LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – This is one year in which the Twins are not messing around at the winter meetings.
According to multiple sources, they have shown interest in free-agent righthanders Matt Garza and Bronson Arroyo, inquired about Oakland lefthander Brett Anderson before he was traded to Colorado, continue to talk to free-agent righthander Mike Pelfrey and even are considering making a move for Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka, should he be available.
Can the Twins follow through and land one or more of these targets? That remains to be seen. But they aren’t done after signing free-agent righthanders Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes last week.
“We said we were going to get better, and that’s our goal … to get better,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Tuesday during the annual managers’ news conferences. “We started that process, but by no means is it done. We’re still working hard at it.”
They also showed interest in catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia before they signed elsewhere and outfielder Rajai Davis before he agreed to sign with Detroit on Tuesday.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan would only confirm that the club continues to have discussions with Pelfrey, but he also admitted he has been more active this year at the winter meetings.
“I know you guys have been talking down in that lobby,” Ryan said. “We’ve had people come in and out of [the suite] on a frequent basis.”
Terry, are you getting close to a deal?
“Even if you think you might be zeroing in, someone can swoop right in and take him from right under your nose,” he said. “I don’t know if you get too carried away about being optimistic or pessimistic. We have talked to a lot of people, I can tell you that. We’re in on people. And there are not too many people running away from us because of what happened last year and the year before [195 losses], which is a good thing.”
Garza, 30, is one of the best remaining free-agent pitchers. He was 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA in stints with the Cubs and Rangers last season. During a phone conversation Tuesday from his home in California, Garza expressed a willingness to be patient with the process.
“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 Cities.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the Twins met with Arroyo’s agent, Terry Bross, this week. And they have kept Pelfrey on their radar, too. They offered him a two-year, $10 million deal earlier in the offseason, but it’s unclear if the deal has been increased or is still on the table. One thing for certain is that the Twins are not waiting for Pelfrey to make a decision before exploring other options.
“You can’t let other people you are trying to pursue all of a sudden go off the board when you are waiting on an answer,” Ryan said. “Eventually you have to have some sort of response.”
Ryan said the final cost would determine if the Twins had room on the payroll for one or two more pitchers. He also would like to upgrade the offense, and he doesn’t want to block too many pitchers from being able to earn jobs in spring training.
Tanaka, 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, looms as a big fish in the free-agent pool — and the Twins could get involved because of expected changes in the posting system. Under a new deal that must be approved by Major League Baseball’s executive council, no bid for a free agent from the Japanese leagues can exceed $20 million. The player, however, can negotiate with any team that submits the highest bid, or with multiple teams if there’s a tie.
The Twins could make a bid and see if they can win the negotiation battle. If they don’t, they get the $20 million back. The Golden Eagles, however, haven’t agreed to post Tanaka yet. So the Twins and other MLB teams wait.
Ryan said he has yet to pore over details of the new posting system, although indications are that the Twins are willing to go after the star righthander.
“Before I talk about that, I better read it,” Ryan said.
And, yes, there’s even been a Johan Santana development, as the Twins have had preliminary discussions with his agents this week. Santana, 34, is rehabilitating following shoulder surgery and is not expected to be ready to pitch until late May or June. But the Twins are examining all options.