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Twins owner 'on board' with pursuing Darvish

Pohlad 'intrigued' by free-agent right-hander
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been linked to free-agent right-hander Yu Darvish all offseason and have stated their interest publicly, but for the first time, owner Jim Pohlad confirmed he would OK a deal for Darvish for the right price.

Pohlad, speaking to fans during a question-and-answer session during TwinsFest at Target Field on Saturday, was asked about Darvish and indicated he's interested in signing the ace.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been linked to free-agent right-hander Yu Darvish all offseason and have stated their interest publicly, but for the first time, owner Jim Pohlad confirmed he would OK a deal for Darvish for the right price.

Pohlad, speaking to fans during a question-and-answer session during TwinsFest at Target Field on Saturday, was asked about Darvish and indicated he's interested in signing the ace.

Dozier willing to engage in extension talks

"I'm on board with that," Pohlad said while on stage, bringing cheers from Twins fans at the event. "There are some interesting names and some interesting opportunities there, but I'm as intrigued by [Darvish] as anybody and attracted to [signing him] as anybody."

Video: Twins steady in pursuit of top-tier starter

Twins president Dave St. Peter echoed Pohlad's comments that the club remains engaged with Darvish, who is the top starting pitcher on the free-agent market.

"There is mutual interest in seeing if something makes sense for both parties," St. Peter said. "We are not there yet today but that could accelerate here in the near future."

Video: St. Peter, Pohlad look ahead to the 2018 season

The Twins have some payroll flexibility, as they don't have any players signed to a contract beyond 2019. Their projected Opening Day payroll is roughly $105 million, which is slightly less than last year when they opened the season with a $108 million payroll.

Signing Darvish, however, would likely push their payroll past $120 million, which would be a club record. The Twins, though, have three prominent players in the last year of their contracts: Joe Mauer ($23 million), Ervin Santana ($13.5 million) and Brian Dozier ($9 million), although Santana's $14 million club option for 2019 vests if he reaches 200 innings pitched.

Derek Falvey, the club's chief baseball officer, indicated on Friday that the Twins have room in their budget for a frontline starter even after committing $16.75 million over two years to reliever Addison Reed last week.

"Any player we add, there won't be a budget limitation," Falvey said. "If we bring the right deal to Jim, he'll support it."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins, Yu Darvish

Dozier willing to engage in extension talks

All-Star second baseman will be free agent after upcoming season
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is headed into the final season of the four-year, $20 million extension he signed in 2015, and said he's willing to explore signing another extension, but the Twins have yet to offer him one yet.

Dozier, who is set to make $9 million this year, said the organization is well aware of his intentions to remain with the Twins long term, but the team has yet to engage his agent, Damon Lapa, about a possible extension.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is headed into the final season of the four-year, $20 million extension he signed in 2015, and said he's willing to explore signing another extension, but the Twins have yet to offer him one yet.

Dozier, who is set to make $9 million this year, said the organization is well aware of his intentions to remain with the Twins long term, but the team has yet to engage his agent, Damon Lapa, about a possible extension.

"I do think about it because it's been said enough that I want to be here," Dozier said of his impending free agency in 2019. "You just want to be reciprocated."

Video: AL WC: Dozier belts a leadoff homer to left-center

The Twins, however, have stated they don't plan to explore possible extensions with veterans or pre-arbitration players until they're done with free agency and begin Spring Training. It's not a hard-and-fast rule for the organization, but it's how they're operating this offseason.

But Dozier, who was subjected to trade rumors all of last offseason after his breakout year that saw him hit 42 homers in '16, would like some more clarity from the front office. He said he was "a little bit" surprised they haven't talked about or offered an extension yet.

"They know, trust me," Dozier said. "They know where we're at. I think last year the ball was in their court and I think this year, it's definitely in mine."

Dozier, 30, knows he has leverage as an impending free agent, especially with the way he's played the last three seasons that saw him break out as an All-Star in 2015 while receiving American League Most Valuable Player Award votes in '16 and '17. Dozier is coming off a strong season that saw him hit .271/.359/.498 with 34 homers, 16 stolen bases, 106 runs and 93 RBIs in 152 games while winning his first AL Gold Glove Award at second base.

The thought of hitting free agency is intriguing to Dozier, but he'd like to see his loyalty to the organization pay off with an extension. He's worked to change his diet the last two years, including giving up red meat and fried food in order to give himself more sustainable energy while playing, and said he believes he hasn't hit his prime yet.

"I've had a lot of talks with a lot of guys about approaching free agency and how to handle it," Dozier said. "I don't want to get too caught up in it. But it is the writing on the wall and the elephant in the room."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins, Brian Dozier

Pineda, May make progress in TJ recovery

Both righties could return to mound in 2018
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-handers Michael Pineda and Trevor May, who both underwent Tommy John surgery last year, said Saturday at TwinsFest they're continuing to rehab without any issues or setbacks.

