NASHVILLE – If the Twins want to sign one of the better free-agent relievers on the market, they better be prepared to open the checkbook.
Baseball’s winter meetings don’t begin until Monday, but moves for relievers already have raised eyebrows here.
Reports Sunday had All-Star Darren O’Day returning to Baltimore for a four-year, $31 million deal. More surprising was news of Ryan Madson agreeing to a three-year, $22 million contract with Oakland. Madson missed most of the 2012-14 seasons because of elbow problems and is 35 years old.
Another report had Joakim Soria, a potential Twins target, seeking a multiyear deal for as much as $9 million a year. The deal could include provisions in case he converts to a starter. And he might seek a no-trade clause.
The cost of signing bullpen help has definitely gone up. Shawn Kelley has piqued the Twins’ interest, but are they ready to compete for pitcher who struck out 11 batters per nine innings last season? Righthander Tyler Clippard and lefthander Tony Sipp are among the better relievers on the market.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said last week that trading for relief help could be a better option. One report has the Nationals willing to shop Drew Storen. He was their closer before they dealt for Jonathan Papelbon, who is under contract for 2016. Adding Storen, a player the Twins previously have been interested in, to a bullpen with Glen Perkins and Kevin Jepsen in it is intriguing. But Washington might get more in return dealing him to a team that needs a closer.
The chase for bullpen help is one of several story lines worth tracking this week.
Getting set up
The Twins arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel on Sunday and immediately began to set up shop for the week. Ryan spent Sunday holding staff meetings to go over their plans.
That included a discussion on if the Twins want to be active in the major league phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. The Twins have the 17th pick and likely would have to strike a deal to move up in the draft. They also would have to clear space on their 40-man roster, which is full. And some believe this year’s pool isn’t as strong as last year’s, when the Twins selected reliever J.R. Graham fifth overall.
It would be unusual for the Twins to sit out the Rule 5 draft. They have selected a player in the major league phase of the draft in seven of the past 10 seasons.
“We’ll take a look and see if there is a person who intrigues us,” Ryan said before leaving for Nashville.
When not talking to other clubs and agents about deals, officials attend a variety of meetings. For instance, there will be discussions about the possible expansion of instant replay.
Twins manager Paul Molitor would like foul tips and balls that strike the batter while in the batter’s box to be reviewable and has asked Ryan to bring that up in meetings.
MLB will also discuss fan safety and if the netting behind home plate should be expanded. Indications are that the policy will indeed change. Twins President Dave St. Peter said Thursday he believes Target Field will already be in compliance with the specifications that have been tossed around in previous discussions.
Monday, scheduled interviews with every big-league manager begins. Molitor is scheduled to meet with reporters Monday afternoon.
Righthander Kenta Maeda is expected to be posted by his Japanese club, the Hiroshima Carp, sometime this week, adding another layer to the offseason race for starting pitching. Indications are the Twins will not put in a bid for Maeda.