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Twins likely to bypass Teixeira

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This is not the forum to debate whether Twins owner Carl Pohlad cares, or whether he'd just as soon let other major-league owners buy him out and fold up the franchise. However, if Pohlad has any interest in saving baseball in Minnesota, his window is open.

The Twins have the pitching to be respectable, with a rotation of Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Matt Kinney and Mark Redman and a deep, balanced bullpen that could be one of the league's best if LaTroy Hawkins turns out to be a legitimate closer. There are some good young players, like Cristian Guzman, Matt Lawton, Torii Hunter and Corey Koskie. "We really need to get more power and production," says general manager Terry Ryan, but he wasn't given the financial wherewithal to go get a $4-6 million bat or two. Instead, the Twins will take the revenue-sharing cash and stuff it under the bed.

Eric Milton
Eric Milton is one of the leaders of a potentially solid Twins rotation.

The Twins have the first pick in the June draft and this is one of those rare times that there's a ready-for-prime-time college hitter who is not only the best player available, but the player who best fits what the Twins need. Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira not only is everyone's preseason college player of the year, but a monster switch-hitter who has an incredibly short, quick stroke from each side of the plate and work habits and character traits that are off the chart. "Everything you've heard about Mark is true," says Tech coach Danny Hall. "There aren't many like him, anywhere." Former Tech stars Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek come to mind for Hall, as do Darin Erstad and Pat Burrell.

Put Teixeira in the middle of that Twins lineup -- before Milton, Lawton, Guzman, et al are hitting the free-agent road -- and the franchise could be rejuvenated. But Ryan won't be allowed to draft Teixeira. Too expensive. A Scott Boras client. No, the Twins will set a price they're willing to pay, draft the player who agrees to take it and Teixeira will move on to live happily ever after with the Cubs and join a future infield of Hee Seop Choi, Bobby Hill and Luis Montanez. That's an infield that should help end the mediocre mentality that's fermented at quaint Wrigley these many years.

Unless there's a cap on amateur signing bonuses -- and that's not happening soon -- then this is the classic case of what's wrong with the system. Pohlad is close to the wealthiest man in Minnesota, made a profit the last two years in baseball and could invest in Teixeira. But he won't. And the chicken little mentality of some of the small-market teams has prevented a rules change that allows those draft picks to be traded. Those teams claim that if draft picks can be traded, the agents will stonewall everybody, driving up prices even more. OK, that would happen if there were draft-day deals, but if a club were allowed to deal its first pick up to three or four months before the actual draft day, then the Twins could at least help themselves.

Everyone knows Mark Teixeira. Everyone knows that he's a Pat Burrell-type talent, maybe better because he's a switch-hitter. Wouldn't the Yankees die to get their hands on him and have him as their next superstar with that power in that park, beginning in 2002 or 2003? Aren't the Twins better off with Alfonso Soriano, a pitcher and a couple of the extra picks the Yanks got for Denny Neagle or Jeff Nelson? Absolutely.

If the draft isn't going to work in terms of getting the best players to the worst teams, then let the Twins, Royals, Expos and others barter with those picks. And when deals are being made in July and, say, the Yankees are trying to get Everyday Eddie Guardardo, why not allow them to throw a 2002 pick into the deal? It would be a pick in the 20th-to-50th range, and the Twins could conceivably afford the player (although they did not sign their sandwich and first second-round pick last year).

Of course, the reason Teixeira is available this June is that the Red Sox tried to bully his father, John, when they drafted him in the ninth round in 1998. Teixeira wanted to sign and had a number ($1.85 million) less than what the Red Sox gave pitchers Sang Hoon Lee or Robinson (Crusoe) Checo, but the cursing and bully attempts so disgusted the family that they would not allow him to sign with Boston. Hall and several Georgia Tech people thought of that when they saw the Sox last summer after John Valentin went down. Not that the whole thing is some curse, but John Teixeira's high school friend and teammate was .... yes, Bucky Dent.

News and notes

  • Cubs GM Andy MacPhail worries that his club is a little left-handed hitter heavy, but points out, "With the unbalanced schedule, we look at our opponents a little more closely. There really are only two sure left-handed starters in our division, Rick Ankiel and Jimmy Anderson, unless Horacio Estrada makes it with Milwaukee or the Reds start Denys Reyes."

    The AL East may only have Mike Sirotka (Toronto), John Parrish (Baltimore), Wilson Alvarez (Tampa Bay) and Andy Pettitte (Yankees). But in what may be baseball's best division, the NL West, the Rockies will have three or four lefty starters, the Giants two and the D-Backs two -- and most of them are very good pitchers, from Randy Johnson to Mike Hampton to Shawn Estes. That's bad news for the Padres, who were 19-30 in games started by opposing lefties last season. Left-handers greatly negate Ryan Klesko's power.

  • The Padres got Bobby J. Jones for a one-year, $625,000 contract (with performance bonuses and a club option for 2002 at $3M) because he fell through the cracks. The Mets claim he was looking for three years and somewhere between $18-21M, when the Astros tried to sign him he balked (and took Kent Bottenfield for less) and when he went to take a physical with San Diego Tuesday, there was nothing else out there. With Sterling Hitchcock way ahead of schedule and possibly back in the rotation by May, the Pads could have a rotation of Woody Williams (who led the NL in IP per start), Adam Eaton, Matt Clement, Jones and Hitchcock. Not bad.

  • The Mariners are not interested in a Dean Palmer deal, and contrary to rumors hadn't talked to the Mets about Robin Ventura, whom New York can't trade because he's their only left-handed bat. But if the Yankees feel that the Mariano Rivera negotiations have led to his testing the market next winter, they are interested in Soriano for Jose Paniagua and Brett Tomko, who would make the Yanks' staff by far the deepest in the American League. ... The Royals are talking to the Devil Rays about John Flaherty, in case the Rays have to cut salary.

  • The Expos have made it clear to clubs that they will trade Ugueth Urbina, but most want to see him pitch in spring training. Texas, naturally, makes sense. Montreal wants a left fielder who can produce, but the Pirates are not interested in trading John Vander Wal at this point. "When he sees how many at-bats there will be between right, left and first, we think he'll be fine," says one Pirates official.

  • The Yankees recently gave $900,000 to Dominican right-handed pitcher Edisonn Reynoso. The 26-year old was originally signed by the Astros and Tigers and released in '93 and '95, pitched in the minors and majors in Japan, got released, but had a strong 12 1/3 inning showing with Estrellas this winter in the Dominican and attracted several teams.

  • The Blue Jays keep asking the Rockies about Pedro Astacio and are willing to deal Vernon Wells, but they don't have the pitcher to include to make sense for the Rockies. Astacio doesn't want to leave Colorado, so something may still happen long-term. ... Jesse Orosco is 44, tried out, got a bunch of non-guaranteed spring invites -- and then the Dodgers stepped up with a one-year, guaranteed deal at close to $2 million. ... We've already seen the XFL. It was called Replacement Spring Training Baseball, 1995.

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