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December 10, 2007 at 4:47 pm ET
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An Interview with MLB.com’s Kelly Thesier (Twins beat writer)

Twins beat writer Kelly Thesier.Kelly Thesier is MLB.com’s beat reporter for the Minnesota Twins, covering the team day-in and day-out from Spring Training on through the regular season to the Winter Meetings in Nashville. And soon, she’ll start all over again.

She recently shared some time (something that she’s had precious little of what with the circus that has been the Johan Santana saga) with B&C to discuss what has already been a very busy off-season for the Twins.

The conversation covered new Twins GM Bill Smith, the Delmon Young acquisition, Torii’s exit, what may or may not happen with Johan, and just how much ground Minnesota has to make up to catch Detroit and Cleveland in the AL Central.

The Twins obtained Delmon Young along with Brendan Harris for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett in a deal that gives the Twins a tremendous young right-handed bat but surrendered a very good young arm and speed at short — how will this effect the Twins offense, the rotation, and does Cuddyer now move back to third?

The addition of Young definitely is a huge improvement for the Twins offense as he’s one of the best young hitters in the game. The loss of Torii Hunter was a big one but picking up a bat like Young’s will help to minimize it slightly. This deal certainly was an impressive first step for Bill Smith in his tenure as GM. He showed some risk taking a guy that has had some character issues in the past, but one that could have a tremendous upside if he fits in with what is a pretty solid clubhouse. As for the rotation, without Garza the group will certainly be a little thinner than before. If Johan Santana is indeed traded before the start of the season, the Twins will need to get at least one strong arm back in the deal to make up for the loss of two quality pitchers. As for Cuddyer’s role, I don’t see the Twins moving him back to third base. His struggles there were well documented and the Twins don’t want to mess with the success he’s had the past two seasons. He might be moved to left field if the coaching staff wants Young in right, but that’s the only position move I would envision could happen for Cuddyer.

Yes, he even gets mentioned in trades that don't involve him.Torii’s gone, and let’s face it — replacing someone who averaged 27 homers with 95 RBI in six full seasons from 2001-’07, won seven straight Gold Gloves, and was the face of the franchise — won’t be easy. Give us the latest dirt on who might patrol center for the Twins in 2008.

There have been quite a few rumors at to exactly who the Twins might get to take over for Torii, one thing that is certain is that they really don’t have a solution in their system so they’re going to have to look outside. One way is through a deal with Johan Santana. Most of the teams that they’re talking with have options in center the Red Sox, who have Jacoby Ellsbury, who the Twins really covet but I don’t think the Red Sox would be willing to give up, but on the other hand they do have Coco Crisp. Then you have the Yankees, who have Melky Cabrera whose another player the Twins seem to have their interest piqued in. The Dodgers have some options as do the Mets – Carlos Gomez and some other options. So I think for the Twins to find an answer in center they’re going to have to look on the trade market and it could very well be through the Santana trade.

One of the latest rumors has Johan going to the Yankees with names such as Philip Hughes and Melky Cabrera being tossed about as possible compensation. Beyond speculation, how realistic is that deal or any deal right now for Santana?

There’s a pretty good chance that Santana is going to be dealt this off-season from indications that I’ve gotten around the league. The one with the Yankees – Hank Steinbrenner made clear his interest in Santana, and if they think that he’s the type of pitcher to help push them over into that next level in the playoffs I think they definitely would be willing to give up some top prospects. But a Philip Hughes and a Melky Cabrera and if you add in three or possibly four prospects in that kind of range? It’s a deal that could be done and something that might be pushed even more if the Red Sox make a push or if the Mets decide to really up their ante enough.

Part of a dynamic duo in '08?Trade or not, forget Santana and Liriano – can the Twins be competitive with a rotation comprised of Baker, Slowey, and Garza 3-through-5? And where does Boof Bonser fit in?

It’s going to be an interesting thing to see how some of these young pitchers can react in a situation where they’re going to be called upon more than in the past. In terms of Boof Bonser, his role is going to be how he shows up at Spring Training – if he’s in top physical condition, if he’s doing the types of things the Twins wanted to see from him so that he can last longer in outings. I think that’s really going to determine his role as to whether he’s pitching in the starting rotation or if, possibly, they could move him to the bullpen. I think he has to show them that he’s dedicated to making changes and to be the type of pitcher they expect him to be. But there certainly are a lot of talented arms on this Twins staff and they’re the types of guys that could to take those steps to be elite pitchers. I think it’s going to be a wait-and-see, though, if they can do that on their own without the help of some other guys.

Minnesota’s power was Johnny Canuck and Michael Cuddyer before the Monroe acquisition but Bill Smith isn’t likely to stop there. After the phenomenal success of the recently resigned Terry Ryan, do you feel the new general manager feels any pressure to, or needs to make a splash this winter?

