With the annual GM winter meetings taking place this week, baseball's Hot Stove is getting ready to heat up. As we've discussed previously on this blog, it is unlikely that the Twins will be major players in the market this off-season, but that doesn't mean they won't do anything. I expect to see them take part in a relatively minor trade or two and I believe they'll sign a couple lower-level free agents.
I haven't seen the Twins pop up in a whole lot of trade rumors, but one player that Terry Ryan is reportedly shopping is Juan Rincon. Apparently the Astros and Rockies have interest in the right-handed reliever, and as Rotoworld.com notes, Morgan Ensberg would be a nice return. Ensberg, a 31-year-old third baseman, would be a good fit for the Twins, who could use a powerful right-handed bat in their lineup. Ensberg batted just .235 last year, but he walked 101 times in 495 plate appearances and still managed 23 home runs. In 2005, Ensberg was phenomenal, hitting .283/.388/.557 with 36 homers and 101 RBI. If he could return anywhere close to that form, he would be tremendously valuable addition to the Twins' lineup. I doubt the Astros would be willing to part with Ensberg for just Rincon, so Ryan would probably have to put together a package of some sort.
While they might dabble with some trades, Ryan and his staff will probably be spending most of their effort in the coming weeks on negotiating long-term contracts with Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer. All three are arbitration-eligible and all three are in line for big raises. For the short term and for the long term, it would be best if the Twins could lock all three players up with reasonable multi-year contracts, but that will depend on the players and their agents. Obviously the deals being signed around the league over the past month have not helped the Twins' chances of getting a good deal on any of these elite players.
It should be an interesting week, and here's hoping that Ryan and his staff can make some moves to help improve this team in 2007 and beyond.