Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another Long Night

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Boston general manager Theo Epstein just held a briefing session with the team’s beat reporters, and while he wouldn’t comment on what’s being talked about, he said he expected negotiations to go “well into the night,” presumably with the Twins. He also said the teams are being flexible, that no “final offers” have been made.

-- Phil Miller

Big Trade Complete (No, Not That One)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tigers’ acquisition of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida will have repercussions for the Twins, perhaps even immediately.

For one thing, it makes Detroit the new favorites in the AL Central next year, making the Twins’ task of returning to the playoffs immediately that much more difficult. The Tigers now have a lineup that will go something like Granderson-Polanco-Sheffield-Ordonez-Cabrera-Guillen-Rodriguez-Renteria-Thames, which is a little scary.

But by rejecting offers from the Dodgers and Angels, have the Marlins shoved those high-payroll teams back into the Santana Sweepstakes? Both teams have plenty of young prospects to offer, and a thirst to outdo each other that’s only a little less intense than Red Sox-Yankees.

The Angels deny they’ve talked to the Twins, but that was while they were still pursuing Cabrera. Now? Well, this is a team that has a history of making fast and decisive moves, as Torii Hunter could tell you.

The deal also figures to make Brandon Inge available, but he’s probably a longshot for the Twins. He’s 30 years old and coming off a .236 season, but he’s owed $19 million for the next three years. He can field the position, and hit an occasional home run (70 in the past four seasons in spacious Comerica Park), but the Twins probably want a more permanent (or less costly) option.

-- Phil Miller

Not So Fast ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Couple more hours, couple more denials.

Bill Smith just told reporters that moving Basak off the roster had nothing to do with a pending trade, that it’s a move that’s been in the works for a week. Basak apparently signed a major-league contract last week and then cleared waivers, so the Twins could move him without losing him. Smith said Basak knew when he signed what the Twins planned, so the timing – smack in the middle of trade talks – was just a coincidence.

Of course, the Twins obviously knew a week ago that if they traded Santana, they would need extra roster space for the package of players who came back. So it might fall a bit short of coincidence.

Meanwhile, Angels GM told reporters in the lobby a few minutes ago that not only has he not made an offer for Santana, he hasn’t even talked to the Twins. So the Red Sox are apparently still the front-runners.

-- Phil Miller

Making Room for the New Guys?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Twins have outrighted infielder Chris Basak to Triple-A Rochester, which could be the first solid indication that a trade is nearing completion.

The move reduces Minnesota’s roster to 38, which allows the Twins to absorb two more players – room they will need if they complete a 3-for-1 trade involving Johan Santana.

At any rate, the timing of the move is sure to churn up the rumor mill again. The Red Sox and Twins have been meeting this afternoon, according to several reports from Boston. So the weeklong trade talks may be nearing a resolution.

Basak, by the way, is the infielder the Twins claimed off waivers from the Yankees in August, when call-ups of Brian Buscher and Tommy Watkins left Rochester short of experienced infielders.

UPDATE: Peter Gammons is reporting for ESPN that the Red Sox have added another player to their package, Ryan Kalish, an outfielder from New Jersey who will turn 20 next spring. Kalish hit .368 in 23 games at Class A Lowell last season, but a wrist injury cut his season short. Presumably the addition of Kalish means the Sox are standing by their stance that they will not part with both left-hander Jon Lester and centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

ESPN also reports that the Angels have contacted the Twins, but there is no indication that they made any progress. And the Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that the Yankees have dropped out for good.

-- Phil Miller

More Talks Coming

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – According to Peter Gammons, who is well connected in Boston’s front office, the Red Sox and Twins plan an afternoon meeting to continue their discussions. So there could be some news later today.

If Boston remains adamant about not including both Lester and Ellsbury in the same deal, I just heard speculation that Bill Smith might try adding a prospect of his own to the deal, in hopes of making the trade more palatable. If that’s the case, this could be another all-nighter.

-- Phil Miller

Driving a Hard Bargain

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The story making the rounds here is that when the Twins asked for Ian Kennedy from the Yankees, in addition to Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera, the Yankees said no. So the Twins substituted two high-ceiling minor-league prospects in Kennedy's place. The Yankees may have agreed to one, but not two, and that’s when the talks died.

Now, according to SI.com, the Red Sox believe they are close to a deal, and are making an “improved” offer for Johan Santana. The Twins asked that Boston present its best deal that revolves around left-handed pitcher Jon Lester. We’ll see what the offer turns out to be. The feeling in the press room is that if Boston relents in its refusal to package Jacoby Ellsbury and Lester, a deal will be done pretty quick.

Well, “pretty quick” is a relative term. Once the teams reach an understanding, the Red Sox would have to negotiate a contract with Santana. But his demands are pretty well known, so the Sox must have already determined that they can meet an asking price of around $24 million.

-- Phil Miller

Watching and Waiting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The anticipation here is pretty amazing. Everyone is waiting for word that a Johan Santana deal has been struck with the Red Sox, but no hints have come from the Twins that anything is happening yet. Since the talks went so late on Monday – the understanding as we packed up in the press room after 1 a.m. last night was that talks were still going on – you have to wonder, when do these guys sleep?
It seems a given that the Red Sox are the only team in the talks now, given that Hank Steinbrenner has publicly announced his inability to reach a deal with the Twins. So the Twins will have to decide which combo they like better – Jon Lester and Coco Crisp, or Jacoby Ellsbury and a lesser pitcher. A scout I talked to yesterday said the player that most impressed him, of those being offered by Boston and New York, was Philip Hughes, by far. But he agreed that Ellsbury is a great fit for Minnesota, the sort of leadoff hitter Ron Gardenhire treasures.
It feels like something will happen today, but I wonder how long this can go on. As I left the press room last night, a national writer joked that Tuesday would be Boston’s day and that the Yankees would rush back in Tuesday night with another pitch. And the teams would take turns like that all week. After the siege of the past week, I can’t say it’s far-fetched.
-- Phil Miller