Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Twins spring training home in Fort Myers, Fla., would get a $45.5 million facelift, to renovate Hammond Stadium and enhance the surrounding facilities, with the team agreeing to a new 30-year lease, under a proposal presented today to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.
Hammond Stadium’s seating capacity would increase from 8,000 to 9,300, with wider concourses, renovated concession stands and rest rooms, a 360-degree walkway for fans around the field, and more shaded areas.
The Twins would pay $13.8 million toward the project, partly through an increase in rent from $300,000 to $500,000 per year, and through the construction of an on-site dormitory that would include 55 sleeping rooms for players and staff. The rest of the tab would be paid through a county bond issue, with the state of Florida kicking in $15 million over the course of the 30-year lease.
The Lee County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the matter Nov. 6, and a report in the Fort Myers New Press quoted one commissioner who expects the measure to pass 4-to-1.
Bill Smith, the Twins former general manager who now works as a special assistant to the team’s president and GM, has been the Twins point person on the project and played a central role in the planning when the Lee County Sports Complex first opened for the Twins in 1991.
“We’re excited, we’re pleased,” Smith said. “We think there’s a very good package of improvements to the ballpark that will make this thing one of the best in the game.”
The new lease would take effect when the renovation is completed, and Smith said the Twins hope that’s in time for spring training in 2015.
The plans would add an additional practice field, build a new weight room on the major league side of the complex and add a hydrotherapy area.
“We have a great complex now, but it’s 22 years old, and there’s a lot of it that needs to be refreshed and remodeled,” Smith said. “And in addition to that, there’s a lot of things that have changed in the game over the last 22 years.”
Smith said the Tigers and Pirates are among the teams that have on-site dormitories in their spring training facilities.
The Twins want 55 rooms because that is a number they would use throughout the season with their Class A Florida State League affiliate and rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate both based in Fort Myers. During spring training, older minor-league players would still stay in local hotels.
“It’s much more than sleeping rooms,” Smith said. “It’s dining facilities which allow us to improve nutrition across the board in spring training and year-round for rookie players and our instructional league players.
“It’s meeting rooms and classrooms to help us improve education across the board for all players, not just for teaching English to foreign players.”
The Minnesota Twins today filled their three major league coaching vacancies, naming Terry Steinbach their new bench coach, Tom Brunansky their new hitting coach and Bobby Cuellar their new bullpen coach.
Joe Vavra will remain on Ron Gardenhire’s staff as the third base coach, Scott Ullger will be the first base coach, and as announced earlier this month, Rick Anderson will remain the pitching coach.
Brunansky and Cuellar were expected choices for the Twins, but the one surprise was Steinbach coming back into a coaching role, as it was widely speculated that the Twins would promote Class AAA manager Gene Glynn to their big league staff.
Steinbach, a New Ulm native who caught in the majors from 1986 through 1999, will be the bench coach and catching instructor, Ullger will oversee outfield instruction and Vavra will oversee infield instruction.
Bill Smith never really left the Twins, and now he's officially back as Assistant to the President and General Manager.
He spent four years as the GM before the Twins replaced him with Terry Ryan in November. The Twins immediately began discussing this new position with Smith and gave him some time to think about it.
Smith was seen at Target Field multiple times during the transition. He'll begin working under his new title on Jan. 1. Among his tasks:
* He'll continue to work with Lee County, fostering relationships he's been building since the Twins spring training facility opened in 1991. The Twins hope to do some major renovations on the facility for 2013.
* Assessing the team's player development in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, etc.
* Smith helped lead a seamless transition from the Metrodome to Target Field, and the Twins will have him lead their efforts on developing and maintaining their baseball-related facilities (Target Field, Hammond Stadium, etc.).
* Smith, a longtime member of baseball's minor-league advisory board, will work with Twins minor league director Jim Rantz on maintaining relationships with the team's affiliates.
"All of us with the ballclub are thrilled to have Bill Smith staying with the Twins family," team president Dave St. Peter said in the announcement. "His many contributions during a 25-plus year tenure with the Twins has directly resulted in much of the success this franchise has enjoyed on and off the field. To that end, we are excited to have this opportunity to have him on board with hopes of maximizing his many talents."
I'm not sure why our sources have been so cautious with this one, insisting all day that Josh Willingham's deal with the Twins wasn't finalized, pending a physical.
Tonight, I learned that Willingham is already in Minnesota for his physical. He started going through tests today. The Twins typically put new players through two days of medical exams before signing their contracts.
The team plans to announce the Willingham deal on Thursday or Friday*, assuming everything checks out OK and all contract details are finalized. The sides have discussed a three-year, $21 million deal.