Pineda, who had the operation in July and signed a two-year deal worth $10 million this offseason, threw on flat ground at 60 feet for the first time since the surgery on Thursday and is hopeful to make his return late in the season. May, who had his surgery in March, is ahead of Pineda and could return by May or June.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-handers Michael Pineda and Trevor May, who both underwent Tommy John surgery last year, said Saturday at TwinsFest they're continuing to rehab without any issues or setbacks.

Pineda, who had the operation in July and signed a two-year deal worth $10 million this offseason, threw on flat ground at 60 feet for the first time since the surgery on Thursday and is hopeful to make his return late in the season. May, who had his surgery in March, is ahead of Pineda and could return by May or June.

"Everything is good," said Pineda, who will throw again on Monday in Tampa. "It's a long process. We'll be working hard to get back and recover 100 percent and be on the mound pretty soon. It's a long process but it feels great when you're taking the ball, throwing [for] the first time."

Video: Falvey discusses Twins' acquisition of Pineda

Pineda, who turned 29 on Thursday, has never appeared in relief in his five-year Major League career with the Mariners and Yankees, but said he'd be open to appearing in that role if it means he'll be able to contribute in September. The Twins expect him to be a part of the rotation in 2019, but would love to have the righty available down the stretch, and coming back as a reliever might be an easier way to pitch this season.

"I'm focused on my rehab and trying to help the team, so whatever decision they make, I'm OK with that," Pineda said. "The only thing I want to do is help the team so if it means the bullpen, I'll do it."

May, who has experience as both a starter and a reliever with the Twins, will be stretched out to start just like last year, when he suffered a torn right ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow in March. May, 28, won't be ready for the start of the season and is likely to open the year in extended Spring Training before starting his Minor League rehab assignment in April.

"I'm itching to compete again," May said. "It's something I've thought about a lot recently."

TwinsFest tidbits 

• Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who underwent a heart transplant in December of 2016, has been doing well with his recovery and participated in a question and answer session with Jim Kaat at Target Field on Saturday. Carew will head to Spring Training again this year and is encouraging fans to get their hearts checked to prevent heart disease.

Video: Carew discusses best ways to develop Twins

• Reliever J.T. Chargois, who was limited to just two appearances in the Minors last year with elbow issues, started throwing again in early January and plans to throw his first bullpen session in early February before heading to Spring Training. He could be a bit behind other relievers once camp opens, but is expected to be ready for the start of the year.

• TwinsFest closes early on Sunday at 2 p.m. to accommodate fans wanting to watch the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

 

Minnesota Twins

Twins players led a 'Skol' chant at TwinsFest for the Vikings' NFC Championship Game

On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will face the Philadelphia Eagles with a Super Bowl berth on the line in the NFC Championship Game. Being their friendly neighbors, members of the Twins (including hometown favorite Joe Mauer) decided to take a moment at TwinsFest on Saturday to wish them luck by copying their famous 'Skol' chant.

Johan elected to Twins Hall of Fame

Lefty to be honored in pregame ceremony Aug. 4 at Target Field
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana is the latest addition to the Twins Hall of Fame. The left-hander was elected in his first season eligible, as announced during the annual media luncheon at Target Field on Friday.

Santana, who at his peak has a case as the best pitcher in Minnesota Twins history, was elected as part of the player ballot voted on by the media, front-office personnel, fans and members of the Twins Hall of Fame. He's the 31st member of the organization's Hall of Fame and will be honored in a pregame ceremony at Target Field on Aug. 4.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana is the latest addition to the Twins Hall of Fame. The left-hander was elected in his first season eligible, as announced during the annual media luncheon at Target Field on Friday.

Santana, who at his peak has a case as the best pitcher in Minnesota Twins history, was elected as part of the player ballot voted on by the media, front-office personnel, fans and members of the Twins Hall of Fame. He's the 31st member of the organization's Hall of Fame and will be honored in a pregame ceremony at Target Field on Aug. 4.

"It's a great honor," Santana said in a conference call. "I started with nothing. Everything I was able to accomplish was because of the Minnesota Twins and the opportunity they gave me in the beginning of my Major League career. It's unbelievable and an honor for me and my family."

Twins Hall of Fame

Hall of Famer Rod Carew broke the news to Santana that he was elected, although it took some maneuvering by the Twins to make it work. The call came the same day members of the front office, including president Dave St. Peter, traveled to Puerto Rico for a news conference for their series against the Indians in San Juan in mid-April.

"As someone who had a chance to listen in, I can tell you it was a very special phone call," St. Peter said. "It's a great honor for Johan, who is looking for a greater connection with the Twins where his career really blossomed."

Santana, memorably acquired in the Rule 5 Draft from the Astros as part of a trade with the Marlins, developed into an ace for the Twins with the help of his incredible disappearing changeup. At his height of his run with the Twins from 2003-07, he went 82-35 with a 2.92 ERA and 1,152 strikeouts in 1,070 2/3 innings.