I don’t think Bill feels the need to make a splash. I think he might be making some headlines just in having to make moves that he feels need to be made. If he does trade Santana that definitely is going to raise some eyebrows and I think Joe Nathan could also be traded and that would be another eyebrow-raising-type move. I don’t know if it’s going to be in terms of bringing in huge acquisitions that are going to make a big splash. I think this team is starting now to look toward the future and rebuilding and they might have to do that with younger players who the team might believe have talents to become stars in the future. And that’s what they’ve done in the past, seek out guys that they believe eventually will become stars. I think the splash that they might make this year might not be the big, huge acquisitions that people might want, but talent that he believes will, in the future, become the type of a Johan Santana or a Joe Nathan.

That led into my next question — Joe Nathan has expressed an interest in finishing his career with the Twins – but with Rincon, Neshek, Guerrier and even Crain – would the Twins be better off letting him go after this season or possibly even dealing him to improve the club right now?

I think if the team really believes that they can’t afford Nathan in the future, that they can’t sign him to an extension then they might be best off trading him this off-season when they’re going to get the peak-level of talent for him. If you let him stay on until even the trade deadline, the amount the other teams would offer might not be at the same level that it would be right now. The Twins do have a very talented bullpen. You look at a lot of the guys, there always is that question mark though if a guy has exactly the type – he may have the stuff to become a closer but does he have the make-up, the mentality, everything that goes into it? I think it’s a very unsure science of determining what guys might fit into the role but I think it’s something that the Twins have been planning to try out on Crain for sure, and possibly Neshek. So if they do trade Nathan they definitely have options on guys who they believe could be closers in the future.

We still can't figure out how he did this.Everyone loves Nickie’s defense, but simply stated Punto wasn’t even average offensively last season which begs the questions – who mans third next year and what are the odds Corey Koskie could return to the hot corner?

Third base is definitely a big question mark at the moment and I don’t think that the Twins have quite found a solution. There’ve been rumors that this team might get a third base option within a trade for Santana and there are a few teams that have some options out there including the Dodgers, who have Andy LaRoche. But in terms of looking within the system, I think Brian Buscher, if he could step up and improve his defense, might be something they have to plug in for the time being if they can’t make a trade happen. Third base is definitely an area that is very unsure at the moment. Corey Koskie could be a cheaper option but so far I haven’t heard any indication that the Twins would be interested in bringing him back.

Jason Kubel – what will his be role come Opening Day?

Jason they’re looking at as a left field, DH role. I don’t think that they want him to particularly be the primary left fielder and I think that was one of the reasons why they looked into acquiring Craig Monroe. To give them another bat with power but also to give Kubel some time off – not having to play left field all the time. I think we’re going to see Kubel splitting time once again between left field and DH and possibly, if his defense can improve, he will one day be the primary left fielder.

Mauer says he loves receiving but long-term can the Twins risk his being hurt and subsequently missing time? Should the hometown hero change positions?

Right now I think it’s a little early to say that Mauer needs to change positions. He’s had injuries and this year was certainly a disappointment but if you take at least another season and see if he can make it through this next year healthy, behind the plate. I think you need to see more of a prolonged stretch of injuries that show that it is catching that is causing him to be hurt before they move a guy who is one of the top catchers now in the game. Both defensively and the way that he handles pitchers, he bring such a presence to this team in the catching spot that I think moving him prematurely would be a bad idea. And I know, talking with Mauer, he definitely wants to stay behind the plate. That’s what he loves to do, and I think they should give him a little bit of a longer chance but if he has another injury-plagued season this year then that might be enough of a cause to try him at another position.

The Tigers have gone out and picked up Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Edgar Renteria while the Indians should only improve with a full season of Asdrubal Cabrera and another year’s experience for Sabathia and Carmona. Just how gaping is the chasm between Motown, Cleveland and Minnesota?

The more the Twins move players around it seems that hole – the difference between those two teams – is going to get wider. Losing a Johan Santana or a Joe Nathan and even with the talented young prospects they might get in return will definitely set the team back, at least for this next season. And considering the type of talent that’s in the AL Central I definitely think the setbacks would be too great for the team to be competitive in 2008.

Thanks a lot for doing this. I really appreciate it Kelly.

Yeah, no problem! Glad that I could help out.

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3 Responses to “An Interview with MLB.com’s Kelly Thesier (Twins beat writer)”
  1. Landon Evanson Landon says:

    Just a note — the question regarding 3-through-5 in the rotation with mention of Garza was asked prior to the Delmon Young trade but altering the question was not a possibility.

  2. Lando, always a big fan of your interviews. I’m also now a big fan of Kelly Thesier!

  3. Peter Murphy says:

    Hey Landon, the Twins should trade Santana to the Red Sox. When is it you get a chance to receive a awesome outfielder like Coco Crisp in return? LOL!!!!! With Detroit making the big moves this off season, it is going to be tough to go toe to toe with them. Johan goes to the Red Sox and the evil empire goes down again in 2008. Roger Clemens switches to Advil in the new year! LOL!!!!!!!!!

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