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.
Jim Thome's new one-year, $3 million contract with the Twins could pay him an additional $1.4 million in incentives for plate appearances, a person familiar with the deal told the Star Tribune.
These are the incentive levels:
* $200,000 once he reaches 200 plate appearances
* Another $300,000 when he reaches 300 PA
* Another $300,000 when he reaches 350 PA
* Another $300,000 when he reaches 400 PA
Those are heftier bonuses than Thome had built into last year's contract, which paid him a base salary of $1.5 million. Thome received $100,000 for reaching 250 PA, and another $100K for reaching 300 PA, finished the season with 340 PA.
Ken Rosenthal, of FoxSports.com, reported that Thome turned down a $4 million offer from the Rangers to return to the Twins, but it's unclear if the Texas offer included a similar bonus structure.
The Twins and Carl Pavano appear to be in a temporary holding pattern, still close to a deal, but still with some details to hash out before he officially comes off the free agent market.
The sides agreed to table the talks through Tuesday, allowing the Twins to focus on potential arbitration cases with Matt Capps, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Delmon Young. The deadline for each side to submit its official arbitration offer is noon Tuesday, and that deadline annually spurs a flurry of negotiations.
Last year, the Twins settled all eight of their potential arbitration cases on the day figures were supposed to be exchanged, giving deals to Pavano (one-year, $7 million), Young (one-year, $2.6 million) and Liriano (one-year, $1.6 million), among others.
Meanwhile, former Twins reliever Brian Fuentes is reportedly close to a deal with Oakland. Various reports have pegged it as a two-year deal with an option for 2013, with at least $10 million guaranteed.
Fuentes would become the third Twins reliever to sign elsewhere, joining Jesse Crain, who got a three-year, $13 million deal from the White Sox, and Matt Guerrier, who got a three-year, $12 million deal with the Dodgers.
Update: Add RHP Jon Rauch to the list of Twins relievers signing elsewhere. The Blue Jays announced that they've signed Rauch to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Toronto that includes a $3.75 million option for 2012. It's worth noting that the Twins made some attempts to retain Crain but knew the other three relievers were going to walk.
The Twins avoided arbitration with infielder Alexi Casilla on Sunday, agreeing to a one-year, $865,000 contract.
That leaves five arbitration eligible players: Matt Capps, Delmon Young, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins. If no agreements can be reached, the sides will exchange figures on Tuesday, with hearings scheduled for February.
The Twins re-signed Jim Thome to a one-year contract today; Carl Pavano could be next.
General Manager Bill Smith said the team has had many discussions with Pavano and hopes to have an answer from him within the next week.
It sounds like Pavano is taking the weekend to think about the Twins' final offer, with a decision expected Monday or Tuesday.
"We’re very optimistic, very hopeful of bringing Carl Pavano back to this ballclub," Smith said.
Thome said he will go into a recruiting mode with Pavano in an effort to get him to return, too.
"I think Pavano’s a big part of what we did last year," Thome said. "I’ll be honest with you, I hope to God Pavano comes back because I think it would make our team very similar to what we had last year."
Thome is returning on a one-year deal that will pay him $3 million with incentives for plate appearances. Last year, he made $1.7 million, including $200,000 in incentives.
Thome, 40, said he will not enter 2011 assuming it's his last season. He'll go in hoping to play at least two more years. His back didn't give him as much trouble last year as it had in previous seasons.
"A couple years ago, I was a little banged up," Thome said. "And last year, I had an opportunity to not play every day. I kind of healed up a little bit from the little injuries that I had the year before. As I got going, I kind of learned my role. I was playing a little bit more, and I was like, 'I can still do this.'
"And then when I got home this winter and I wasn’t hurting, my body wasn’t beat up, I go, 'Wait a minute, this may work out.' "
The Twins would love to bring Jim Thome back for another season, but he has at least one other serious suitor. The Rangers also are pursuing Thome, a source familiar with the discussions said today.
Thome, 40, batted .283 with 25 home runs and 59 RBI for the Twins last year in 108 games. He needs just 11 more home runs to reach 600 for his career.
Asked if anything had changed regarding the Twins' interest in re-signing Thome, General Manager Bill Smith said, "No, we still hope to sign him."
Vladimir Guerrero helped the Rangers reach the World Series last year, primarily as their DH, but he's also a free agent, and the team doesn't plan to re-sign him. When the Rangers signed third baseman Adrian Beltre, they decided Michael Young would be their primary DH.
The righthanded hitting Young and the lefthanded hitting Thome would give the Rangers quite a platoon. If the Twins don't re-sign Thome, they'll still have Jason Kubel as their DH, but Thome gave them invaluable depth last season, especially when Justin Morneau was lost to a concussion injury.
Thome made just $1.7 million with the Twins last year, and there have been rumblings that his price went up when Lance Berkman signed his one-year, $8 million deal with the Cardinals. In early December, Thome's agent said he was interested in playing one or two more years.
The Twins have until 11 p.m. to tender 2011 contracts to players eligible for arbitration (as well as players with less than three years of big league service), and this has led to some contract agreements:
* The Twins avoided arbitration with outfielder Jason Repko, agreeing to a one-year, $600,000 deal. Repko made $500,000 last year and proved he could play all three outfield positions off the bench.
* The Twins avoided arbitration with reliever Pat Neshek, signing him to a one-year, $625,000 deal. Neshek made the same salary last year. In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, he posted a 5.00 ERA in 11 appearances with the Twins and a 3.89 ERA in 30 appearances for Class AAA Rochester.
The Twins don't have to finalize contracts with their arbitration-eligible players today; they simply have to decide whether to tender them. Other players in this category are Alexi Casilla, Matt Capps,
Clay Condrey, J.J. Hardy, Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey and Delmon Young.
Stay tuned for more updates. You can also follow me on Twitter @JoeCStrib.
UPDATE: The Twins announced tonight, via Twitter (@MinnesotaTwins) that they've tendered contracts to 26 players including Hardy and Capps. Hope to get the official list soon.
UPDATE: The Twins had no non-tenders. All nine of their arbitration players were tendered contracts. Clay Condrey was outrighted a month ago and elected free agency. Guess that one slipped wayyy beneath the radar.
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