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.
Between 11 p.m. Monday night and 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, four different people told me that the Twins were in on Matt Garza. The last person was Garza himself, as I reached him by phone as he prepared to head out on vacation.
The Twins certainly haven't limited themselves in their search for starting pitching. Now the chances of pulling off a Garza deal, in my opinion, are somewhat slim. Garza is going to be coveted by the big boys with the fat local TV deals. I mean, the Yankees need starting pitching, so you know they will be ready to pounce. Garza and Ervin Santana shouldn't be in a hurry to sign until anxiety among pitching-needy clubs peaks.
I like the fact that they could jump in on the Tanaka sweepstakes, too. With the new posting system, they would be one of a few and perhaps several teams to put in the max bid of $20 million and take their chances in negotiations. Now, will Tanaka be posted by his Japanese league team? That remains to be seen. It doesn't like the Rakuten Golden Eagles are thrilled with getting a $20 million posting fee when it was over $50 last year for Yu Darvish.
I think the Twins have a better chance at signing Mike Pelfrey or Bronson Arroyo. But they haven't limited their pursuit to just those two. To someone that has watched the Twins do little at these meetings through the years, it's interesting to see them at least linked to better players.
There was a report yesterday linking the Twins to shortstop Stephen Drew. That's one I'll be looking into today. Bartolo Colon has been mentioned elsewhere too.
It's already been a busy day down here in sunny central Florida. The day began with BBWAA duties, as I addressed all the league's media directors. Then I shot a video with our own Michael Rand that should be hitting the website soon. And now the blog.
I'm headed to the lobby of the Dolphin and Swan Resort right now to stake out sources and see what the Twins are up to today. Then the annual manager's luncheon is at 12:30 p.m. These days are long and busy, but have been fun so far. Especially when the team you cover is doing interesting things.
Add a couple more names to the list of Twins pitching targets. Interesting ones.
Let's start with former Twin Matt Garza, who is one of the top free agent pitchers on the market. He was 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA in stints with the Cubs and Rangers last season and could return to the organization he began in career with before being dealt to Tampa Bay in 2007 as part of a package that brought the Twins Delmon Young.
During a phone conversation on Tuesday from his home in California, Garza expressed a willingness to let free agency continue to play out.
``I'm not in a hurry,'' Garza said. ``My agent keeps in touch with me and lets me know who he's been chatting with.''
Garza, 67-67 with a 3.84 ERA in his career, is willing to return to the Twin Cites.
``I'm open to anything that makes me feel comfortable,'' he said. ``If (Minnesota) is where that's at, I will have no problem going there.''
The Twins would likely have to outslug several teams, including the Angels, in order to land Garza. He would join free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes in a seriously enhanced Twins rotation - if they could pull this one off.
And, according to a source, the Twins are willing to put in a bid on Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season. Tanaka has not been posted yet, but the soon-to-be-approved new system caps the bids at $20 million. Indications are that the Twins are willing to dive in at that temperature and see if they can sign Tanaka.
This also will be a tough one, as several teams are expected to bid on Tanaka. And Tanaka will be allowed to negotiate with multiple teams if there's a tie.]
Wow. The Twins are really getting after it here. They have been linked to more interesting players than I can remember at a winter meetings.
They were interested in lefthander Brett Anderson before he was traded from Oakland to Colorado today.
They have met with Bronson Arroyo's agent.
GM Terry Ryan admitted they are still talking to Mike Pelfrey – makes sense that they aren’t waiting for Pelfrey and Boras to make up their minds,
They may end up with one of these pitchers. Two seems a stretch. But they definitely aren't bottom-feeding this offseason.
``We've gotten beaten up for three years now,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``You know you need pitching. We're trying to get pitching. We've done a pretty good job at this point. We're looking at position players. We said we were going to get better, and that's our goal is to get better. We started that process, but by no means is it done. We're still working hard at it.''
Did he sense that Ryan is more active than in past years?
`` We're trying to get better. That's all I can tell you,'' Gardy said. ``Terry is active. We've been active here before putting our hand in. It doesn't mean we're going to do a lot more, but it means we're really trying. If the right guy works out, Terry is being really aggressive.
