La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Looking ahead to the next phase for the Twins

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: December 12, 2010 - 2:49 PM

The Twins did not exit the winter meetings with a better team. It looks more likely than ever that Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier are gone. Their starting middle infield won't be back and the players the Twins do want to bring back - Carl Pavano and Jim Thome - have interest from other clubs.

I like adding someone like Jim Hoey - but is it fair to expect him to be that guy to match up with power hitters late in games? Not yet.

I will point out that the Twins, in recent years, have made some of their better moves closer to pitchers and catchers reporting. So it's not time to question their approach this offseason.

With that, on to some notes:

WHEN WILL PAVANO DECIDE?

Righthander Carl Pavano is drawling interest from a few other clubs, but has told teammates and club officials that he really wants to stay in the Twin Cities.

His agent, Tom O'Connell - however - is going to do his due diligence. He will get the best offers he can for his client and show him all options before they make a decision. That means they will wait to see who might be more motivated to sign Pavano after Cliff Lee finds a home. For instance, if Lee goes to the Yankees, the Rangers might turn to Pavano.

I don't think the Twins have to match the best offer to keep Pavano.

With Adam Dunn (White Sox) and Victor Martinez (Tigers) in the AL Central now, the Twins need to make sure their starting rotation is as solid as possible. Pavano achieves that. I initially thought the Twins had no chance to keep Pavano after the season ended. Now I think they have a real shot if they make at least a two-year offer with perhaps an option year tacked on.

MIDDLE RELIEF MESS

Hoey came across as a cool guy during our phone conversation on Thursday. His full name is James Hoey V, so he wanted to know, if I ever have kids, would I name my son La Velle E. Neal IV.

Hoey is back to throwing above 95 mph after recovering from shoulder surgery. Now he wants to fine tune his control. Who better to work with than Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson?

Still, if the Twins think this is all they have to do to build a bullpen, I disagree. They must bring in a capable veteran reliever. Heard they at least talked about relievers like  Quad Qualls, Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg and perhaps Sean White this offseason. It's unclear if that led to any contract offers.

I know the relief market is rough - thanks to Joaquin Benoit's three-year, $16.5-million deal with the Tigers. But the Twins can't rely on Anthony Slama, Alex Burnett or Kyle Waldrop yet. I do believe that,with a normal offseason, Pat Neshek can come back with better velo than last year. Glen Perkins could thrive in a relief role. But the Twins should not settle for what they currently have..

OTHER MOVES?

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that the Twins are interested in Cardinals infielder Brendan Ryan. It would make sense for the Twins to have a capable backup plan. Both Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have had injury issues in recent seasons, so a good back up is needed.

That's not the best reflection on Matt Tolbert, is it?

Meanwhile, the most recent capable backup, Nick Punto, reportedly is drawing interest from the Indians.

UPDATE:  Ryan has  been dealt to the Mariners

WAITING FOR NISHIOKA

This could be a historic week for the Twins as they work on a deal for Japanese infielder Nishioka. There were rumblings that he was going to travel to the Twin Cities this week for a physical - a sign that a deal is near.

If true, it's too bad that he's arriving following one of the worst weekends for weather in Twin Cities history.

To be clear, the Twins have had a Japanese-born player before. Micheal Nakamura pitched for the Twins in 2003. He was born in Nara but grew up and went to high school in Australia, where he was signed by the Twins. Nishioka would be the first player from the Japanese Leagues to play for the Twins.

Stay tuned for more news as the offseason continues. I figured writing and thinking about baseball would get our minds off of what's waiting for us outside.

 

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