LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With the way technology has changed the Winter Meetings, teams don't meet in person as much as they did in the past. The Twins bucked that trend on Tuesday, meeting with several teams to talk about potential trades, according to general manager Thad Levine.
One of those teams is believed to be the Pirates, who are willing to listen on right-hander Gerrit Cole. Cole, 27, has two years of team control remaining and a career 3.50 ERA, but is coming off a down season that saw him post a 4.26 ERA with 31 homers allowed in 203 innings.
Levine said no trades are close and added that all things being equal, the Twins would rather spend money in free agency for a starting pitcher than trade away assets. Pittsburgh is looking for a strong haul for Cole with shortstop prospect Nick Gordon reportedly their top target from the Twins.
"We dusted ourselves off and actually met with some teams," Levine said. "But we have nothing to report. I think the general sentiment among the game is to rather spend money than to spend prospect capital. For as lethargic as the free-agent market has been, the trade market has been even more sluggish than that."
Levine said he believes it's been a slow-moving trade market because the teams that are selling have already sold off most of their appealing players and the market values prospects similarly across baseball because of the better data that's now available to evaluate Minor Leaguers.
There aren't many intriguing starters on the trade market, although Rays ace Chris Archer is also reportedly available in trade and he would make sense for the Twins as a pitcher with four years of team control remaining. But those types of deals are becoming rarer and rarer because it takes such a haul of prospects to get the deal done.
"I think there is still another market for guys on shorter-term deals where maybe you're not giving up as prohibitive a return," Levine said. "Trading a guy for six years of control, you're just not seeing those types of deals anymore."
As for the free-agent market, Levine wouldn't say if the team has any active offers out, but his prolonged silence on the matter indicated it might. He'd only say the Twins continue to meet with agents, including Scott Boras, who represents potential targets such as right-hander Jacob Arrieta and relievers Tony Watson and Greg Holland.
Levine also said the Twins remain in contact with the agents for right-hander Bartolo Colon, backup catcher Chris Gimenez and reliever Matt Belisle. Mitch Garver remains the favorite as backup catcher to Jason Castro, but the Twins want a veteran to compete with him in Spring Training, which means Gimenez could return.
"We are comfortable with Garver but we'd like him to earn the job," Levine said. "But I don't think we're going to sign somebody to unequivocally be our backup and not allow Garver to compete for the job."
As for acquiring a full-time designated hitter, Levine downplayed that as a need this offseason, as the team likes the flexibility at DH to allow Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano and Eduardo Escobar to rotate into that position along with Robbie Grossman and Kennys Vargas.
"We saw the benefits of cycling guys through that spot last year," Levine said. "We'd like to keep the DH spot a little more fluid than lock somebody into it."
• Sano, who had surgery to insert a titanium rod in his left shin in mid-November, has been rehabbing this week without any issues at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. He's expected to start training in the Dominican Republic with former third baseman Fernando Tatis in January and will be ready for Spring Training.
• Right-hander Trevor May, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March, will be stretched out to start upon his return, but could be moved to relief depending on Minnesota's needs. He's not expected to return until May or June.
• The Twins met with right-hander Phil Hughes' agent, Nez Balelo, on Tuesday and he assured them that Hughes' second surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome went well and he'll be ready for Spring Training. Balelo told the Twins that Hughes is "extremely hungry" for a successful return.