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Twins seem willing to part with pitching

  • Article by: Joe Christensen
  • Star Tribune
  • November 7, 2007 - 10:43 PM

ORLANDO - The San Diego Padres are one of several teams that have expressed interest in the Twins' young starting pitchers this week at the general managers meetings.

The teams had exploratory trade talks Wednesday, and indications were they didn't get very far after the Twins asked for Chase Headley, a switch-hitting third baseman who recently was named Texas League Player of the Year.

The Twins might not land Headley, but the example illustrates just how lofty the team's sights are as it looks to bolster the offense.

Internally, the Twins have targeted Tampa Bay's Del- mon Young and B.J. Upton, along with the New York Mets' Carlos Gomez -- all of whom rank among the top young players in baseball.

"I don't think it's any secret we want to build up our offense," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said.

Of course, striving to acquire the top young talent in baseball is one thing. Actually getting it is another.

How do the Twins think they can pull this off?

By shifting their philosophy of protecting their young pitching prospects at all costs.

The Twins protected Matt Garza in 2006, for example, when the Washington Nationals wanted him in a package for Alfonso Soriano.

Now, there are strong indications the Twins would be willing to move Garza for a top young hitter. Other teams are asking about Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey as well.

The Twins have shifted their philosophy because they have no major league-ready position players in their farm system. Smith noted how in recent years, the system has produced Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer.

"We really haven't gone out to get hitters because we had hitters coming," he said. "But now we have holes in our offense, and we need to do whatever we can to try to fill those holes."

The Twins are looking for a third baseman and a designated hitter, and if Torii Hunter leaves via free agency, they'll need a new center fielder, too.

Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, spent two days in Orlando without meeting with the Twins.

They offered Hunter a three-year, $45 million contract in late August, and neither side seems eager to renegotiate until after other teams can make formal offers on Nov. 13.

The Twins' talks with free agent pitcher Carlos Silva also have stalled. There were indications Wednesday that the team offered Silva a three-year contract worth less than $20 million.

As one of the top pitchers in a weak free-agent class, Silva could command a four-year, $40 million deal on the open market, some baseball officials have said.

Like Hunter, Silva has not given the Twins a counteroffer.

"Are we frustrated?" Smith said. "We're not angry about it. We'd love to be able to sign both guys, but they've earned the right to [test free agency]."

Re-signing Silva might not be a priority if the Twins viewed the rest of their pitchers as untouchables.

But if they trade Garza, Baker and/or Slowey to obtain the hitters they want, keeping Silva would make even more sense.

"We have good young pitchers that other teams covet," Smith said. "I think there are a lot of teams that would like to have the stable of young arms that the Twins have."

The Devil Rays are among those searching, and they have been spotted meeting with the Twins in Orlando.

Upton (24 home runs, 82 RBI, .300 batting average last year) remains a Tampa Bay favorite, but Young (13 HR, 93 RBI, .293) had a well-publicized blowup with manager Joe Maddon in late September.

"We're not good enough ... to say that anyone is untouchable," said Andrew Friedman, the Devil Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "Obviously, there are players that we're much less likely to talk about and it would be much harder for us to deal. That being said, we have to listen to anything and everything."

The Twins hope they have some ideas teams want to hear.

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

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