FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Here in this no-frills town on Florida's west coast, both of baseball's big-bucks baseball player negotiations are playing out without much fanfare.
So much silence surrounds the talks regarding Twins superstar catcher
While little has become public in the case of either Mauer or Beckett, that shouldn't be taken to mean that neither negotiation is going well. In fact, indications are strong that steady or better progress is being made in both talks. Though nothing is known to be set yet with either player, the likelihood is that both stars are likely to eventually reach deals for contract extensions with their current teams, and that neither will hit the free-agent market next winter.
Although there still appears to be work to be done, the guess here is that the two stars will end up with deals for a quarter of a billion dollars combined, or perhaps slightly more than that. The guess here is that both megadeals will be done in the coming weeks. In the case of Mauer, both sides are said to be willing to work into the season, if necessary, as each trusts the other to keep quiet and Mauer is focused enough to block out negotiation noise while playing or the Twins.
While one Boston person said "we need Beckett,'' the Red Sox do have two more ace pitchers in
The reality is, the Red Sox would love to keep Beckett, the ace for two World Series winner. But the Twins absolutely
"The Twins have no choice but to pay [Mauer],'' one competing executive said. "He is a God in Minnesota. The Twins are moving into a new park, and let's not forget the
These are not the same old Twins, however, that always kept their payroll among the lowest in the game. Already this spring, they've signed outfielder
Mauer, who has a home here where both the Twins and Red Sox train, has been assumed to prefer to stay in his hometown -- he's a native of St. Paul -- where he has absolutely thrived, though he says little about his desires publicly (much less than Beckett, who said that he prefers to stay in Boston in a brief chat here a few days ago). Mauer's representative,
But while a new deal for Mauer would seem to be a necessity, some disappointment and even real anxiety appear now to be building in Minnesota, where many assumed that a Mauer contract would be done by now. Perhaps the belief that a deal was at hand as spring training began a month ago was fueled to some degree by a premature Minneapolis radio report suggesting that Mauer was on the verge of a 10-year agreement. Folks also made something negative out of the fact that Shapiro had come to Twins camp for a few days and has long since left.
But the feeling that things aren't going well (or even falling apart) appears to be unfounded. People familiar with the situation say that "talks are proceeding,'' and that there's "nothing negative'' that has arisen that's likely to forestall a deal indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Beckett and the Red Sox were said to be making real progress toward a new deal.
It is believed that
Mauer's story is creating such interest that there is now occasional speculation that he could be traded, supposition that a Twins decision-maker on Thursday called "ridiculous.'' And in fact there is zero evidence that the Twins would even consider this.
Beckett doesn't seem very worried, either. But he made it clear that he'd like to stay, saying, "It's a great place to play. You're going to be playing in front of a lot of fans every day.''
Presumably, Mauer prefers to stay, too. The guess here is, both players will get their wish.
Twins star closer
"Some say he could pitch through it, others say no,'' Gardenhire said. The list of pitchers who've pitched through the injury doesn't seem to be very long, though. One is
"If there wasn't a chance to pitch through it, he wouldn't be throwing over the weekend,'' Nathan's longtime agent,
Nathan said the elbow has "calmed down'' and he's ready to test it this weekend. He's just waiting for the word from Twins doctors on which day to give it a go. "We're preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best,'' said Nathan, who has more saves than anyone in baseball since 2004 (three more than
Gardenhire said that any pain or discomfort for Nathan would trigger the surgery. They aren't going to force it, or take any chances. "We're not going to put the guy at risk,'' is the way Gardenhire put it. People around the Twins say that Nathan would like to pitch as long as he possibly can, and Pepe confirmed that.
The Twins had one of baseball's best bullpens last year, with a 3.14 overall ERA. But Gardenhire said, "The bullpen is normally only as good as the guy at the end. You don't replace [Nathan]. "You put someone else in and you hope to get the job done. But to replace his professionalism, that's hard to do.''
As Nathan suggested, the Twins are preparing for the worst. Relievers
The revelation that Washington used cocaine -- which Washington admitted to MLB, Ryan and Daniels even before the test came back -- was as much a bombshell in the Rangers' office as one might imagine. There had been no inkling that he could do something like this, as his record was clean.
The Rangers are to be commended for showing so much compassion in this circumstance. Daniels said they kept Washington "for all the reasons they hired him in the first place,'' which included the fact that they believe he is a good man and would be a good manager. He didn't say whether there was any practical consideration to keeping him, but one can imagine that a revelation such as this with the team in the middle of a great season carried the potential to torpedo things.
Had Texas fired him with the team in the thick of the AL West race, Washington's transgression almost certainly would have been figured out, since reporters would have been forced to search hard for the reason for a seemingly out-of-the-blue firing. The team had just picked up Washington's option for 2010 only a month earlier, so a firing would have raised flags. By keeping Washington, there was a chance that his drug use would never become public due to the confidentiality of the testing program, which is what Rangers brass clearly hoped.
Washington handled it as well as could possibly be expected when informed that the story was about to be reported. In three conversations before we published the story, Washington never made one excuse about his transgression. Though he clearly preferred that the story not be published, he handled things as maturely and professionally as possible.
Though he demonstrated his leadership abilities throughout the ordeal, there's no getting around the fact that the pressure is great on Washington to win now. Ryan, who reportedly favored making a managerial change soon after he took over two years ago when the Rangers started 7-16, said publicly that he thinks Texas has a 92-win team, which would represent another step from the 87 they won last year. That would be a big increase considering that the team didn't markedly increase its payroll. They have terrific young talent but are still relatively inexperienced and in a tough division with the perennially strong Angels, the improved Mariners and up-and-coming A's.
Washington enters the season on the last year of a contract that was team-friendly to begin with -- two years and two club options. Realistically, the pressure is greater on him than on any other manager in baseball.
• That scout questioned any call to send either Chapman or Strasburg to the minors. "Why? What are they waiting for?'' the scout said. One source said that the current plan calls for Strasburg, who like Chapman has been brilliant this spring, to make "six to eight'' starts in the minors before promoting him.
• The Rockies breathed a sigh of relief when their closer
• There is a snag in the sale of the Rangers from
• New Astros manager
• Folks shouldn't put too much stock into bad springs by pitchers in Arizona, where the ball flies. Even the great
• Late April seems to be a fair target date for Diamondbacks ace
• If anything, the $51.25 million deal for
• The power of Marlins prospect
• The Mets are intending to demote top first base prospect
• Lackey has been everything as advertised in Red Sox camp. He has allowed no runs and no walks.
• The Rays look superb this spring. One player who looks tremendous is
• The Rays' believe that
• The Diamondbacks always expected
• I nominate the Twins as nicest team in baseball, with stars like Nathan, Mauer,