Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: One Twins deal is down; any more to come?

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 2, 2012 - 9:02 AM

The Twins aren't calling this a rebuilding project, but after trading Denard Span for a Class A pitching prospect Thursday, it's clear they're not afraid to weaken their 2013 squad to strengthen their future.

Why stop there?

With the winter meetings opening Monday, the Twins say they are open to entertaining offers for anyone on their roster, including Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and, yes, Joe Mauer.

After finishing 66-96 last season -- their second straight year with the American League's worst record -- their chances of contending next year seem remote, especially considering the state of their starting rotation.

So maybe their energy should be focused on 2014 or 2015, when several highly touted prospects could be settled in at Target Field, a group including Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer, the pitcher acquired from the Nationals for Span.

Twins President Dave St. Peter said the team does hope to contend in 2013, calling it a critical year to rebuild the fans' faith. But if the right offer comes along, the organization won't hesitate to move another fan favorite.

"I think our fans want to see us get better, and I think they recognize there should be no sacred cows," St. Peter said. "And if there's a vision for how we get better, how we ultimately position ourselves for long-term success, I think the fans in this marketplace are very open to that."

Last week, reports surfaced that the Twins had rebuffed Boston's attempts to trade for Mauer, who is still owed $138 million over the next six years. But without getting into specifics, Ryan insisted every option is on the table.

"I've said this a couple times: We don't have any untouchables," Ryan said. "That's as plain an answer as I can give you. If somebody has some interest in one of our guys, we'll listen.

"It's easy to say, 'Oh well, somebody ought to have interest in Willingham and Morneau and Mauer.' OK, no kidding. We've got interest in all kinds of players in the industry, but unfortunately it's going to take quite a bit to get them."

Would Twins listen?

The chances of a Morneau trade are slim. He is under contract for one more season, at $14 million, but his wrist issues and concussion history make it risky to take on that salary. Insiders believe the Twins would have to eat at least half of the first baseman's salary to get a good prospect, though his value could rise toward the July 31 trade deadline if he stays healthy.

In Willingham, the Twins have a chance to sell high. In the first year of his three-year, $21 million contract, the left fielder had career highs with 35 home runs and 110 RBI. But he turns 34 in February and has a history of back problems, so his trade value might never be higher.

Then there's Mauer. At the end of the 2011 season, his eight-year, $184 million contract looked like a major albatross after injuries limited him to 82 games. But he rebounded last season to play a career-high 147 games and posted a major league-best .416 on-base percentage.

Still, he's a part-time catcher who has managed 22 home runs over the past three seasons after slugging 28 in 2009. It's uncertain how much the Twins could get for him without eating some salary.

But baseball owners get impulsive this time of year. The Yankees just lost free agent catcher Russell Martin to the Pirates. The Rangers might lose Josh Hamilton to free agency and could need a catcher to replace Mike Napoli. The Red Sox need to appease their fans after clearing $261 million in salary from their books by trading Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers.

Mauer has a full no-trade clause, so he would have final say. He's a St. Paul kid, but he spends his winters in Fort Myers, Fla., the spring training home of the Twins and Red Sox. As a hitter in the Wade Boggs mold, maybe he would welcome the chance to spray opposite-field doubles off the Green Monster.

What if Boston or another team offers to absorb Mauer's entire contract, while giving the Twins another Grade A pitching prospect? The Twins might be tempted, especially knowing only one team in modern history has won a World Series with a player absorbing at least 20 percent of his team's payroll -- the 2003 Marlins with catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

Public relations job

Of course, if the Twins trade Mauer or Willingham, they will risk further alienating their fans. Dave Mona, the Minneapolis chairman for the Weber Shandwick public relations firm, said one key to any rebuilding plan would be skillfully articulating the rationale to fans.

"It's a difficult challenge, but how much more difficult would it be than continuing the course they're on right now where they've disappointed their fan base in consecutive years?" Mona said.

Mona noted that the Twins have a history of building around young talent. They did it with Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky leading up to the 1987 World Series, and again with Torii Hunter's group in the early 2000s.

But the Twins aren't in the Metrodome anymore. They are three seasons into the Target Field era, which would make a rebuilding project "infinitely harder" to sell, Mona said.

"I think a lot of people felt that once Target Field was built, those days would be behind us," Mona said.

To be clear, the Twins haven't signaled that they are about to abandon hope for 2013. More likely, they will sign some veteran free-agent pitchers, such as Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano, and give it another try with Mauer, Willingham and Morneau at the heart of their order.

But the Twins know they need to weigh every option, always keeping an eye on the future.

Baseball America co-editor John Manuel recently said their farm system ranks with the game's best in terms of hitting prospects, with Sano, Buxton, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Eddie Rosario. But their starting pitching talent lags behind, even with Meyer in the fold and Kyle Gibson coming back from elbow surgery.

"I think you can do both [compete now and build for the future]," St. Peter said. "It isn't like in order to ensure greater success in the future that we have to sacrifice today. It's my hope we can continue to put a team on the field in 2013 that not only has a chance to be better than last year but hopefully contend for the postseason."

  • related content

  • Free agents: Available and signed

    Sunday December 2, 2012

  • Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau (33) greets Josh Willingham after Will...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 25 3rd Qtr 1:52
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 111 1st OT 2:09
Denver 108
Houston 47 2nd Qtr 2:09
LA Lakers 28
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close