The Twins have taken their time making a decision on where to send Johan Santana. But that time is not unlimited.
The two-time Cy Young winner wants any deal consummated before spring training begins, Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, told the New York Times.
That's more than just an interested opinion, considering Santana owns the right to veto any trade, and presumably would exercise it once he reports to Twins camp in Fort Myers, Fla., in mid-February. Santana has already said, through Greenberg, that he would not approve any trade once the season begins and would declare free agency in November.
That urgency might explain the apparent movement in trade talks in recent days, with the New York Mets emerging as a more serious suitor than earlier in the process. According to a report in The Bergen (N.J.) Record, the Mets have discussed sending a large package of premier prospects -- perhaps including prized 19-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez, rated as the Mets' top prospect -- for Santana. Martinez "has not been excluded" from the trade talks, a Mets official told the newspaper, as shortstop Jose Reyes was when the talks began.
The Red Sox and Yankees have not changed their position in regard to Santana, and Hank Steinbrenner, son of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, said he has begun to "waver" on his desire to add the pitcher, who would also demand a $100 million-plus contract extension.
That contract was believed to be a stumbling block for the Mets, but a report in the Star Tribune in Minneapolis said Mets owner Fred Wilpon had given general manager Omar Minaya the green light to pursue Santana.
NOTES, QUOTES:LHP Francisco Liriano is on schedule to pitch in spring training and has had no setbacks in his rehabilitation from elbow surgery, the Twins emphasized in early January after rumors circulated around baseball that Liriano might not be ready until midseason. "He's healthy and strong, he's throwing bullpens, and he's not had any troubles," general manager Bill Smith said.
CF Torii Hunter may be gone, but the Twins will benefit next June from his strong showing the past couple of seasons. When baseball's amateur draft takes place, the Twins, who had only one selection in the top 90 in 2007, will own the 14th pick plus the 27th and 31st selections. The latter two picks are compensation for losing Hunter, whose statistics made him a Class A free agent, to the Angels in November. No. 27 is the Angels' original pick, and No. 31 is the first "sandwich-round" selection between the first and second rounds of the draft.
RHP Zach Day, nearing full recovery from rotator cuff surgery in 2006, has signed a minor league contract with the Twins and will be given a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation. Day, who went 1-1 in nine late season starts for Class AAA Omaha in 2007, was one of 17 non-roster players invited to spring training by the Twins. The 29-year-old veteran owns a 21-27 lifetime record in the majors with the Expos, Nationals and Rockies.
Bert Blyleven, the Twins' TV analyst for the past 11 years, vaulted within sight of eventual election to the Hall of Fame, picking up 76 votes in the 2008 balloting to finish with 61.9 percent of the vote. That's a large step forward for the former Twins' right-hander, who earned only 47.7 percent in 2007. "Maybe the voters are taking a closer look at my record," said Blyleven, who won 287 career games, including 60 shutouts. Another ex-Twin, RHP Jack Morris, finished sixth in the voting, picking up 31 votes to finish with 42.9 percent. Former Minnesota 2B Chuck Knoblauch got one vote.
RHP Pat Neshek, who has been resting his pitching arm after a disappointing final month in 2007, returned to Minnesota from his Florida home to meet with Twins officials and take part in the team's annual Twins Caravan, promoting the team around Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
BY THE NUMBERS: 21 -- Victories in 2007 by starting pitchers (other than Johan Santana) on Minnesota's current roster.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm starting to wonder myself. I'm starting to waver. Would we want him? Of course. But it would be a tall order." -- Hank Steinbrenner, Yankees executive vice president, on New York's trade proposal for LHP Johan Santana