We're only about a month away from the deadline for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training, yet one hardly gets the feeling that this offseason is winding down with so many free agents remaining unsigned and with the Twins having made virtually no moves to bring in external help up to this point.
In the coming days I plan to touch on a few more of the topics that readers suggested last week when I opened the floor to post ideas, but for today I'm going to get caught up on recent Twins-related news... at least what there is of it.
* La Velle E. Neal III reports that the Twins are moving closer to signing Eric Gagne in what would stand as the team's first legitimate effort to augment its battered bullpen this offseason. Once an elite closer for the Dodgers, Gagne hit an injury wall in his late 20s, pitching only 15 2/3 innings between the 2005 and 2006 seasons due to back and elbow problems. He's been mostly ineffective since returning from Tommy John surgery and was a disaster for the Brewers last year, but the Twins have money to blow and Gagne has plenty of upside if he can get healthy.
There's little downside to handing Gagne a one-year deal, but he's hardly the slam-dunk bullpen upgrade that some were hoping for this offseason.
* Also from Neal, we learn that the Twins have signed Jason Kubel to a two-year deal. That news initially struck me as uninteresting, but an update to Neal's post indicating that the contract also includes a club option for the 2011 season makes me like the signing a lot. Kubel has two years of arbitration remaining, so a two-year deal would have done nothing other than give the team cost certainty over the next couple seasons, since they'd have been in no danger of losing him anyway. The option for a third year puts Kubel under the team's control through his first year of free agency, though since they're not fully committed, they are protected in the event that Kubel's injury problems resurface or his performance takes an unforeseen dive.
I'm convinced that Kubel is going to be a key component of this offense over the next several years; getting him locked up for the next three seasons gives us one less thing to worry about. Terms of the deal have not yet been released, but my guess is that Kubel will earn something like $3 million and $5 million over the next two years, with the option registering somewhere around $7 million.
* Joe Mauer, who underwent a minor kidney surgery this offseason, announced a while ago that he'd be skipping the World Baseball Classic festivities and has now indicated that he may not be ready for the start of spring training. That Mauer is passing on the WBC is hardly disappointing given the strenuous workload a catcher experiences and the importance of his health. I'll admit that I am slightly concerned to hear that he likely won't be ready by the start of spring training. The organization continues to indicate that there is no cause to worry, but far too often I've seen these seemingly small issues linger on for weeks.
As Mauer goes, so go the Twins. In 2005 and 2007 the catcher was limited by injuries and the Twins struggled. In 2006 and 2008 Mauer was a healthy MVP-caliber player and the Twins were a playoff-caliber team. It's almost difficult to imagine the Twins not contending in a season where Mauer is fully healthy and productive.