Twins make multiple offers to pitchers

Published 10:28 am Thursday, December 6, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Twins have made offers to multiple pitchers on the free-agent market, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said Wednesday, Dec. 5, and now the team is waiting to see if it will leave the MLB winter meetings with a new starter.

General manager Terry Ryan would not discuss whether the team had offered contracts to any players, but he had said earlier in the week the Twins met with the agents for every starting pitcher on the market. One of the players the team had inquired about, right-hander Joe Blanton, agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, but most of the starters on the market remained available as of Wednesday night.

“It’s usually the upper-tier guys — as soon as they go, things start to take some shape and form,” Ryan said. “I suspect that’s coming pretty soon. … The agents are getting to the point where they’re going to put deadlines on clubs. We’ve all got choices, still.”

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The top two free agents on the market, Angels right-hander Zack Greinke and Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez, are both likely to command eight-figure salaries and could get deals as long as five years. Ryan said he is not opposed to big contracts for starting pitchers but added he doesn’t like the idea of wrapping up the majority of his payroll in three or four players.

The Twins have $45 million committed to Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham for next season, meaning a deal for a pitcher like Greinke or Sanchez would leave them with a top-heavy payroll. Considering their total payroll was around $100 million last year, it remains more likely the Twins are targeting pitchers in the second tier of candidates.

They had met with Brodie Van Wagnenen, the agent for former Nationals pitcher John Lannan, and have been linked to former Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum, Athletics right-hander Brandon McCarthy and Orioles right-hander Joe Saunders, among others.

And then there’s always the possibility the Twins would bring back Francisco Liriano, whom they dealt to the White Sox at the July trade deadline.

Whatever they do, it’s clear the Twins have invested a substantial amount of their time at the Winter Meetings in trying to upgrade their pitching staff. Their starting rotation had the second-worst earned-run average and gave up the second-most home runs in baseball last season, and only Scott Diamond seems guaranteed a spot in the 2013 rotation.

The Twins will have Nick Blackburn making $5.5 million, but he was outrighted off their 40-man roster last season and will have to prove he can still pitch in the majors. They have high hopes for 2009 first-rounder Kyle Gibson, but the right-hander will be in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and could be on an innings limit next year.

Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks and Pedro Hernandez could all get chances, and 23-year-old B.J. Hermsen will be in major league camp after the Twins added him to their 40-man roster this fall. But there are few sure things available to them, which is why they’ve been so forward in offering contracts to veteran pitchers at the winter meetings.

On Wednesday night, though, they were still playing the waiting game after offering several contracts.

“As soon as those bigger-name guys end up making a deal, the agents are going to need answers,” Ryan said. “They don’t want to be left. That’s a bad feeling when you’re representing a player, and all of a sudden some of the clubs you’re counting on went elsewhere. So you’re probably going to see a pretty good rush on trying to get some things done.”