The Twins' lone major league acquisition of the winter so far -- the free agent signing of infielder Jeff Cirillo -- could have a domino effect on several areas of the team as the Twins continue their search for starting pitching and outfield help.
As modest as the one-year, $1.5 million contract looks in the wake of major signings throughout baseball this winter, it could take a substantial chunk of the Twins' spending capacity in an offseason that promises to stretch the seams of the payroll budgets through first-year arbitration raises, alone, for such players as catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau.
The Twins have signed Rondell White to a one-year deal, and in turn, has taken the starting left field spot away from Jason Kubel, the once-bright hitting prospect who has undergone surgery on each knee in the past two years. Cirillo, Kubel, outfielder Lew Ford and, occasionally, Mauer could rotate through the DH spot.
The Cirillo signing also might be the strongest indication yet that the Twins have abandoned their efforts to bring in a veteran starting pitcher from outside the organization. The could leave their fate next season in the hands of a rotation that includes Cy Young winner Johan Santana and a handful of 2006 disappointments (read: Carlos Silva) and raw kids (read: Glen Perkins and RHP Matt Garza).
The free agent market for pitchers already had shot beyond the Twins' reach with some of the earliest signings of the free agent season, and their top trade target, Jason Jennings of the Rockies, was dealt to Houston instead.
NOTES, QUOTES:INF Jeff Cirillo, who signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal, is seen as insurance for 3B Nick Punto and as a backup first baseman in addition to a part-time DH. Cirillo, 37, said he agreed to sign with the Twins because he was promised a larger role than the pinch-hitting spot his old team, the Brewers, was offering. "We've got good reports on him," GM Terry Ryan said. "He takes professional at-bats, and he's had success against left-handed pitching.OF Lew Ford was among seven arbitration-eligible players tendered 2007 contracts at the deadline, despite speculation the Twins might non-tender him. The six others: C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau, RF Michael Cuddyer, 3B Nick Punto, RHP Juan Rincon and OF Jason Tyner.INF Luis Rodriguez, a valuable utility player for the team last season, was not tendered a major league contract for 2007 but returned to the team on a contract that will allow the Twins to pay him a minor league salary if he does not make the club in 2007.RHP Willie Eyre, who spent the entire 2006 season with the club's bullpen as a rookie, was non-tendered by the Twins and declined a split contract that would have allowed him to be paid a minor league salary for time not spent in the majors. "I just think it's fair to me and my family to explore some other options," Eyre told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I've been with the Twins organization for eight years, and I hold no grudges toward anyone." Eyre went 1-0 with a 5.31 ERA in 42 appearances last season and was left off the playoff roster.The Twins appear to have interest in RHP Joel Pineiro, who was non-tendered by Seattle and has become a free agent. But Pineiro, a 58-55 career pitcher who made $6.8 million last year, is more likely to get priced out of the Twins' range quickly by other pitching-starved teams.
BY THE NUMBERS: 21-27, 5.33 -- Combined 2006 statistics, in 58 combined starts, of the four pitchers who would likely open the 2007 season in the Twins' rotation with ace LHP Johan Santana (RHP Boof Bonser, RHP Carlos Silva, LHP Glen Perkins, RHP Matt Garza).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't see it. No. The bullpen has been the strength of this club." -- GM Terry Ryan on trade rumors involving Twins relievers, including setup ace RHP Juan Rincon.