Video: TB@MIN: Johan Santana's first career strikeout

Santana won AL Cy Young Awards in 2004 and '06, finished seventh in '03, third in '05 and fifth in '07. He was also an All-Star with the Twins from 2005-07 and won his lone Gold Glove Award in '07. He won the pitching triple crown in '06, leading the AL in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He said his favorite memory was setting Minnesota's franchise record with 17 strikeouts against the Rangers in '07, but that he didn't take any day in the Majors for granted.

"Every day was special," Santana said. "There were a few games people remember, like the 17 strikeouts. That one was very special to me."

Santana was traded by the Twins after the 2007 season, pitching four years with the Mets with a top three finish in National League Cy Young balloting in '08 and his final All-Star appearance in '09. He also threw the first no-hitter in Mets history in '12. Injuries derailed his career, but he said he hasn't fully ruled out a return, although he's currently not throwing.

"I'm not officially retired," Santana said. "I was still thinking about trying to come back, but unfortunately things haven't worked out the way I would love them to. Only time will tell."

Santana, 38, is likely to rejoin the Twins as a special assistant and Spring Training instructor, as he makes his home in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins hold Spring Training.

"I'd be more than happy to, but I don't know what the future holds for me," Santana said. "I'd like to be part of it and be able to help out."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins

Twins steady in pursuit of top-tier starter

Falvey says club not ruling out any free-agent pitcher
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even after signing three relievers this offseason, including Addison Reed for two years and $16.5 million last week, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said the club still has room in the budget for a front-line starting pitcher and hasn't ruled out any free-agent options.

Falvey said the front office has the full support of owner Jim Pohlad and that he doesn't believe the Twins have any major budget constraints to sign a much-needed starter. The Twins have been linked this offseason with the top starters available, such as Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn. The signing of Reed hasn't changed their offseason plans.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even after signing three relievers this offseason, including Addison Reed for two years and $16.5 million last week, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said the club still has room in the budget for a front-line starting pitcher and hasn't ruled out any free-agent options.

Falvey said the front office has the full support of owner Jim Pohlad and that he doesn't believe the Twins have any major budget constraints to sign a much-needed starter. The Twins have been linked this offseason with the top starters available, such as Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn. The signing of Reed hasn't changed their offseason plans.

"We committed some money [to Reed], so we're more sensitive to the next step, but if we bring the right deal to Jim, he'll support it," Falvey said at the annual media luncheon before TwinsFest. "I'm not going to comment on a specific player, but I see 5-10 pitchers out there who could impact us. We're not ruling out any of those guys until they're off the board. Any player we add, there won't be a budget limitation."

Hot Stove Tracker

The Twins are confident they'll sign a starting pitcher this offseason, and a top-tier starter is their preference, but they'll also look for potential bargains, especially with how late it is in the offseason with so many starters still available.

"We'll stay engaged on a group of names that are considered top end, as well as value adds that could help us," Falvey said. "We'll look at both groups. We'll wait as long as necessary in terms of finding the right fits. There are still a lot of guys on the board. Whenever the signings happen, they happen."

TwinsFest tidbits
• Right-hander Phil Hughes was scheduled to attend TwinsFest this weekend but had to cancel at the last minute to deal with kidney stones. Hughes, though, is healthy after undergoing a second surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome and will be ready for the start of Spring Training, Falvey said. Hughes will come in competing for a spot in the rotation.

Tweet from @PJHughes45: Due to my latest bout with a kidney stone I unfortunately won���t be able to make it to Minneapolis this weekend. Very sorry guys. However, I will be giving away a signed used jersey and making a $10,000 contribution to the @Twins Community Fund. RT to be eligible for the jersey

• Third baseman Miguel Sano continues to rehab his surgically repaired left shin in Florida with newly hired trainer Masa Abe. Sano also will not attend TwinsFest. The Twins believe Sano will be ready for the start of the season, not necessarily Spring Training. MLB's investigation into Sano's alleged sexual assault is ongoing and there's no timetable for a resolution, Falvey said.

• The Twins are aiming for 2.2 million fans in 2018 after roughly 90 percent of their season ticket holders renewed. Tickets also remain for the rest of TwinsFest, which runs through Sunday, and the club anticipates 12,000-15,000 fans attending.

Tweet from @morsecode: First two players to show up for #TwinsFest pic.twitter.com/Q5d0YhqlUT

• The Twins are renaming Field 5 at their Spring Training complex after longtime bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who passed away in early November. He's the longest-tenured coach in Twins history, serving as bullpen coach for 32 years from 1981-2012.

• The Twins hired Elvis Martinez, 31, as their new Spanish-language interpreter. He's a native of La Romana, Dominican Republic, and worked in the Cardinals' organization last year.

• The Twins signed infielder Jermaine Curtis and right-hander Omar Bencomo to Minor League contracts. Non-roster invites to Spring Training will be announced at a later date.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins

Twins announce new Target Field renovations

Bat & Barrel, expanded concourse to improve fan experience
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The fan experience at Target Field is set to be enhanced yet again, as the Twins announced plans for the creation of Bat & Barrel in right field, which replaces the former Metropolitan Club, as well as expanding the concourse at the entrance near the right-field foul pole between Gates 29 and 34.

