The Twins still need at least one veteran starting pitcher, and they could use some outfield help as they head to the winter meetings, but their prospects of making any significant moves by the end of the meetings look slim.
One free agent pitcher the Twins have eyed, right-hander Gil Meche, already appears in a second-tier class of pitchers that has risen fast beyond their price range. And talks with the Rockies over right-hander Jason Jennings have cooled.
"We'll find somebody," general manager Terry Ryan told the Minneapolis Star
But, as in seasons past, it may be another case of too little too late.
As the Twins prepare to defend a division title in an American League Central Division that looks like the class of baseball, they will do it without the services of longtime rotation linchpin Brad Radke (retirement) and 2006 rookie sensation Francisco Liriano ("Tommy John" surgery).
That means that unless they can land at least a middle-of-the-rotation-quality innings-eater this winter, they'll open the season with a Cy (left-hander Johan Santana, the two-time Cy Young Award winner) and four sighs (disappointing Carlos Silva, 2006 rookie Boof Bonser and 2007 rookies Glen Perkins and Matt Garza or J.D. Durbin).
And that looks like a daunting task, considering their $63.4 million payroll in 2006 isn't likely to rise by more than $5 million, and they have steep contracts in the offing for arbitration-eligible stars such as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, the reigning AL batting champ and MVP, respectively.
NOTES, QUOTES:OF Jason Kubel, considered a front-runner for the starting left field job
next spring, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his "other" (right) knee in November to repair torn meniscus, and the club is optimistic he can return to full health in time for the season opener. Kubel, the Twins' top hitting prospect before tearing ligaments in his left knee after the 2004 season, missed the entire 2005 season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on that knee. The team suspects that the stress his right knee took on to compensate for the weakened/recovering left knee resulted in the meniscus damage.LHP Francisco Liriano, who underwent "Tommy John" reconstructive elbow surgery early last month, plans to proceed with his rehabilitation schedule in Miami with therapist Ray Jaffet, instead of at the team's rehab facility in Fort
Myers, Fla., under the supervision of its rehab trainers. The team agreed to the plan.GM Terry Ryan said he hopes to spend some of his time at the winter meetings talking with the agents for his four major arbitration-eligible players to lay groundwork for possible multiyear deals: C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau, RF Michael Cuddyer and 3B Nick Punto.The Twins signed two minor league free agents, including Philadelphia Triple-A RHP Jeremy Cummings, 30, who threw a no-hitter against the Twins' affiliate this season. Cummings (8-6, 3.97 ERA in 25 starts for Scranton-Wilkes-Barre) has been invited to spring training. Also signed as a minor league free agent was OF Matt Allegra, 25, who has been in the Oakland organization for seven seasons, hitting .265 with 15 home runs at Double-A this year.GM Terry Ryan has not ruled out re-signing free agent OF/DH Rondell White but said he intends to wait until he sees who else is available on the free agent market. Ryan said both sides have agreed to keep open the possibility of White's return to the Twins next season.
BY THE NUMBERS: $499.99 -- Value of a Twins jersey autographed by 1B Justin Morneau, according to a New York collectibles company -- $500 lower than the value of a Yankees jersey autographed by SS Derek Jeter, whom Morneau beat out for the AL MVP award this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The laundry list is incredible. From a marketing perspective, I couldn't be more thrilled. It's as much as after a World Series victory." --Twins marketing executive Patrick Klinger on the opportunities his department has to market a team next season that will include the reigning AL batting champ (C Joe Mauer), MVP (1B Justin Morneau) and Cy Young Award winner (LHP Johan Santana).