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The Mysterious Disappearance of Eric Gagne

Another major league free agent prospect has been lost to good-news-seeking fans of the Minnesota Twins.

This time, it was the disappearance of former Cy Young winning pitcher Eric Gagne, who suddenly vanished from the Twins’ wish list while he was seemingly poised pen-in-hand above his contract, ready to sign and board a plane up north.

Gagne’s disappearance is even more puzzling than others on the ever-growing list of missing free agents who the Twins have been rumored to be considering this winter. As reported by Star Tribune writers, the Twins had just exchanged contract offers with Gagne and he was reportedly ready to meet their price for a one-year, $3 million deal with $500,000 in performance incentives. But then, mysteriously, the Twins announced they were going in a different direction. That was apparently the last that Minnesotans would hear of the promising reliever.

What happened?

It isn’t as if this is the first time this Hot Stove season that a prospect has suddenly vanished from the Twins’ radar. The names of Casey Blake, Garret Atkins, Mark DeRosa, Juan Cruz and more have all met similar fates—at least in the media.

But the case of Gagne is different. Twins’ management was actually down the line on signing this guy, having taken it to the final contract stage. In a surprising and uncharacteristic move, they changed their minds at the last minute. A move that’s even more surprising when you consider their need for an effective set-up hurler in their bullpen.

Who’s to blame for the disappearance of yet another talent who could improve this team?

Could it be the ever-reluctant general manager Bill Smith? We know that Smith has done an about-face this year from the aggressive and questionable moves he made last season. In fact, it has been unlikely to even see Smith’s face at all this winter. Perhaps he realized at the last minute that the deal would probably be a one-year, rent-a-player situation and that Gagne would be out the door next October.

Maybe it was the specter of Gagne’s agent, Scott Boras, whose tenacious negotiations strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest GMs. Maybe Boras decided at the last minute that $3 million+ still wasn’t enough for a former Cy Young winner and he tried to hijack the Twins for more money when they were most vulnerable.

Or perhaps it was Gagne himself. When it was time to sign on the dotted line, maybe he thought about the 3.09 ERA he posted for Milwaukee last September in the midst of a playoff push, realized he’d be playing under the Teflon dome and decided it wasn’t worth a few million measly bucks to go without a tan for a full season.

Whatever the real reason, we’ll probably never know since Bill Smith’s policy is not to comment on any negotiations.

What’s really disappearing this winter is the hope that the Twins will actually make a commitment to spend money on any talent to improve this team.

Twins Blog Writer: Rick Jourdan
Make sure to catch Rick's column on Twinsmix.com every Monday.

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