Both projects will be ready by Opening Day, with Bat & Barrel one of the more ambitious additions to Target Field since the stadium opened in 2010. Bat & Barrel, which is open to all fans -- unlike the former Metropolitan Club -- will be a gathering space for fans to watch the game from drink rails and community tables in the club behind the large retractable glass windows down the right-field line. The garage-style windows also feature radiant heat when open on cool days.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The fan experience at Target Field is set to be enhanced yet again, as the Twins announced plans for the creation of Bat & Barrel in right field, which replaces the former Metropolitan Club, as well as expanding the concourse at the entrance near the right-field foul pole between Gates 29 and 34.

Both projects will be ready by Opening Day, with Bat & Barrel one of the more ambitious additions to Target Field since the stadium opened in 2010. Bat & Barrel, which is open to all fans -- unlike the former Metropolitan Club -- will be a gathering space for fans to watch the game from drink rails and community tables in the club behind the large retractable glass windows down the right-field line. The garage-style windows also feature radiant heat when open on cool days.

"The Minnesota Twins are incredibly excited to unveil more details surrounding these major enhancements to the Target Field experience for the 2018 season," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "Bat & Barrel promises to be another highly memorable destination within the ballpark, while the main concourse revisions create meaningful ingress and egress improvements for a huge majority of our fans. Both projects are rooted in a commitment to make Target Field better -- each and every year."

Bat & Barrel, which can be accessed via a staircase and an elevator from the main concourse and is on the same level as the Delta Sky360 Club, will feature an infield-shaped bar, new food items and screens to watch the game. It seats roughly 300 fans with drink rails available down the right-field line for fans to watch the game. Season ticket holders will get priority when booking tables in advance.

It will also feature 1987 and '91 World Series trophies and other prominent awards won by Twins players as well as Minnesota-based artwork.

Additionally, the main concourse below Bat & Barrel will be expanded by more than 1,300 square feet to ease congestion in that part of the ballpark, as 60 percent of fans enter in that area. It'll also feature new drink rails and new concessions, including Draft 34, which is named after Kirby Puckett and will have 22 beers on tap.

"It corrects a pinch-point where traffic met," St. Peter said. "There will also be standing drink locations with great sightlines."

The specific food and drink additions will be announced prior to Opening Day at the Twins' annual food and beverage preview at Target Field. The project is also roughly 50 percent complete but is on schedule.

The Twins have actively renovated Target Field every year since it opened in 2010, including scoreboard additions, the creation of Catch and Minnie & Paul's in center field, the addition of the Great Clips, Great Seats drink rail seats in right field and Barrio bar in left field.

"Since 2010, [owner] Jim Pohlad has pushed our office hard each and every year to make our organization better on the field and the ballpark itself," St. Peter said. "This is our most significant offseason project to date."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins

In short, Santana makes for a curious Hall case

Lefty was game's dominant pitcher for six-season stretch
MLB.com

Sandy Koufax has long been a touchstone for those short but great careers -- for obvious reasons. Koufax is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but he retired at 30 and stuffed almost all of his value into a glorious six-season period (1961-66). There's a temptation to say that anyone with a terrific but short career -- Ron Guidry, Bret Saberhagen, Wes Ferrell, Dave Stieb -- must, like Koufax, be a potential Hall of Famer.

This is especially true for Johan Santana because, as the argument goes, he was similarly dominant from 2002-10. I am actually bullish on Santana's Hall of Fame case. He was down to the final two for my last Hall of Fame vote. I will get into all that in just a minute.

Sandy Koufax has long been a touchstone for those short but great careers -- for obvious reasons. Koufax is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but he retired at 30 and stuffed almost all of his value into a glorious six-season period (1961-66). There's a temptation to say that anyone with a terrific but short career -- Ron Guidry, Bret Saberhagen, Wes Ferrell, Dave Stieb -- must, like Koufax, be a potential Hall of Famer.

This is especially true for Johan Santana because, as the argument goes, he was similarly dominant from 2002-10. I am actually bullish on Santana's Hall of Fame case. He was down to the final two for my last Hall of Fame vote. I will get into all that in just a minute.

But first I have to say this: I think the Koufax-Santana comparison is terrible and does absolutely no favors for Santana.

I've written about this some before, but here is the problem with Hall of Fame comparisons: We have a bad habit of only comparing the stuff that makes our own case look better. That's why the "If this guy is in, then this guy has to be in," reasoning is so often shallow and even ridiculous. The most famous example of this came from the "Committee to Elect Ken Keltner," who in their efforts to put in the former Cleveland third baseman, bragged that "he had a higher average than Eddie Mathews, more RBIs than Jackie Robinson and more hits than Ralph Kiner."

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

You obviously see right through this absurdness. If not, well: I have countered that my hero Duane Kuiper has to go to the Hall of Fame because he had more stolen bases than Ted Williams, more triples than Johnny Bench and more home runs than Pedro Martinez. I mean, how do you not put Kuip in the Hall of Fame?

