TWINS: Some will stay, some will exit roster
ST. PAUL The Twins are shaping up by dribs and drabs, big decisions made here and there as baseball's winter deadlines come and go. "We don't have to have our team set until we report to spring training," general manager Bill Smith said before im...
The Twins are shaping up by dribs and drabs, big decisions made here and there as baseball's winter deadlines come and go.
"We don't have to have our team set until we report to spring training," general manager Bill Smith said before immediately correcting himself.
"Actually," he continued, "by the time we leave spring training."
Translation: The Twins aren't done making moves, not by a long shot. Winter meetings start next week in Orlando, Fla., and it appears they'll be more of a swap meet than usual because every player, in the majors or minors, will have a definitive status.
That's because modifications in the collective bargaining agreement shortened personnel deadlines, the last being tonight's deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Those not tendered contracts by 10:59 p.m. CST become instant free agents.
"There will be a lot of action with agents because all the free agents are out there, minor league, major league, non-tenders," Smith said. "Anybody available will be known by (today).
"So I think agents will be busy, and I hope we'll be busy because of the opportunity to talk with other clubs."
First, the Twins need to make decisions on about 30 arbitration-eligible players, some of whom are key contributors, such as starters Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing, left fielder Delmon Young and closer Matt Capps.
Those decisions are no-brainers. The most delicate decision involves J.J. Hardy, a talented shortstop coming off two disappointing seasons. A wrist injury limited him to 101 games last season, his first in Minnesota. He batted .268 with 19 doubles and 38 runs batted in, and made $5.1 million.
The problem: Hardy is just about guaranteed a raise in arbitration, and the Twins -- with $76.7 million already dedicated to 11 players -- will need to cut corners to free up money for other spots.
Young ($2.6 million), Capps ($3.5 million) and Liriano ($1.6 million) are due for raises, or perhaps long-term contracts, and the Twins might like to take a run at a top-of-the-rotation starter, through free agency or trade.
Hardy wants to stay but said last month he understands the restrictions of payroll.
Other players of note waiting for tenders include starter Kevin Slowey, infielder Alexi Casilla (in line to take over at short if Hardy walks), catchers Jose Morales and Drew Butera, outfielder Jason Repko and relievers Glen Perkins, Anthony Slama and Pat Neshek.
Smith said the team has a "pretty good idea" of who will receive tenders, but the team will wait until today to make those decisions known.
Smith said there was no news to report on contract negotiations with Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Japanese infielder the Twins are trying to sign. The team bid $5 million for exclusive negotiating rights through Dec. 26.
Nishioka won the batting title for the Pacific League of the Nippon Professional League last season with a .346 average. He scored 121 runs, stole 22 bases and had 206 hits.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.