Scoops: Aug. 28

Created: 08/28/2012 5:30 PM KSTP.com By: Darren Wolfson

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that Twins first baseman Justin Morneau got claimed on the August trade waiver wire. No surprise, the Twins pulled him back. It's strongly believed the Dodgers were the claiming team. If the Twins wanted to, they could've let him go and saved $17M ($3M for the rest of this year and $14 for 2013).

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From 1500 ESPN's Phil Mackey on my weekend conversation with Twins owner Jim Pohlad:

 

Despite having a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and one of the best hitters in the American League this season in Josh Willingham, the Twins are in danger of flirting with the 100-loss mark for the second consecutive season.

This, of course, on the heels of winning six division titles over a nine-year span.

"It's very frustrating," Twins owner Jim Pohlad said in a Saturday interview with Darren Wolfson on 1500 ESPN. "There's only one way to describe it, and that's losing sucks."

With how poorly things have gone this season -- particularly with injuries and the starting pitching staff -- it's fair to wonder whether significant changes are, or should be, on the horizon. 

If significant changes do occur, it's likely general manager -- or, interim general manager -- Terry Ryan's job won't be in jeopardy. In fact, quite the opposite.

"When Terry wants to remove the interim (label) from his title, we'll welcome that," Pohlad said, adding that Ryan's "interim" label still exists only because Ryan "hasn't chosen to drop that (label) from his title (yet). ...

"But on the other hand, we don't keep revisiting that every week or every month. We don't keep saying to him, 'Terry, why are you still interim?' Whenever he wants to take that way, he can, as far as we're concerned."

On one hand, Ryan is the overseer of one of the worst teams in baseball this season. On the other hand, many of his offseason moves have worked out well.

Willingham ranks seventh in the major leagues in home runs (31) and has vastly outperformed the man he replaced in the lineup, Michael Cuddyer, for less money. Ryan Doumit is hitting .285/.333/.466 with 14 home runs for only $3 million. Jared Burton has emerged as a solid set-up man. Jamey Carroll is hitting just .247/.332/.291, but his glove rates high this season according to Ultimate Zone Rating.

Behind the scenes, Ryan garners a higher level of respect internally due to his baseball acumen than Bill Smith did during his tenure as GM. But the hectic schedule, added duties and uphill climb required to turn the franchise around are said to have been somewhat taxing on Ryan. 

Gardenhire safe

Manager Ron Gardenhire has given no indications that he wants to stop managing. But after two horrible seasons and 12 years manning the same post, does Pohlad believe it's time to shake things up?

Not necessarily.

Pohlad said he "can't foresee" a managerial change at this particular moment, but he also acknowledged he couldn't foresee Smith losing his job at this time last year. Smith was removed from his post as general manager in early November.

Pohlad did say any decision about coaching or personnel changes would be made by Ryan. When asked whether he sensed Ryan wanted to make a managerial change, Pohlad said, "No, I do not."

Pohlad added, "I don't believe there's any feeling (that Gardenhire wants to stop managing)."

Downward cycle?

The Twins enter this offseason with approximately $76 million tied up in payroll, including the combined $8.5 million owed to Nick Blackburnand Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who were both removed from the 40-man roster last week.

Even if the payroll stays between $95 million and $100 million, there are no guarantees the Twins will be able to fix the American League's worst starting pitching staff with only $20 million this winter.

Is it possible the franchise is looking at a lengthy period of futility?

"I clearly don't agree with that," Pohlad said. "We have no desire to have our history defined by losing. ...

"There's certainly no reason (for anyone) to believe that if the same team shows up in April that they'll suddenly start playing better. So I would think a person could infer from that there will be some changes, and I'm sure that's what Terry (Ryan) has in mind. ...

"With some tweaking -- or maybe some people would say it's more than tweaking, and they could be right -- we have faith in the future."

One of the biggest problems for Pohlad and the Twins this season is how much money they have tied up in assets that aren't producing. Nishioka, Blackburn, Carl PavanoScott BakerMatt CappsJason Marquis and Joel Zumaya are making a combined $32 million and have produced almost nothing this season.

"That's true," Pohlad said, "and that unfortunately happens through out baseball. It's part of the game, and it's not an attractive part of the game. And we don't like that. Nobody would like that."

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Twins executive Mike Radcliff is in South Korea to scout the IBAF U-18 world championships.

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Just like last week, there's no reason to think the Twins won't be calling up Double-A outfielders Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia sometime in September. Hicks will have to be added to the 40-man roster.

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1B/DH Steve Pearce, who went to spring training with the Twins, hit cleanup for the Yankees on Tuesday night.

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The Wolves had regional scout Milton Barnes watch free agent center Hassan Whiteside in a workout Monday in Houston. The Wolves, who have just the veteran minimum to offer, are seeking another big man.

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Free agent big man Andray Blatche, who averaged 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game two seasons ago with Washington, was also at that Houston pickup game. It's not known if Barnes kept a close eye on him.

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As of late last week, the Gophers still had 12,500 tickets to sell for the Sept. 8 home opener vs. New Hampshire and the Sept. 15 game vs. Western Michigan. Approximately 7,000 of those seats are for students. That number should go down significantly in the coming days as the dorms fill up for the start of the fall semester next week.

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Class of 2014 Gophers basketball recruit Rashad Vaughn (Cooper high school) won't be committing anywhere anytime soon. I am told his dad really wants him to take his time. In other words, expect a decision in the summer of 2013.

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If the Packers release wide receiver James Jones this weekend, expect the Vikings to explore bringing him in. They nearly signed him before the 2011 season. There's probably a better chance though that the Packers keep Jones or trade him for a draft pick. Releasing him seems like the last of all possibilities.