Tweet from @HotStoveStats: 7 WAR seasons:Johan Santana - 4Bob Gibson - 4Sandy Koufax - 4Bob Feller - 4Eddie Plank - 3Warren Spahn - 3Carl Hubbell - 3Nolan Ryan - 2Steve Carlton - 2John Smoltz - 1 pic.twitter.com/V9RlZBJVY7

These are obviously extreme examples -- but the point remains. No two players are entirely alike no matter what their career statistics say. Comparisons are useful, of course. They are one of the fun parts of any Hall of Fame discussion. But they are a guide, nothing more. And the reason is they are biased. They punctuate the part of the argument you want to punctuate and ignore the part that you want ignored.

Keltner had 350 fewer home runs than Mathews. He led the league in home runs seven fewer times than Kiner (which is to say, he never led the league in homers or anything else except games played in 1939). He integrated one fewer league than Robinson. These are fairly easy points to miss, if you want to miss them.

The Santana vs. Koufax argument is a perfect example of this.

Video: Twins nabbed Santana in 1999 Winter Meetings

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Santana was, at his best, as good a pitcher as Koufax. It's a difficult argument to prove. They pitched in entirely different times and in entirely different ways.

Koufax in his four best seasons averaged 298 innings per season. He pitched when great starters were expected to finish games. In those four great years, he finished almost 60 percent of the games he started.

Tweet from @MLBRandomStats: This is Sandy Koufax (A) vs Johan Santana (B). Nearly 50/50, which is pretty crazy. https://t.co/AYhFIlsNei

Santana in his four best seasons averaged 239 innings per season. He pitched in a time for closers, he was almost never allowed to finish games. In those four great years, he finished 6 percent of his the games he started.

Koufax pitched in an era when pitching reigned. Plus, he pitched on a ludicrously high mound in maybe the greatest pitchers ballpark since World War II. As such, his ERA for his five best seasons is an extraordinary 1.95.

Santana pitched in a good offensive time in a home ballpark that slightly leaned toward hitters. In his five best seasons, his ERA was almost a full run higher -- 2.82 -- but in context it was pretty close. (Koufax had a 167 ERA+; Santana a 157 ERA+).

And finally, Koufax pitched in a time when one team in each league made the playoffs. The National League had 10 teams; one got in, there were no consolation prizes. You had the best record in the league or you went home. Koufax played a major role -- the major role -- in leading his team to three World Series in four years.

Tweet from @CamdenDepot: Have we discussed yet that Johan Santana is Sandy Koufax. With Koufax being a first ballot entry and Santana likely a first ballot exit?

Santana pitched in the Wild Card era, when four of the 14 teams in the American League made the postseason. Santana played a major role -- the major role -- in getting Minnesota into the postseason by winning the American League Central.

All this makes it awfully hard to know how Santana would have pitched in the 1960s, or Koufax in the 2000s. But we do have some very good statistics that allow us to compare each to their league and time -- as you can see in the tweets throughout this story -- and these do make the case that Santana at his best was similar to Koufax at his best.

You don't need advanced stats to make this case. Koufax won three Cy Youngs and an MVP in a four-year period. In Santana's heyday, he won two Cy Youngs and should absolutely have won in 2005. He did not win an MVP award but certainly had a case in 2006, when his teammate Justin Morneau won it.

Sounds pretty similar. So what's the problem? Why does comparing Koufax and Santana hurt Santana's case?

Well, all this ignores one kind of important thing: Koufax is a legend because of how he pitched in five World Series. This wasn't a sidenote to his story. This was at the heart of his story. If Koufax had the exact same career but his team never made the World Series, sure, he'd still be considered a terrific pitcher. We might still talk about his perfect game (in large part because of Vin Scully's incomparable call) and his 382 strikeouts in 1965 ahd how sad it was his career ended when it did.

But would he be Sandy Koufax, name in the brightest of lights, the guy who sparks goosebumps every time you see him at Dodger Stadium?

Of course not. It would be like talking about, say, Joe Montana's career without the Super Bowls.

Do we need to remind how good Koufax was in the World Series? In 1963, he pitched Game 1 against the Yankees, struck out 15 (he got Mickey Mantle twice) and won. He pitched on three days' rest, came back for Game 4, and threw another complete game, outdueled Whitey Ford and clinched the series.

Santana elected to Twins Hall of Fame

That was nothing compared to 1965. He pitched Game 2 -- you will remember that was the year he did not pitch Game 1 because of Yom Kippur -- and was not at his best. He lasted only six innings; he gave up just two runs, but Minnesota's Jim Kaat was better. The Twins took a commanding 2-0 lead in the Series.

Koufax came back on three days' rest to pitch Game 5 -- he threw a shutout and struck out 10. The Dodgers were on the brink of taking out the Twins. But the Twins won Game 6. And so Koufax came back on two days' rest and threw another shutout with 10 more strikeouts, and the Dodgers won the Series again.

