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.

A.J. talks about free agency, other Twins notes

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: November 15, 2013 - 5:43 PM

This morning on the MLB Network's "Hot Stove" program, free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski talked about how the process has been going so far.

``The phone has been ringing,'' Pierzynski said. ``My agent has been doing a good job of talking to a bunch of teams. To be honest, there's interest. There was interest last year. So it's going well.''

The Twins definitely are interested in brining back their pre-Mauer era catcher for a year. They are looking to change to climate in the clubhouse. They to add a little edge. They want to add players who have a winning background.  And Pierzynski. who has 30 games of postseason experience, definitely can bring that. It also would buy them some time with young catcher Josmil Pinto, who showed a live bat but erratic skills behind the plate.

Pierzynski indicated that it could take some time before he makes a decision.

`` It's early in the process,'' he said. ``The biggest thing about being a free agent is everywhere you go people you see are like, `Where are you going to sign? Where are you going to sign?' It's non-stop, 24 hours a day. You get phone calls, you get text messages from your friends adn they are like, `You don't have a job yet?'  or your Mom will call and go, `you don't have a job yet?' Mom, it just started a week ago, can you calm down?''

Pierzynski lives in Orlando. It just so happens that the winter meetings are in Orlando this year. So I expect him to spend a a lot of time in the suites at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, talking with teams like the Twins. Maybe there will be a press conference at the end of the meetings to announce his return to the Twins.
Remember, The Twins have NEVER had a press conference at the winter meetings. They have holes all over the roster to fill, so maybe this will be the year they actually make an appearance in the media room.

The hunt for pitching

The Twins have contacted pretty much every free agent pitcher on the market, from Ervin Santana to Johan Santana. There aren't any indications that they have made a contract offer. There could be a couple out there that we just haven't heard about.

Johan Santana is interested in signing with the Twins, but how healthy will he be and how much does he have left after two shoulder surgeries? If the Twins sign him, the Twins would have to pretend he doesn't exist - like they did Rich Harden - until he gets close to pitching in games. So their priorities are on upgrading the rotation with a couple quality starters. My sense is that they might end up dealing for one, with a package that includes a prospect not named Byron or Miguel.

Another thing. Asking for medical reports for a free agent is doing due dilligence, and not a sign that a deal is near. If medicals are exchanged between teams talking trade, then that means talks have heated up. Just keep that in mind as you weave through offseason rumors.

BTW, I wouldn't be surprised if the agent for reliever LaTroy Hawkins rings up the Twins to gauge their interest. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins seriously consider it.

Other stuff

Here are some minor things that have nothing to do with adding players:

Coming out of instructional league, the Twins decided to leave former first-round pick Levi Michael at second base for now. Michael was drafted as a shortstop but some believe he looks more comfortable at second. That could always change. Michael needs a big season. He batted .246 in 2012 but .229 last season - both at Class A Fort Myers. He did miss a chunk of last season after injuring his neck in June in a collision with shortstop Anderlin Mejia while going after a ground ball.

Also, the Twins will give Jorge Polanco the 2014 season to prove he can stick at short. There's not a concensus on if he can play there full-time, but he'll get a shot to hold down the position. Polanco, 20, has batted  .308 and .318 his last two minor league seasons, which has pleasantly surprised the organization.

Twins GM Terry Ryan has confirmed that all coaches have signed their contracts for this season. So the entire staff is back - plus newcomer Paul Molitor.

Although he was out of the game for a year, the Twins are intrigued with what Jason Bartlett could bring to the team. Bartlett has played in 24 postseason games. As I pointed out before, the Twins want to add players who have won in the past. No word if they are talking Joe Mays out of retirement. That's a joke, by the way.

Many fans think Joe Mauer has blown a chance at the Hall of Fame because of his move to first base. He's hitting the best years of his career and he's moving to a less-demanding position. What if he wins three more batting titles? That would give him six and put him in the discussion. If he's fresher, if his hands are fresher, why can't he churn out  couple more .340 seasons? I don't know how to project his power potential, but he should continue to hit for a high avereage and be an on base machine.


 

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