With rumors continuing to surface that Francisco Liriano might be traded before the July 31 deadline, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan doesn't deny he has had a conversation with the lefthander's agent about potentially signing Liriano or trading him.
"We'll see how it plays out," Ryan said. "We're at a juncture in this schedule where a lot of rumors are flying around. I think I'll let those rumors continue to fly. I don't want to box myself in in any way, shape or form. There's a lot of possibilities.
"There's always a chance [of trading a player]. We're not doing well in the standings, and when that happens you're looking to try to improve and maybe do some things."
Ryan refused to disclose the nature of his conversation with Liriano's agent, Greg Genske. "I had a discussion with him, yes, as I do with a lot of agents at this time of year," Ryan said.
The issue with Liriano is if the Twins do not trade him, there's a good chance he could leave through free agency after the season, and because baseball has changed how it awards compensation for departed free agents, the Twins would only get a draft pick if they offered him a contract of about $12 million for 2013.
"When a player gets to this point in his career and they're this close to free agency, I would say that the chances are that they would like to explore the free agency and the market and all of the things that come with free agency," Ryan said. "That's not unusual. When they get close to six years and they've gone this far without a multiyear [deal] then they might want to explore beyond it."
Ryan, back in the GM position in place of Bill Smith after four years as an adviser, was asked what he would be looking in exchange for a pitcher such as Liriano, and he said in certain situations he would take a lower minor leaguer with greater potential than one on a major league roster or in Class AAA.
"I think that's accurate," he said. "I don't think there's any way that you'd settled for mediocrity if you've got a guy that has a big-time ceiling in him, whether he's in A-ball or Double-A. You'd like to get a guy that's close, there's no doubt. But sometimes those guys in A-ball or Double-A can move a lot quicker than a mediocre Triple-A-type guy."
Ryan added that the contact between general managers these days is pretty fluid when it comes to discussing trades.
"Nowadays, GMs and organizations, they'll go through the text route and the e-mail route, there's a lot of ways to get a hold of people," he said.
Still when it comes to trades these days, most rumors are simply media speculation, some spread by agents and others by ESPN and other media organizations.
The Twins roster has a number of weaknesses. What I can't understand is why the Twins wouldn't rather try to sign Liriano and keep the established players when the team has so many holes.
The only way they will be able to contend next year is by keeping their established players and then go out and do something this organization has never done, spending big bucks for a couple of established starting pitchers.
Help at Rochester
Even though it seems that anybody with any ability on the Class AAA Rochester farm team is in a Twins uniform already, Ryan said he believes there are a few guys down there that could help the big league club eventually.
The Red Wings recently got above .500 -- "It's been a long haul for them to get there," Ryan said -- before losing four of their past five games.
"I respect the fact that they haven't given up, they've done a decent job," Ryan said.
The Twins GM even had some good words to say about Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who I believe should be embarrassed to take the $9 million he will be paid over his two-year deal.
"He's starting to take better at-bats, he's kind of settled his approach down and the leg kick is not as high and he's not getting beat on stuff he should put a good swing on," Ryan said.
Over his past 10 games, Nishioka has hit .359 with four RBI, three runs scored and three doubles. He drove in three runs in Rochester's 17-9 loss to Syracuse on Thursday and is hitting .250 with a homer and 22 RBI on the season.
Ryan said that while he doesn't consider any player in the organization untouchable, there are prospects he would obviously rather keep.
"I'm not sure that there's anybody that I wouldn't move in a certain situation," he said. "I think that we have some guys down there below that are pretty good that people have interest in. But when you're talking about a team like where we're at, people are looking at major league-caliber people, they aren't worried about our minor league people right now."
Must keep recruiting
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is of the opinion that commitments by athletes aren't any sure thing. A recruit's verbal commitment to a school means very little, as they can change their mind at any time until they sign a letter of intent.
"You go to the Big Ten meetings and every coach in there will tell you that commitment doesn't mean anything, they're still going to be recruiting them," Kill said. "You're recruiting all the time. We could throw up a whole bunch of commitments that have supposedly committed, but to me, you build a relationship throughout the year and you put together a class that best fits what you need at the school you're at. I think where we're at right now and who we're looking at is exactly what we need to do at this point and time."
• Information from a very good source was that the Timberwolves had a deal pretty well made with Chicago for Kyle Korver, a great three-point shooter. But while the Wolves stalled to see if Portland was going to meet their offer for Nicolas Batum, the Bulls, not wanting to wait, traded Korver to Atlanta.
• Vikings vice president Steve LaCroix said 82 percent of season-ticket holders have renewed. Single-game tickets are now on sale.
• There is talk on the University of Minnesota campus that former Gophers golfer Tom Lehman might be hired in the near future to redesign the Les Bolstad Golf Course.
• Jordan Esposito -- the son of Joe Esposito, the director of basketball operations for the Gophers -- has won his past seven appearances for the St. Michael-Albertville 15 AAA baseball team. Jordan will be a sophomore this fall.
• Agent Neil Sheehy talked about how silly it would be to have an NHL lockout. "Hockey is great," he said. "Last lockout it was a $1.5 billion business before and now it's a $3 billion business. I think there's a lot of momentum and it'll be good for everybody to get playing. But we'll let the powers that be make those decisions."
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org