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Twins Strike Out at Baseball Winter Meetings

It happens every year about this time. The Twins step up to the plate at baseball’s annual winter meetings to address their on-field needs. Held in Las Vegas, this year’s task was to bring home a winner of a third baseman or a shortstop, as well as a quality set-up man. But once again, the Twins have struck out in meeting their 2009 off-season goals.

Signing free agent Casey Blake…whiff. Trading for Garret Atkins…whiff. Squeezing their way into a three-way trade with San Diego and the Cubs to end-up with Mark DeRosa…whiff.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…We have the money available to sign a quality free agent or two to fill our needs at third, short and the bullpen…We are willing to trade young talent for the right player if the deal makes good baseball sense…Money won’t stop us if the player we want is available to improve the team--all effective words by the Twins for throwing some crumbs to a fan base hungry for good news about their favorite ball club this winter.

But it looks like the Twins will be coming home from the baseball meetings empty- handed again, unless they make an unexpected deal after the meetings are over. Unfortunately, what happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. It slinks back to Minnesota like an out-of-luck gambler bringing disappointment and slim hopes for an improved team in 2009.

Last year, new GM Bill Smith did take make a bold move (by Twins standards) when he traded Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for promising slugger Delmon Young. Still only 23, Young at times this past season looked decrepit at the plate and arthritic in the outfield. But at least the Twins brain trust took a chance to improve, and the jury is still out on the success of the trade.

What else have the Twins done in the free agent-trade market in the recent past? In 2007 they needed a lion at third base and settled for a (Mike) Lamb. Chrissy Evert would have brought more punch with her forehand than Adam Everett provided with his bat. Of course, let’s not forget the brilliant deal for Tony (What, you expect me to get a hit?) Battista the year before.

True, these are difficult, recessionary times. Every business, even small market baseball teams, needs to careful about how they spend their money. Good value should be expected for every dollar spent. But sooner or later you’d think management would realize that spending $6 million here and $4 million there on washed-up, “B” level free agents could be better spent on one $10 or $12 million player who could help take the team into the playoffs. Adding a quality, experienced position player or two in the mix might be the final ingredient that this young, promising Twins club needs. Given Gardenhire’s talent for managing, who knows where that recipe could lead.
(Twins Target Field)
Optimism and anticipation for a new baseball season always begin to grow this time of year. But it’s hard for fans to keep hope alive as they see the C.C. Sabbathias, A. J. Burnetts and Francisco Rodriguez’s go the East Coast powerhouse teams, and Mark Teixeira could soon be headed to a similar destination. Who’s headed to Minnesota, a re-signed Nick Punto and some 2009 version of Battista?

Looking to the future, the Twins have a new stadium opening in less than 1½ years along with the additional revenue it brings. Not to mention the tens of millions they saved by letting Torii Hunter and Johan Santana walk. They owe it to their fans, as well as the taxpayers financing the stadium’s construction, to open up their pocketbooks to try to put a winner on the field. What do they need, a government bailout to do it?

Even a baseball team can do its part during this difficult economic period by taking our minds off our troubles and providing a little hope and entertainment. So come on, Mr. Pohlad and Mr. Smith, spend some money wisely for a change and help keep Minnesota baseball hopes alive in these hardball times.

Twins Blog Writer: Rick Jourdan
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