Twins' Caravan goes west, team signs eight in arbitrationMinnesota Sports
- When it comes to any possible contract extension for the Minnesota Twins’ MVP-winning catcher, general manager Bill Smith stood as firm publicly as the dense fog that passed through Fargo-Moorhead Monday night.
FARGO - When it comes to any possible contract extension for the Minnesota Twins’ MVP-winning catcher, general manager Bill Smith stood as firm publicly as the dense fog that passed through Fargo-Moorhead on Monday night.
Smith joined pitchers Matt Guerrier and Nick Blackburn and former Twins great Tony Oliva on a stop in Fargo as part of the team’s annual Winter Caravan as it is making its way through western Minnesota and North Dakota.
As expected, Smith had little to say regarding any deal being reached this offseason with Joe Mauer.
The Minnesota-born Mauer won his first MVP award last season, hitting .365 with 28 homers and 96 RBIs as the Twins won the American League Central division title. Mauer is the only AL catcher to win a batting title, and he’s done it three times.
But many fans wonder whether or not the Twins will keep him past the upcoming season, when his contract expires.
When asked what he had to say about any ongoing negotiations with Mauer, Smith said, “Nothing.” He added that negotiations are best served not being disclosed to the public.
“We’ll do that work in the background,” Smith said.
Mauer is expected to command a contract that would make him among the game’s highest-paid players.
The added revenues the Twins expect to make from their new stadium, Target Field, have led to them increasing payroll for the upcoming season to a franchise-record level. That figures to help them retain star players like Mauer.
Smith didn’t elaborate further on Mauer’s future with the club, but he didn’t hesitate to think ahead to how Target Field will play for Mauer.
“The dimensions of Target Field are very close to the Metrodome,” Smith said. “The biggest difference is it’s about eight feet shorter in left-center field. There’s a certain left-handed hitting catcher who likes to drive the ball that way.”
Oliva, who still does spring training work with the team, sarcastically said of Mauer: “He’s no good. He can go.”
He then added: “I’m about 99 percent (sure) he wants to play in Minnesota. I believe they’re going to keep him happy. … Minnesota will be very happy.”
Blackburn hopes that Mauer will stay for the simple reason that he doesn’t want any other team to have him.
“I’ve been watching the guy hit for a little over two years now,” Blackburn said, “and still have no idea how to get him out if I did have to face him.”
Besides the Mauer contract rumors, the other big story from this offseason has been the Twins trading outfielder Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee for shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Hardy is considered one of the game’s better defensive shortstops. But his offense disappeared last season.
After combining for 50 homers in a two-year span from 2007-08, he hit just .229 with 11 homers in 115 games last season. He even spent some time in the minor leagues.
“We needed some stability in the middle of that infield,” Smith said. “He brings that.
“We think he had a bad year last year. Sometimes, you get into one of those funks.”
With the addition of Hardy and the return of veteran pitcher Carl Pavano, the players hope to repeat as division champs next year.
And there’s still Mauer, too. At least there is for one more season.
“I think they’re going to get Joe Mauer signed,” Guerrier said. “I don’t see it going any other way.”
The Minnesota Twins announced Tuesday agreed to contracts with all eight arbitration-eligible players.
Those agreeing to contracts were pitchers Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Francisco Liriano, Pat Neshek and Carl Pavano; infielders J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris; and outfielder Delmon Young.
Crain, Liriano and Hardy signed one-year contracts, though the value of those deals is not known.
Guerrier, a big part of the Twins' bullpen the last few seasons, will make $3.15 million in 2010. He appeared in 79 games for the Twins last season, his sixth in the majors, and posted a 2.36 earned run average with one save. In 76 1/3 innings, he struck out 47 and walked 16.
Pavano, who split last season between Cleveland and Minnesota, agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal. In 33 starts in 2009 between the clubs, the 34- year-old went 14-12 with a 5.10 earned run average.
Harris agreed to a two-year contract worth $3.2 million plus incentives. He played every infield position last season, but mostly at shortstop (56 games), and in 123 contests overall, Harris hit .261 with a .310 on-base percentage, six homers and 37 runs batted in.
Young, 24, was in his first year of arbitration and will earn $2.6 million next year, with performance incentives. In 108 games in 2009, Young batted .284 with a .308 OBP, 12 homers and 60 RBI.
Neshek missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery, and agreed to a $625,000 contract for 2010. In 121 career relief appearances over three seasons with the Twins, he owns a 2.91 ERA with 142 strikeouts and 37 walks in 120 2/3 innings.
(Hayden Goethe of Forum Communications wrote the first half of the story, the second half came from The Sports Network.com