Eyeing World Series, Twins nab Hudson

Eyeing World Series, Twins nab Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS -- As TwinsFest drew to a close last weekend, the Twins seemed comfortable to head to Spring Training with no further changes to their roster. They had already made some significant improvements this winter, including signing veteran slugger Jim Thome earlier this week, and appeared to be on the verge of their payroll limit.

But when signing Orlando Hudson became a real possibility, Twins general manager Bill Smith received the go-ahead from ownership to pursue what the team felt would be another big addition.

Late on Thursday night, Hudson and Minnesota agreed to terms on a one-year, $5 million contract. Most importantly, the Twins felt that adding Hudson would not only help them achieve their goal of making the playoffs but to compete deeper into the postseason.

"[Manager] Ron Gardenhire talked to Orlando the other night, and one of the comments that Orlando made was that he wanted to play for a contender," Smith said in a media teleconference Friday. "And Gardy told him, 'We're not trying to contend. We're already doing that. We're bringing you over here to win. We're trying to get to the World Series.'"

The Twins have certainly made their fair share of additions this offseason in an attempt to reach that goal. On the verge of opening their new ballpark, Target Field, in April, the team has used its increased revenue stream to raise its projected payroll to near $96 million for 2010, more than $30 million more than the Opening Day figure last year. The club also appears set to spend in the future, as negotiations are ongoing with catcher Joe Mauer on what will likely be a franchise-record long-term extension.

"Our ownership has always been pretty well committed to spending a significant percentage of revenues on player payroll," Smith said. "That hasn't changed. We're fortunate that as we move from the Metrodome to Target Field, we have some additional revenues. Believe me, we've probably tapped well into that revenue stream."

With Mauer making it clear that he's interested in winning, seeing all of the moves the Twins have made this winter can only help to show the reigning AL MVP that the club isn't content just to rack up division titles. The moves to add Thome and shortstop J.J. Hardy as well as bringing back starter Carl Pavano impressed Mauer, and the addition of Hudson was another big step to fill a lingering hole in the lineup.

Hudson is certainly another upgrade for the Twins, providing them with a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman and an ideal fit for the No. 2 spot in their lineup between Denard Span and Mauer. Hudson batted .283 with 35 doubles, six triples and nine home runs in 149 games with the Dodgers last season.

The 32-year-old Hudson, a four-time Gold Glove winner, had narrowed his choices down to the Twins, Nationals and the Indians this week. It's been reported that Cleveland's offer to Hudson may have been a multi-year deal, while he signed with the Twins for just the one season. But on Friday, Hudson said that he chose Minnesota because he was excited about the team that he'll be joining.

"You never know who can contend just by going through the offseason or whatever," he said. "But I know definitely Minnesota's going to be a contender. That's an automatic. We've got a deadly lineup, we know that with [Justin] Morneau and Mauer. We've got Span at the top."

Hudson is familiar with the Twins from his playing days in Toronto. He also said he spoke with two of his friends who are former Twins, Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter, and heard nothing but good things about the organization.

"I know it's a great place to play," Hudson said. "I'm happy for the chance to be a Minnesota Twin. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Playing a significant role in the postseason is something that Hudson would like to do, as he didn't get that chance last season with the Dodgers. Despite having been selected as an All-Star for the second time, Hudson lost his starting second base job to Ronnie Belliard toward the end of the season. When asked if that decision had anything to do with his previous wrist injury flaring up, Hudson said that he didn't have any health issues.

"It was a decision made by [manager Joe Torre]," Hudson said. "I guess I wasn't playing up to his par. My wrist had nothing to do with it. I was healthy. I'm healthy now."

So did Hudson know why Torre chose to make the move?

"I have no clue," Hudson said. "I have no clue. I mean, I'm not the manager. Maybe I wasn't good enough to play in his lineup, or whatever the case may be. All I can do is be ready when he called my name. He never gave me an explanation why he sat me down."

Hudson is working to be ready for his new team when Spring Training starts. He's in Miami this weekend for the Super Bowl and hopes to catch up with new teammates Mauer and Span, who also will be there. But if he doesn't see them, he'll get that chance shortly in Fort Myers, Fla.

While Minnesota's position players aren't scheduled to report until Feb. 26, Hudson said he's planning to be in Fort Myers on Monday.

"I always go down early," he said. "It's my business, it's my job. I need to help the team win, and to do that I have to do the best I can, so I always go early.

"When [Gardenhire] says it's full go, I'll be ready to go."

The Twins' roster appears ready for the start of Spring Training as well.

"I think we're getting toward the upper extremes of where we can be [with payroll]," Smith said. "We're excited to take this team to Fort Myers, I can tell you that."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.