No deals yet, but Twins make offers in live pitching market

As the winter meetings wrap up, player movement could escalate.

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Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Joe Saunders.

Photo: Kathy Willens, Associated Press

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NASHVILLE - There's one day to go in Major League Baseball's annual winter meetings, and the Twins still haven't made a deal to add starting pitching for 2013. But that could change.

The Twins have made offers to several of their targets, and the market for starting pitching began to move Wednesday evening when lefthander Jeff Francis re-signed with the Rockies and righthander Joe Blanton signed with the Angels. Blanton was one of the pitchers the Twins considered to try to improve their rotation following a 66-96 season.

According to sources, the Twins have made offers to lefthanders Joe Saunders and Francisco Liriano. It was believed that they also made an offer to Blanton and lefthander John Lannan. And they have shown interest in free-agent righthanders Brett Myers, Jair Jurrjens, Ryan Dempster and Brandon McCarthy. Other reports have them linked to free-agent righthander Kevin Correia and Rangers lefthander Derek Holland.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan on Wednesday would not confirm whether he had made any contract offers.

"We've had more discussions," Ryan said. "We've had more dialogue. We have had more exchanges, whatever you want to call it, with various guys.

"Whether or not that comes to finality of bringing a guy in, we will have to see."

The Twins have burned the midnight oil in talking to agents and clubs about pitching help. Ryan said the team met with a steady stream of agents on Monday, followed by a mix of agents and clubs on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ryan said, in most cases, once the upper-tier pitchers begin to move, the rest of the pitching market takes shape. In this case, Blanton's signing signals the Angels' removal from the Zach Greinke sweepstakes. Greinke and Annibal Sanchez are the top free agents on the market.

There could be a flurry of activity early Thursday morning and until the general managers depart the Gaylord Opryland Hotel as teams find out what it will take to secure a deal.

The Twins have about $71 million in payroll commitments for 2013, so they should be able to sweeten offers if they need to close a deal.

"I have no problems with where we are at with the payroll," Ryan said.

The Twins, of course, need more than one starter to upgrade a rotation that let them down again and again last season. The Twins gave up 125 runs in the first inning last season -- their most of any inning. They gave up 111 in the second inning -- their second most of any inning. Two or three capable starting pitchers could limit the early runs and put the Twins in position to win more games.

Enough to be competitive in the improving AL Central? That's not clear. But they undoubtedly need starting pitching.

"The agents are getting to the point where they are going to put deadlines on clubs," Ryan said. "We all have choices still, so as soon as those bigger-name guys that are the most sought after end up making a deal, the agents are going to want answers. They don't want to be left out."

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