The next year, with Koufax's arm seemingly connected by nothing but a string, he lasted only six innings and gave up one earned run. Jim Palmer beat him. Koufax led the Dodgers to the World Series with amazing seasons, he started eight World Series games, several of them on short rest, finished with an 0.95 ERA, won two World Series MVPs and created a Yom Kippur legend that will be talked about every Yom Kippur forever.

We can talk all we want about Johan Santana's ERA+ and Wins Above Average. He was not Sandy Koufax. Nobody was. Koufax was a man of his own time, his own place. He achieved his own greatness.

Santana's Hall of Fame case must stand on its own. To me, that comes down to the basic question: How long does someone have to be truly great to merit entry into the Hall of Fame?

Santana's case is that from 2003-08, he was absolutely the best pitcher in baseball, and nobody was all that close.

Wins Above Average 2003-08

1. Johan Santana, 27.4

2. Brandon Webb, 23.3

3. Carlos Zambrano, 20.8

4. Roy Oswalt, 19.4

5. Roy Halladay, 19.2

For those six seasons, he was the best in everything. He had the most wins. He had the lowest ERA. He had the lowest ERA+, the lowest WHIP, the lowest batting average against, he was the best pitcher, absolutely and without question. If you are the best pitcher or player in baseball for six seasons, should you be in the Hall of Fame?

Yes. I think you should.

Well, I don't know if six years is the right number. Maybe it should be five. Maybe it should be eight. These things are worth arguing about. I know this: There will be four players elected this year, I think. I would not have traded Santana in his prime for any of them.

Despite this, Santana looks like he will fall off the ballot after just one year, and that's sad. If there is one part of the Koufax comparison I like, it is that Koufax reminds us all of how large a shadow a great player can cast in a short period of time. Santana was not Koufax. But he was the best of his time.

And for that he deserves more love than he's getting.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Diaz named MLB's 9th-ranked 1B prospect

Lanky 21-year-old hit .292 in Class A last season
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- With his power potential, Lewin Diaz is one of the Twins' more intriguing prospects and was named the No. 9 first base prospect by MLB Pipeline on Friday.

Diaz, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.4 million in 2013, was left off the 40-man roster this offseason, leaving him exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in December. But Diaz, 21, wasn't selected -- he remains far from the Majors, as he just finished his first season at Class A Cedar Rapids.

MINNEAPOLIS -- With his power potential, Lewin Diaz is one of the Twins' more intriguing prospects and was named the No. 9 first base prospect by MLB Pipeline on Friday.

Diaz, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.4 million in 2013, was left off the 40-man roster this offseason, leaving him exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in December. But Diaz, 21, wasn't selected -- he remains far from the Majors, as he just finished his first season at Class A Cedar Rapids.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

But Diaz has as much raw power as any Twins prospect, and is coming off a solid season at Cedar Rapids, hitting .292/.329/.444 with 12 homers, 33 doubles and 68 RBIs in 122 games. As he continues to fill out his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame, the Twins believe more of those doubles will turn into home runs.

Diaz has a solid approach at the plate, using all fields, but needs to continue to work on his plate discipline. He walked just 25 times in 508 plate appearances, but improved his contact rate, striking out 80 times.

Diaz has hit .280/.341/.457 with 30 homers, 69 doubles and 152 RBIs in 258 career games in the Minors. He's expected to open the season at Class A Advanced Fort Myers.

Defensively, the left-handed Diaz is surprisingly athletic and has a strong arm. He played some right field as a youngster in the Dominican, but is projected to be a solid defender at first base.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins

Kaat returns to Twins as special assistant

MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins continue to add former greats to their front office, as Jim Kaat was hired as a special assistant to the organization on Thursday, a day after Justin Morneau joined as a special assistant to baseball operations.

Kaat, who pitched with the Twins from 1959-73 as part of his 25-year playing career, will have a similar role to other former Twins legends such as Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek and Tom Kelly. Kaat will aid in community and business initiatives in Minnesota and Southwest Florida, and he'll be at TwinsFest this weekend.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins continue to add former greats to their front office, as Jim Kaat was hired as a special assistant to the organization on Thursday, a day after Justin Morneau joined as a special assistant to baseball operations.

Kaat, who pitched with the Twins from 1959-73 as part of his 25-year playing career, will have a similar role to other former Twins legends such as Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek and Tom Kelly. Kaat will aid in community and business initiatives in Minnesota and Southwest Florida, and he'll be at TwinsFest this weekend.

"The Twins organization is thrilled to have Jim Kaat back on board," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "Jim's history with this franchise as well as our game is rich and legendary. It's special to have this opportunity to bring him back home to the community and region he loves so much."

Kaat, 79, began his career with the Washington Senators before the Twins moved to Minnesota in '61. In 438 games with the Twins, he won 189 games while posting a 3.28 ERA with 133 complete games and 1,824 strikeouts in 2,959 1/3 innings.

The left-hander went on to pitch with the Phillies, Cardinals, White Sox and Yankees, posting a career 3.45 ERA with 283 wins. He's known as one of the best defensive pitchers in baseball history, winning 16 straight Gold Glove Awards from 1962-77. He was also an All-Star in '62, '66 and '75, and he won the World Series in '82 with the Cardinals.

