Twins Insider: Trades aside, offseason work is far from done

Even after trading Denard Span and Ben Revere, General Manager Terry Ryan vows to "field a competitive team next season."

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Terry Ryan

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So far this offseason, the Twins have failed to close the gap with division champion Detroit -- unless you're talking about the 2015 gap.

The Twins have traded not one but two starting center fielders -- Denard Span and Ben Revere, who played mostly right field last year -- leaving two gaping holes in the outfield. Meanwhile, the additions of righthanders Alex Meyer and Trevor May in the past couple of weeks have fans feeling good about the future, if not the present.

But General Manager Terry Ryan will look you in the eye and say, "We are going to field a competitive team next season." Other Twins officials say the same.

We're in the heart of the offseason, with plenty of time for Ryan to back up his claim.

It was pointed out to me Friday that if the Twins were ready to punt on 2013 and build for two years down the road, they would actively pursue deals for players such as Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and even Glen Perkins. But they are not.

They traded Denard Span for Meyer and Ben Revere for May and righthander Vance Worley because they couldn't pass up the opportunity to add pitching to an organization desperately in need of a few good arms.

In fact, a report out of Philadelphia on Friday had the Phillies asking for Willingham as well as Revere. I was told that the Twins weren't ready to seriously talk about Willingham because it would signal an intention to give up on 2013, and they aren't ready to take that step.

The Twins will continue to work the free-agent market for more starting pitching, although the pool of available pitchers was reduced by one on Friday when Brandon McCarthy agreed to sign with Arizona.

The Twins are not in the running for top free-agent pitchers Zack Greinke, Annibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson. But they have expressed interest in lefthanders Joe Saunders and John Lannan and righthanders Brett Myers and Kevin Correia. They have made several contract offers and are waiting to hear back from agents.

They have spoken with the agents for former Twin Francisco Liriano, but those talks reportedly have hit a snag. The Twins would like to sign two starting pitchers, but it has to be for what they consider a reasonable price. With Worley in the fold, lefthander Scott Diamond a rotation lock and righthander Kyle Gibson ready to contribute, two more pitchers sounds like a good plan. Nick Blackburn, Cole De Vries, Samuel Deduno and others can force their way into the rotation with a big spring training, or provide depth.

Chris Parmelee is penciled in as the starter in right field, but there are no experienced every-day center fielders on the roster.

On Wednesday night, some folks around the lobby at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel began to whisper about a Revere trade to the Phillies. I was skeptical, because the Twins didn't have anyone ready to step in for Revere. But several people in the organization believe former first-round draft pick Aaron Hicks is almost ready to play in the majors.

Hicks batted .286 at Class AA New Britain last season with 21 doubles, 11 triples, 13 home runs and 32 stolen bases. He has a powerful arm and excellent range in center field, leaving the Twins to worry only about whether he can hold his own at the plate. Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson will get shots in center, and the Twins might bring in another veteran for competition, but the club appears ready to hand center field over to one of its top prospects.

Again, we're talking about young, unproven talent.

If the Twins are serious about competing in 2013, they need to have a strong second half of the offseason. A couple of credible starting pitchers could go a long way toward that. If not, then we will start looking ahead to the MGM boys -- Meyer, Gibson and May -- in 2015.

If anything, recent events have ignited plenty of chatter among Twins fans. That's a good thing, as we pull out our shovels and gas up the snowblowers this weekend.

La Velle E. Neal III • lneal@startribune.com

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