Everybody I spoke with during TwinsFest believes the team soon will have Joe Mauer signed to a contract extension. Two people (on the fringes), who have their own information pipelines, claimed that the deal's basic framework -- the number of years and guaranteed money -- is already set, with the sides negotiating things such as deferred payments, etc.
Our best sources on this subject, however, insisted there wouldn't be news of an extension all weekend, and they were right. (Clarification: It's important to emphasize here that we have not confirmed that the framework is done. Fringe sources might think so, but those closest to the talks haven't confirmed. The spirit of this blog post was "gut feelings and hot tips," but some media outlets are running with this as hard information.)
Mauer said Friday he doesn't want his contract to become a distraction for the team. But there is hardly widespread panic that the Twins are going to lose him to free agency.
I'm confident an extension is coming. It's a matter of when, not if.
(*) As reported Saturday, the Twins don't appear to have much interest in re-signing 3B Joe Crede, even with another incentive-laden deal. Crede had a hard time keeping himself in the lineup last year, even when he wasn't on the DL, which often left the Twins playing with a 24-man roster.
Crede is a defensive wizard, but the Twins seem content to let Brendan Harris and eventually Danny Valencia have those at-bats. It's not like the Twins are desperate for Crede's power. Their lineup will have Mauer, Justin Morneau, J.J. Hardy, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and occasionally Jim Thome. They'd be happy with a third baseman who reaches base, helping turn over the lineup.
(*) Several Twins insiders sounded hopeful about signing 2B Orlando Hudson, but it sounds like his price would have to plummet, like Thome's did, when he signed for $1.5 million after making $13 million last year.
I don't think the Twins would spend $3 million to sign Hudson. They've already committed $91.4 million for next year. Hudson would be a nice fit in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, but if Alexi Casilla bounces back this spring, he could fill that spot, too. That would be a nice scenario for the Twins because it would allow Nick Punto to move into a super-utility role.
(*) The Twins still have to trim someone from the 40-man roster to make room for Thome. We'll have the announcement when it comes.
(*) Glen Perkins will be pitching with a chip on his shoulder this spring, hoping to show the Twins that his minor-league demotion last year was a mistake. He filed a grievance against the team, and bridges have been burned, but Manager Ron Gardenhire sounds ready to give Perkins a fair shake.
"That stuff, to me it’s over with," Gardenhire said. "We go to spring training, he’s right in camp again, just another guy."
(*) I was skeptical about Francisco Liriano's winter ball success in the Dominican Republic, but his confidence showed all weekend at TwinsFest. Facing Liriano's team in the nine-game Dominican championship series, Casilla batted .344 but struck out four times in eight at-bats against Liriano.
"He's nasty, I can tell you that," Casilla said. "I've never seen his slider like that. It's a different pitch."