Terry Ryan hasn't ruled out a return for Michael Cuddyer, but once Willingham's contract is officially signed, it likely will signal the end of Cuddyer's time with the Twins.
I'll have more on this in tonight's first editions.
* - I got a tip later tonight that an official announcement might not come until Friday.
OK, you knew this was coming. With the Twins very close to a three-year, $21 million deal with Josh Willingham, let’s insert his estimated $7 million salary into our 2012 payroll tracker.
By my calculations, this pushes the Twins projected 25-man Opening Day payroll to $95,720,000. The Twins opened the 2011 season at $113 million, and GM Terry Ryan has said he wants to trim that number to $100 million.
Internally, Twins officials speak as if they are determined to toe that line, but I still wouldn’t be shocked if they wind up closer to $110 million, when all is said and done.
There have been several changes since we last did this exercise. Kevin Slowey, Jose Mijares and Jim Hoey are gone. Matt Capps is back, and I’ve added Rule 5 pick Terry Doyle to the bullpen because I think he’s going to stick on the Opening Day roster, as a long reliever, at least.
You’ll see some obvious concerns below. The pitching staff needs multiple upgrades, and if the Twins decide to go cheap, these will be coming from the scrap heap, with everyone’s fingers crossed. I also think the Twins will look to add a lefthanded hitter off the bench, and without Michael Cuddyer, this person probably needs to play some first base, as Morneau insurance.
Again, nothing has been finalized with Willingham. I still haven’t received an official word that the Cuddyer talks are dead, but with the information we have now, this seems to be where things stand.
Notes: Salaries with an asterisk by them are arbitration estimates. All players who aren’t under contract or arbitration eligible are estimated to make $520,000 (the MLB minimum is $480,000). The $95,720,00 projection does not include Joe Nathan’s $2 million buyout.
1. CF -- Denard Span: $3,000,000
2. SS -- Jamey Carroll: $2,750,000
3. C -- Joe Mauer: $23,000,000
4. 1B -- Justin Morneau: $15,000,000
5. RF -- Josh Willingham: $7,000,000
6. DH -- Ryan Doumit: $3,000,000
7. 3B -- Danny Valencia: $520,000
8. 2B -- Alexi Casilla: *$1,500,000
9. LF -- Ben Revere: $520,000
Total (9 starters): $56,290,000
1. RH -- Carl Pavano: $8,500,000
2. RH -- Scott Baker: $6,500,000
3. LH -- Francisco Liriano: *$5,800,000
4. RH -- Nick Blackburn: $4,750,000
5. RH -- Anthony Swarzak: $520,000
Total (5 starters): $26,070,000
RH -- Matt Capps: $4,500,000
LH -- Glen Perkins: *$1,700,000
LH -- Brian Duensing: $520,000
RH -- Alex Burnett: $520,000
RH -- Lester Oliveros: $520,000
RH -- Esmerling Vasquez: $520,000
RH -- Terry Doyle: $520,000
Total (7 relievers): $8,800,000
SS -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka: $3,000,000
OF Trevor Plouffe: $520,000/OF Rene Tosoni $520,000
INF -- Luke Hughes: $520,000
C -- Drew Butera: $520,000
Total (4 bench players): $4,560,000
25-MAN PROJECTION: $95,720,000
(each would make about $520,000)
* -- Non-roster invitee
1B -- Chris Parmelee
OF -- Joe Benson
INF -- Brian Dozier
*INF -- Pedro Florimon
*C -- Chris Herrmann
LHP Scott Diamond
RHP Liam Hendriks
LHP Matt Maloney
RHP Kyle Waldrop
RHP Jeff Manship
RHP Carlos Gutierrez
*RHP Jason Bulger
*LHP Phil Dumatrait
The Twins will offer arbitration to free agent outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel today but not to free agent reliever Matt Capps, General Manager Terry Ryan confirmed in a teleconference with reporters.
Teams have until tonight to offer arbitration to Type A and Type B free agents, which positions clubs for draft-pick compensation if these players sign elsewhere.
Cuddyer and Kubel are expected to decline arbitration, which would pin them to a one-year agreement. Both players should command multi-year deals on the open market.
Key point: The Twins can still re-sign Cuddyer, Kubel and/or Capps. Today's decisions do nothing to change that.
Cuddyer is now a modified Type A free agent. If another team signs him, it wouldn't surrender a first-round pick, but the Twins could still receive an extra first-round pick and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.
Kubel is a Type B. If he leaves, the Twins will receive a sandwich pick.
Capps is now a modified Type B. The Twins did not have to offer him arbitration to gain a sandwich pick if he leaves.
Bottom line: The whole thing is making me hungry for a sandwich. Time for lunch. I'll have more on the Ryan Doumit signing in tonight's first editions. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
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