Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The infield market

As anticipated, the Twins did offer arbitration to pitcher Carl Pavano, which means the Twins will either retain the veteran right-hander or pick up a compensatory draft pick next summer. Pavano's agent has been diligently seeking offers elsewhere, and if the price for Pavano is a multi-year contract, the Twins should be willing to walk away and take the draft pick.

But that's only part of the Twins-relevant news out of Tuesday's arbitration deadline. Two Type A second basemen — Placido Polanco and Orlando Hudson — were not offered arbitration, which means a team signing either will not forfeit its first-round pick next summer. This makes them much more attractive to Minnesota.

And to plenty of others as well. The Twins are, by my rough estimation, one of 10 teams with a middle-infield hole to plug. And I see eight middle-infield Type A or B free agents, with the second basemen better value than the shortstops (Miguel Tejada, Orlando Cabrera and Marco Scutaro). The Twins generally aren't players in bidding wars, and if Boston is serious about the notion of moving Dustin Pedroia to short, they would be the biggest gorilla in the second-base jungle.

On the other hand, a number of the teams with a middle infield opening are thinking young and/or real cheap. It's difficult to imagine the Padres throwing millions at a 30-something keystoner.

Then too, the Twins have made it pretty clear that they have one infield opening — either second or third base. J.J. Hardy's the shortstop, and Nick Punto (above) is going to have one of the other jobs.

I can imagine the Twins setting up a Dutch auction of sorts for that infield job. Make offers to eight free agents — say, Polanco, Hudson, Tejada, Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Felipe Lopez, Mark DeRosa and Pedro Feliz — and tell them all: First to accept this offer gets the job, no haggling.

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