Kaat has worked as a broadcaster since retirement, including stints with the Twins, Yankees and MLB Network. He retired from calling Yankees games full time in 2006. He remains a candidate to be elected to the Hall of Fame as part of MLB's Golden Era Committee.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins

Morneau retires, starts new chapter with Twins

Former AL MVP to provide hitting advice, work in player development
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- For former Twins star Justin Morneau, Wednesday marked both the end of his playing career and the beginning of a new chapter as a special assistant to baseball operations for Minnesota.

Morneau, the 2006 American League MVP and a four-time All-Star, officially retired at a news conference at Target Field, but also announced details on his new role with the Twins. Morneau will help in several aspects, including dispensing hitting advice to both Minor League and Major League players, as well as working in player development, player acquisition and the MLB Draft.

MINNEAPOLIS -- For former Twins star Justin Morneau, Wednesday marked both the end of his playing career and the beginning of a new chapter as a special assistant to baseball operations for Minnesota.

Morneau, the 2006 American League MVP and a four-time All-Star, officially retired at a news conference at Target Field, but also announced details on his new role with the Twins. Morneau will help in several aspects, including dispensing hitting advice to both Minor League and Major League players, as well as working in player development, player acquisition and the MLB Draft.

• 5 things Morneau can teach as special assistant

"You could look at it as a sad day because I'm done playing baseball and it's something I loved, but coming back to the Twins family and being able to sit in on hitters' meetings and Draft meetings and pass on the things I've learned is something I'm really excited to do," the 36-year-old said. "Something is ending, but something new is about to begin."

Morneau, who was joined at the podium by Twins president Dave St. Peter and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, also had his family in attendance as well as former teammates Joe Mauer and Corey Koskie. Morneau prepared notes for his retirement speech, but never looked at them during his uninterrupted 15-minute opener, thanking those who helped him along the way and expressing genuine excitement about his new role.

Video: Morneau on retiring, new role with Twins

"For so many years, baseball was the center of my universe," Morneau said. "From the time I was 10 years old, all I remember doing in the summer was playing baseball, and I really didn't want to do anything else. When I was 5 or 6, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Sometimes you're fortunate to know your career path and achieve that dream. So I really want to say thank you."

Morneau, a New Westminster, British Columbia native, finished his career hitting .281/.348/.481 with 247 homers, 349 doubles and 985 RBIs in 1,545 games over 14 seasons with the Twins, Rockies, Pirates and White Sox. He won two Silver Sluggers, was the 2014 National League batting champ with the Rockies and memorably won the 2008 Home Run Derby over Josh Hamilton at Yankee Stadium.

"Justin Morneau is one of the most significant players in the history of our franchise," St. Peter said. "We're celebrating a glorious baseball career, but also a return for Justin, Krista and the family to be back into the Twins family."

Video: Morneau named baseball operations special assistant

In his new role, Morneau sat in during the club's annual organizational meetings two weeks ago to get a better feel and said the preliminary talks about joining the Twins started last June. He didn't play in 2017, but followed the Twins closely and said he's excited to work with young hitters, especially Max Kepler, who has a similar swing.

"I'll be doing a little bit of everything," Morneau said. "The first year will be a learning experience, and we can revisit what worked next winter."

Morneau, who has a similar title to fellow former Twins such as Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer and LaTroy Hawkins, will also head to Spring Training for two different stints as an instructor.

"It's clear Justin wants to pay something back to this organization and the people in it," Falvey said. "He wants to be part of this family and make an impact going forward. And not just at this level, but at the Minor League level."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins

Gonsalves earns spot among top lefty prospects

Twins' standout ranked 9th on MLB Pipeline's LHP list
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Stephen Gonsalves has established himself as the Twins' top pitching prospect and is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 9 left-handed prospect in baseball, as announced on Wednesday.

Gonsalves, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect and the No. 64 overall by MLB Pipeline, will head to Spring Training with a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation, although he's expected to open the year at Triple-A Rochester.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Stephen Gonsalves has established himself as the Twins' top pitching prospect and is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 9 left-handed prospect in baseball, as announced on Wednesday.

Gonsalves, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect and the No. 64 overall by MLB Pipeline, will head to Spring Training with a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation, although he's expected to open the year at Triple-A Rochester.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Gonsalves, 23, reached Triple-A for the first time last year, posting a combined 3.27 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 110 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Rochester.

"I just need to be a little more consistent," Gonsalves said at the Rookie Career Development Program in early January. "I've been working on my slider a little bit. That's going to be huge for me, hopefully, just staying with that curveball and trusting it. Big leaguers need four pitches to have a long career."

As Gonsalves noted, his slider and curveball remain behind his changeup, which is his best pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but he locates it well and it has one of the highest spin rates in the Minors.

Gonsalves has a career 2.39 ERA in 478 1/3 innings in the Minors, but he struggled a bit in his first taste of Triple-A. He had a 5.56 ERA with 22 strikeouts, eight walks and four homers allowed in 22 2/3 innings. Gonsalves will need to put up better numbers there to get called up, but he's considered close to being Major League ready.