``It's fun to watch. There are a lot of meetings going on, lot of good talking about a lot of players. I think Terry's pretty serious about this stuff. He always is. He knows we need to get better, and he wants to do it. And he's not trying to make it a total turnaround at once. No one believes we can do that, but we're going to get better and play better baseball.''
Former Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski appeared in the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel on Tuesday. Pierzynski lives in the area and attended Dr. Phillips High School (same one as Johnny Damon.) He chatted with some folks, including Twins scout Larry Corrigan before I could chat him up.
Pierzynski confirmed that the Twins made a two-year offer for him to return to his original team. He spoke with manager Ron Gardenhire by phone, and the manager made a strong recruiting pitch. Pierzynski understood that the Twins were trying to turn things around and wanted his help.
In the end, Pierzynski couldn't turn down the chance to play for the defending World Series champs. He's played in four postseason series, winning the World Series with the White Sox in 2005, and wants to win again.
``Minnesota made it hard,'' Pierzynski said.
The Twins tried a two-year offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia but he took three years to go back home to Florida. John Buck's name has come up as a free agent option, but the Twins might just go with Josmil Pinto behind the plate. They like the kid and thought Pierzynski or Saltalamacchia could help with his learning curve. But they might go with what they have in Pinto, Ryan Doumit and & Co. with catching savant Terry Steinbach to provide guidance.
The Twins remain involved in talks for righthander Bronson Arroyo, who is receiving a lot of interest. I mentioned yesterday that the Phillies were one of his suitors but someone I know with the organization said that is not true.
By the way, Corrigan officially rejoined the organization last month. He left in 2007 to join the Pirates then, later, the Angels. Now he's back as mainly a pro scout.
That's all for now. I'm hearing the Twins have been very active in pursuing players, so there might be more news later!
Just a quick note before the day gets started.
John Paul Morosi is reporting that the Tigers are close to signing outfielder Rajai Davis to a two-year deal, so the Twins talks with his agent must not have progressed much. I was a little surprised the Twins were interested in Davis, but I'm really surprised the Tigers are. That's just not how Mike Ilitch operates. I was waiting for Detroit to make the big splash and sign Shin-Soo Choo to a fat contract. Guess it's not happening.
Was told the Twins had interest in 23-year old Cuban shortstop Aldemys Diaz, who has been working out in Mexico. Checked with a source and was told the interest was marginal at best. Diaz is under suspension until Feb. 19 for lying about his birthdate, but several teams still have interest in him. The Twins are among the teams who have been present at his workouts, but it doesn't look like they will emerge as a major player here.
Looks like several Cuban players will hit the market in 2014.
Gotta scram. The annual BBWAA meeting starts in 25 minutes, and I'm running it.
The Twins have met with the agent for outfielder Rajai Davis, an indication that they are concerned about having a fall-back plan if Aaron Hicks doesn't win the centerfield job during spring training.
Davis, 33, has a career batting average of .268 and has stolen 268 bases in his career. He can motor but his .316 on base percentage doesn't make him a good fit for the leadoff spot.
It's unsure how serious the Twins are about Davis. On Monday, Terry Ryan spoke at length about Hicks struggles last season and suggested he needs to report to spring training a new man because of it.
``We all know Hicks has got ability,'' Ryan said. ``Now it is just a matter if the adjustability comes into his game. Whether or not he can handle some of the failures that come with that major league seat. You don't move a guy until people are convinced that they are not able to handle the physical part but (also) the mental part. That a part of the equation any time you make a move, promotion or demotion.''
Ryan was asked about the adjustments that needed to be made.
``Pitchers were pitching him a certain way and it just seemed like he was not making any adjustments to their approach,'' Ryan said. ``Ultimately it was too much, snowballed. Hicks couldn't get going defensively. Gardy and I showed a lot of patience. We waited a long time, maybe longer than people thought and it just didn't happen.''
(Reporter's note): The Twins weren't going to charge up the standings, so I saw no problem with letting Hicks stay in the majors. But when the Twins were ready to make a move, a minor league replacement was either slumping or was injured. They had to play Hicks, and it got ugly.
Ryan said on Monday that he must take the blame for Hicks staying up too long. I disagree somewhat, but the kid really took his lumps. There was no healthy fallback plan last season but the Twins might make sure they have one in 2014.