Willingham visits for medical tests

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2011 - 11:23 PM

The Twins moved closer to signing the free agent outfielder to a three-year, $21 million contract, bringing him to Minnesota for a physical, a person close to the situation said.

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Josh Willingham

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The Twins moved closer to signing Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract Wednesday, bringing the free agent outfielder to Minnesota for a physical, a person close to the situation said.

The Twins typically put new players through two days of medical tests before signing their contracts. The team plans to announce this deal Thursday or Friday, assuming Willingham's health checks out and all other details are finalized.

Willingham, 32, played 136 games for Oakland this year. He had one stint on the 15-day disabled list in July because of a strained Achilles' tendon. In 2010, he played 110 games for Washington, missing the final six weeks after having surgery to fix a medial meniscus tear in his left knee.

In 2008, he missed 50 games for Florida with a lower-back strain, but beyond those injuries, he's been fairly healthy through his seven-year big league career.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said he had nothing official to announce and didn't rule out the possibility of Michael Cuddyer returning to Minnesota.

"I don't have a deal with anybody, so I guess I've got an open door," Ryan said. "I'm still looking for a corner outfielder."

But once Willingham's deal becomes official, it almost certainly will end the Cuddyer era in Minnesota. Ryan acknowledged that it would be "improbable" for the team to sign both Cuddyer and Willingham, saying other pieces would have to be shifted.

The Willingham signing alone will push the projected payroll to about $96 million; Ryan's Opening Day target is $100 million.

The Twins offered a three-year, $24 million deal to Cuddyer last week before turning their full attention to Willingham. They are similar players -- righthanded power hitters with limited range defensively in the outfield. Both will turn 33 before Opening Day.

Willingham batted .246 with 29 home runs and 98 RBI for Oakland last season. His OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) was .810, and Cuddyer's was .805.

Twins sign Burroughs

Three players signed minor-league deals with the Twins that include spring training invites: third baseman Sean Burroughs, catcher Rene Rivera and righthanded pitcher P.J. Walters.

Burroughs, 31, who pitched his Long Beach, Calif., team to the 1993 Little League World Series title, was a first-round pick by the Padres in 1998 but never lived up to the hype.

After a long battle with substance abuse, he resurfaced last year with the Diamondbacks and batted .273 with one homer and eight RBI in 78 games.

Rivera impressed the Twins with his defense last year but batted only .144 in 45 games.

In five combined appearances for the Cardinals and Blue Jays last year, Walters posted a 7.20 ERA.

Etc.

• The Twins did not make a posting bid on Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish before Wednesday's deadline. Ryan said he expected the winning bid to be much higher than the Twins wanted to spend.

• The Twins continue to discuss a new position for former General Manager Bill Smith, one that would let him report to both Ryan and team president Dave St. Peter. Nothing has been finalized, but Smith has been spotted at Target Field on multiple occasions since Ryan replaced him Nov. 7.

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