Video: Gonsalves on the Rookie Career Development Program

The 6-foot-5, 213 pounder will also have to stay healthy, as he's dealt with shoulder issues in recent years and threw only 110 innings last year. His career high in innings pitched is 140 in 2016, so the Twins are likely to be mindful about his innings total in '18.

Gonsalves, though, said he's fine with whatever the Twins have planned for him, as he has trust in the organization and is focused on getting better instead of worrying about when he'll make his debut.

"You just have to take it one step at a time and know it's a learning process," Gonsalves said. "You have to trust the club and the future they have in mind for you."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins, Stephen Gonsalves

5 things that Justin Morneau can teach the Twins as their newest special assistant

Longtime Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has called it a career after 14 excellent years. The 2006 American League MVP spent his last three and a half seasons away from Minnesota, but the Twins have brought him back for 2018, when he'll help the team as a special assistant.

Morneau was a terrific player for the Twins and made the All-Star team four years in a row, so he certainly has a thing or two that he could teach the up-and-coming team. Here are a few.

Twins launch Winter Caravan on 2 routes

Annual trek opens with radio-station stops, ice fishing
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' annual Winter Caravan officially started Monday, with two legs departing from Target Field to open the two-week event that features stops in more than 40 communities throughout the Upper Midwest.

Both legs opened with stops at radio stations, with the first group featuring outfielder Robbie Grossman, shortstop Jorge Polanco and broadcaster Cory Provus visiting the La Raza Spanish-language station in Minneapolis. The second leg, featuring manager Paul Molitor, reliever Alan Busenitz, infielder Eduardo Escobar and former Twins players Dan Gladden and Jack Morris, stopped by WCCO, which is the new radio home of the Twins.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' annual Winter Caravan officially started Monday, with two legs departing from Target Field to open the two-week event that features stops in more than 40 communities throughout the Upper Midwest.

Both legs opened with stops at radio stations, with the first group featuring outfielder Robbie Grossman, shortstop Jorge Polanco and broadcaster Cory Provus visiting the La Raza Spanish-language station in Minneapolis. The second leg, featuring manager Paul Molitor, reliever Alan Busenitz, infielder Eduardo Escobar and former Twins players Dan Gladden and Jack Morris, stopped by WCCO, which is the new radio home of the Twins.

Tweet from @MNCommunityGuy: The @twins caravan is ready to roll in style. #twinswintercaravan pic.twitter.com/AHxNxbvDwu

Much of the discussion centered on Minnesota's offseason so far, with the additions to the bullpen, as well as the expectations for next season after reaching the American League Wild Card Game last year. And of course, there was plenty of talk about the Vikings' incredible "walk-off" win on Sunday, especially from Molitor and Morris, two St. Paul natives.

"I think everyone is excited about getting back to work," Molitor said on the air with WCCO's Dave Lee. "February is coming up quickly. We've made some nice additions to our bullpen. We'll see what other additions we can make before we get to Spring Training. But the big thing is you don't rest on your laurels."

As Molitor noted, the Twins aren't done this offseason, as they're still looking to add a top free-agent starter, such as Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb. It's sure to be a topic of conversation among fans at stops throughout the caravan.

"I just think they have the right pieces in place," Gladden said on WCCO. "You're always looking for another piece, and I think the Twins are looking for a front-line starter. But I thought the bullpen pitched well with the young guys. There's a lot of upside. I'm looking forward to it."

After the radio stations, both legs headed south for an ice-fishing tournament at Madison Lake in Mankato, Minn. Busenitz, a Georgia native, had never been on a frozen lake before Monday.

Tweet from @Twins: When it���s your first time on a frozen lake... 😁������ How was it @abooze32? #TwinsWinterCaravan pic.twitter.com/bBiM4FUqW6

The first leg went from the ice-fishing tournament to New Ulm, Minn., while the second route stayed in Mankato for the night event at Kato Ballroom. The first route has stops in Windom, Minn., Worthington, Minn., and Spencer, Iowa, on Tuesday before heading to Iowa Falls, Iowa, and Mason City, Iowa, on Wednesday and Owatonna, Minn., Northfield, Minn., and Treasure Island Casino on Thursday.

The second route heads to Albert Lea, Minn., and Rochester, Minn., on Tuesday, with events in Preston, Minn., and Winona, Minn., on Wednesday and stops in Wabasha, Minn., Eau Claire, Wisc., and Menomonie, Wisc., on Thursday.

Tweet from @Twins: First time on a frozen lake for these warm climate natives! ������ #TwinsWinterCaravan pic.twitter.com/eVexJtTwQy

In addition, center fielder Byron Buxton will attend Camp Ripley to meet with members of the National Guard on Friday, while Zack Granite and Mitch Garver will attend the annual Class A Cedar Rapids banquet in Iowa on Wednesday. It all leads up to TwinsFest this weekend and the second week of caravan, which begins on Jan. 22.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

 

Minnesota Twins