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Twins, Yanks haggle over Santana

The Yankees have acceded to the Twins' wishes that top young pitcher Phil Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera be included in a potential trade for superstar pitcher Johan Santana, but Minnesota and the Yankees are now haggling over the third prospect that's to be put into the deal. Meanwhile, the Twins are still talking to the Red Sox, as well.

Minnesota has requested the Yankees surrender either pitcher Alan Horne or outfielder Austin Jackson as the third player, but the Yankees have thus far refused to include either in the deal for the two-time Cy Young winner. Most baseball insiders still see the Yankees as the favorite to land Santana with their inclusion of Hughes, but if the sides can't agree on the third prospect, the Yankees may consider setting a deadline for Minnesota to accept their proposal.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has stayed in touch with the Red Sox and is still holding out a long-shot hope that it can pry top outfielder prospect Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston. The Red Sox have offered young pitcher Jon Lester, center fielder Coco Crisp and shortstop prospect Jed Lowrie and have been steadfast in their refusal to include Ellsbury to this point.

The Yankees and Red Sox look like the serious players for Santana at this point, not surprising in that those are the two teams that can most comfortably meet Santana's expected contract demands. Santana, who is due to make $13.25 million in 2008 and become a free agent after the coming season, is believed ready to approve a trade to either team and is expected to receive an extension for five or six years for more than $20 million, once a trade is completed.

The Yankees likely thought they met Minnesota's original asking price by including the well-regarded righthander Hughes along with young center fielder Cabrera and a third prospect. However, the Yankees' apparent belief was that the third young player was to be a "second-tier'' prospect, not someone the stature of Horne or Jackson. It's also possible the sides could bridge the gap by expanding the deal to include more players.

It appears the Red Sox would only consider parting with Ellsbury if the Twins offered an extra player or two in addition to Santana, and people close to the situation say that would take considerable creativity. Boston and Minnesota have remained in contact, but it's believed the Yankees have come closer to meeting the Twins' asking price to this point.

The Angels and Dodgers also have talked to the Twins. But the Dodgers do not appear as heavily involved as the Yankees and Red Sox, and the Angels have been focused on trading for hitting prodigy Miguel Cabrera. The Angels became frustrated when the Marlins requested that a fourth top young player be included with three others already offered. The Mets are not believed to have the pieces to make a deal for Santana since they rebuffed early requests for either star shortstop Jose Reyes or third baseman David Wright.

Santana has a no-trade clause and is seen as more interested in going to an East Coast team, although people close to him say he wouldn't rule anything out. He is building a house in Fort Myers, Fla., the spring home of both the Twins and Red Sox, and plans to make that his main home. But people close to Santana say the location of that home doesn't mean he is focused solely on Boston.

Twins people say they may also choose to hang onto Santana if they don't get what they want. The situations looks likely to be resolved, one way or the other, within the few days, or certainly by the close of the winter meetings, which run here from Sunday to Thursday.

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