its top prospects.

The Twins will have some unhappy players if the club doesn't make any trades to improve the team's chances to win the Central Division and maybe advance to the World Series.

There was a near revolt in the clubhouse a couple of years ago when the team was in the playoff race and had a chance to go a long way, when Terry Ryan, the general manager at the time, traded starting second baseman Luis Castillo to the Mets for two prospects.

The Twins' last midseason trade that effectively strengthened the club was the one in 2003 that sent Bobby Kielty to Toronto for Shannon Stewart, who played a big part in the team coming back from 7 1/2 games down at the All-Star break to win the division.

Current Twins GM Bill Smith explained that the Twins don't want to make a move that will give up too much in the future for some immediate benefit.

"Every team tries to make deals, but they are tough to make," Smith said. "The teams that are selling players are looking for a high return. We try and balance out the benefit of the short term vs. the long term.

"We could have made a lot of deals over the last couple of years if we put Denard Span in the deal. When he was back in AA and AAA, everybody would have said go ahead. Now it looks like holding on to Denard Span was a pretty good deal."

The team's recent history has been to not give up any top prospects to improve the team. Asked if the Twins are any more reluctant to give up prospects than other clubs, Smith said: "We rely on our scouting and development as much or more than some other clubs. If you look at the number of deals that get made, it's hard to make a deal. Terry [Ryan] worked at it frantically year after year. We were able to make the Shannon Stewart deal. We were able to make a few other deals. I think every club tries to make them, but you have to balance out what you have to give up."

Asked if he thinks the Twins can win the division and a championship without making an improvement, Smith replied: "I can't win with that question. If I say yes, and we don't, I look foolish."

Smith said that the team is not close to making any deal. "They want our best prospects," he said. "A couple of years ago, we could have made deals If we would give up our best young players. Our best young players then are our good players now in the major leagues."

The Pirates' Freddy Sanchez, an All-Star second baseman who won the National League batting title two years ago, is available. Rumors are that the Twins could get Sanchez for pitcher Francisco Liriano, who has been having a rough time this year. But the Twins aren't likely to give up Liriano, and Sanchez's high salary ($6.25 million) could be a factor.

But the Twins keep bringing Alexi Casilla up and sending him down.

Asked if he believes Casilla will get things straightened out this time, Smith said: "I don't know. We know Alexi Casilla has good skills. He has the skills to play this position. You look at what he did last year when he came up and energized our lineup and played well at second base. That's what we need him to do. If he can't do that, we're going to have look elsewhere."

Don't blame Jim Pohlad and the Twins ownership for the team not making any trades. The owners rely on their baseball people to make those decisions, and rest assured, the Pohlads will say yes when it comes to the financial side if the trade will help the club.

Wolves still looking

The latest Timberwolves coaching candidate to be interviewed by President of Basketball Operations David Kahn is Jeff Bzdelik, the former Denver Nuggets coach now at the University of Colorado. Bzdelik led the Nuggets to a 43-39 record in 2003-04, a 26-game improvement from the year before; eighth-seeded Denver then lost to the Wolves in the first round of the playoffs. He was fired in December 2004 and has been in the NCAA ever since, first at Air Force and with the Buffaloes since 2007.

Others rumored as candidates include Houston Rockets assistant coach Elston Turner, a dark horse; and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, who probably would command more than Wolves owner Glen Taylor would want to pay.

According to the website HoopsHype.com, the Wolves don't have a single player among the 30 highest-paid NBA players. Al Jefferson is the highest-paid Wolves player with a $12 million salary for 2009-10; his contract calls for $13 million, $14 million and $15 million the following three seasons. HoopsHype also lists the Wolves' team payroll 24th in the 30-team NBA at $54.9 million.

Jottings

Adrian Peterson is on the cover of ESPN the Magazine's fantasy football preview issue with a story titled "Long Live The King." The magazine predicts that the Vikings star will rush for exactly 1,837 yards in 2009. The article says, "Adrian Peterson won't just be the best fantasy player in 2009, he will be a cornerstone for the next decade. ... Bottom line: Draft him, protect him, celebrate."

Rev. James Checchio worked with the Philadelphia Eagles while Brad Childress was an assistant coach with the team. Checchio was promoted to the Vatican a few years ago, so when Childress' daughter, Cara Childress, got married last weekend to Justin Forbrook, Checchio flew in from Rome to conduct the ceremony. Those in attendance included Eagles coach Andy Reid and his wife, Tammy; a group of coaches who were on the University of Wisconsin staff with Childress under Barry Alvarez; team owners Mark and Leonard Wilf; and of course several other members of the Vikings organization.

Twins third baseman Joe Crede signed a contract for $2.5 million; however, he can earn up to $4.5 million more based on performance bonuses based on plate appearances. He has already earned $500,000 for reaching 250 PAs. He entered Saturday on pace for 509 plate appearances for the season, a total that would earn him $3 million of the bonuses; he would get $750,000 more if he could reach 515 and $750,000 on top of that if he could reach 540.

Hollis Cavner, who runs the 3M Championship among other Champions Tour events, said that this year's event provided $1.3 million in charitable contributions to Twin Cities hospitals, the same amount as last year, even though admission for this year's event in Blaine was free. He plans to have free admission next year, too.

Eric Musselman, the son of former Gophers and Wolves coach Bill Musselman and the former coach of the Sacramento Kings, could wind up coaching in Russia this season for Spartak St. Petersburg. ... Former Wolves star Wally Szczerbiak was born in Spain and might wind up playing there. He played with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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