First off I wanted to wish everyone a happy New Year. For the Twins, it's the start of a new decade in their new ballpark and there is certainly a lot of excitement surrounding 2010 as Opening Day at Target Field draws closer.The college football season is now officially over and that can only mean one thing: Spring Training is right around the corner. Just a little over six weeks remain until pitchers and catchers report in Fort Myers, Fla., and with the cold temperatures that have been battering the Upper Midwest, nothing sounds better than seeing some baseball under the warm Florida sun. But before I start daydreaming, let's dive into this week's round of questions in the Inbox. With the Red Sox signing Adrian Beltre, the Giants signing Juan Uribe and Mark DeRosa, and a trade with the Padres for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff starting to seem unlikely, what other options do the Twins have for third base other than what is currently in the organization? -- Robby W., Edina, Minn.
Most of the talk in the media this week centered on whether or not the Twins might add another veteran starting pitcher, but the majority of the questions that I received from fans concerned the hole that still lingers at third base. It seems this is the position fans would rather see the club address right now rather than the rotation. Yes, Minnesota had interest in DeRosa and Beltre, but both players' price tags were higher than the club wanted to pay. San Diego also seems less inclined to trade Kouzmanoff right now, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other options out there.
Last offseason, the Twins were patient in their pursuit and they wound up signing Joe Crede to a one-year deal that was a relative bargain during Spring Training. It seems the club is looking to do something similar this year. Crede once again is an option if he can prove to be healthy. Miguel Tejada is another infielder whose name has been linked with Minnesota, although so far I've had no indications that the club is interested in him. Just because some of the options have disappeared doesn't mean that the Twins won't find a fit -- they just seem more willing to wait and find a reasonably priced short-term stopgap until prospect Danny Valencia is ready to take over.
The Twins said they wanted to sign Joe Mauer to a long-term deal by Christmas. It's after New Year's now and they still haven't gotten a deal done. Any news on that? -- Aaron H., Burnsville, Minn.
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Things have been very quiet, at least publicly, in regard to the Mauer negotiations, but that was to be expected. Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, has been known to try to keep talks out of the media and the Twins certainly have always had that policy as well.
As for the Christmas target date, I don't think it was a huge priority for the club to get something done by that time. Minnesota surely would like to get an extension done sooner than later, but I think club officials are doing their due diligence to come up with a deal that both sides can agree upon. So neither side is trying to rush anything. As I've said many times, both sides know how important it is for the Twins to re-sign the catcher, and right now, my feeling is that something will eventually get done due to that fact.
Going back to the whole Kouzmanoff thing, do you think if the Twins dangled Alexi Casilla as well as Glen Perkins that the Padres would bite? It would solve the third-base issue and what to do at second base with both Casilla and Nick Punto as options for the spot. -- Harry G., Ledyard, Conn.
There was a report at the Winter Meetings that the Twins had informed other teams that Casilla was available, but it's highly doubtful that the club would include him with Perkins to complete a deal for Kouzmanoff. The Twins have felt that San Diego wanted too much in return for the third baseman and other clubs have seemed to agree. Currently, it appears that Kouzmanoff will start the season with the Padres. As for Casilla, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire hopes the infielder can bounce back and provide competition for Punto at second base in Spring Training.
Myself and many other Twins fans are tired of seeing Bert Blyleven finish just out of reach in the Hall of Fame balloting. Is there any way we, as fans, could help persuade some of the writers who vote? -- Bryan B., Alta, Iowa
Watching Blyleven finish just five votes short of earning induction into Cooperstown this past week was frustrating for many Twins fans. The consensus of most people around baseball is that based on the close vote, Blyleven will see his dream of ending up in the Hall of Fame realized in 2011. But of course there is no guarantee, since voters have been unpredictable and some can change their votes.
Bert has given credit to people like Rich Lederer of baseballanalysts.com and Bill Hillsman, who runs bertbelongs.com, for helping his vote totals to increase in recent years. Those Web sites have put together statistical analysis to help support the case for Blyleven to be in the Hall of Fame. There are also stories of fans of Andre Dawson who sent informational packets to the BBWAA voters who have a Hall of Fame vote to make their case for Dawson -- based on stats, analysis, etc. -- and as we all know, Dawson was finally elected this time. So fans can have an impact on the balloting, and from talking with Bert this week, I know he appreciates all the efforts on his behalf.
I saw a rumor that a Francisco Liriano for Jose Lopez of the Mariners trade might be in the works, Any truth to that? -- Bradley M., Golden Valley, Minn.
This is the time of year when rumors abound. I was told by a Twins source that this particular rumor had no validity and I'm only addressing it here to use it as an example that rumors must be taken with some sort of skepticism. Some rumors do wind up to be true, but there are many that don't stick around for long. If there's news to report, we'd have a story about it.
Are the Twins having another Winter Caravan this year? If so, when will the dates/times be announced? -- Jason G., Moorhead, Minn.
The dates for the Twins' 50th annual Winter Caravan were announced this week. There will be four legs (Northwest, South, Central, and Southwest) headed out this year, running from Jan. 18-28 and making stops in more than 50 communities. Current Twins players who will participate in this year's caravan include pitchers Nick Blackburn, Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, Jesse Crain and Jeff Manship; infielder Matt Tolbert; outfielders Jason Kubel and Denard Span and shortstop J.J. Hardy. Gardenhire and hitting coach Joe Vavra will also take part, along with Twins great Tony Oliva. A more detailed schedule for the Caravan can be found right here.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.