<
>

Twins seek Lester medical info as Santana talks continue

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The rivalry continues.

With talks between the Yankees and Twins losing steam, the Red Sox have emerged as
the favorite to land left-hander Johan Santana.

ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports that the teams continued to talk from late Monday into early Tuesday morning, with the Twins even asking to see medical reports on Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.

Last week the Red Sox offered Lester, outfielder Coco Crisp, minor league infielder Jed Lowrie and another minor league pitcher for Santana.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune cited a Red Sox source as saying late Monday that the Twins have asked for Lester, Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Lowrie.

"I know there's a lot of speculation that we're close to
something big," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said on Tuesday afternoon. "Until
we reach an agreement, then we're not that close."

Multiple reports this week said that Boston would only include one of the group of Lester, Ellsbury and pitcher Clay Buchholz.

As Monday turned to Tuesday, the Yankees' deadline to get a deal done with the Twins passed without resolution.

"A deadline is a deadline. It was pretty much done as of this
morning," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said on Tuesday. "He's a fine pitcher, but there's a lot of
things that go into this. This isn't fantasy baseball."

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said on Monday night that he would not put a timetable on talks.

While refusing to discuss Santana specifically, Epstein said at the baseball winter meetings that
there was no expiration date on any trade talks. In the past, he
has set a deadline for potential deals if they were holding up
other deals.

"I think we've only done that when we thought it was in our
best interest," Epstein said in his suite at the Opryland Hotel.
"We don't have current discussions ongoing for which I think that
would be in our best interest. We're pretty content with where we
are and we don't think anything major is getting held up."

Santana, who
is eligible for free agency next year, could become too pricey
for the small-market Twins.

The Yankees have offered pitcher Phil Hughes, center fielder
Melky Cabrera and a midlevel prospect for the two-time Cy Young
Award winner.

Usually when both Boston and New York are involved in
negotiations for a trade or a free agent, the other side can count
on playing them off each other to take advantage of their
competitiveness, and paranoia. But Steinbrenner said he would pull
the Yankees' offer off the table if the Twins didn't make a
decision by Monday.

Epstein wasn't as eager to force a conclusion.

"There's a natural order of things this winter and we're just
going to let it play out," he said. "If we think the dynamic
changes or our interest changes, we certainly wouldn't hesitate to
put a timetable on something or other. But this doesn't apply right
now."

Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, said his client was angered by
a report that he has told the Twins to only trade him to the
Yankees or Red Sox. Santana has made no such request, Greenberg
said, and also hasn't ruled out returning to the Twins next season.

"He was very adamant about that. He wanted to make sure we
clarified that. That upset him," Greenberg said. "He's been very
clear all along that he wants Bill to make the best deal
possible."

Usually active during the winter, the Red Sox might just stand
pat at the major league level after winning their second World
Series title in four seasons. The most likely move is to trade
Crisp to make room for Ellsbury, the spark plug
who forced his way into the lineup during the playoffs.

"We're in a good position to have two quality center-field
options," Epstein said. "I certainly wouldn't be opposed to
having both guys in camp. It takes more than three outfielders to
get through a season."

Aaron Rowand and Andruw Jones are the top center fielders on the
free-agent market; Torii Hunter has already agreed to a deal with
the Los Angeles Angels.

"I think that needs to settle itself before you see more trade
activity at that position," Epstein said.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he has tried to keep in
touch with his players during the offseason, in part to make sure
they're not bothered by seeing their names floated about.

"I know it's part of the game. I think they know it's part of
the game," Francona said. "I said something to Lester the other
day, I said, 'You still here?' He just kind of laughed."

Francona was named manager of the year on Monday by Baseball
America.

"I think it's very well-deserved," Epstein said. "Because we
have a team that's expected to contend every year, the manager can
be overlooked in those situations. I'm glad Baseball America didn't
overlook Tito because he did a fantastic job this year."

Francona said he was honored to receive the award but said the
credit needs to be shared with the rest of the organization.
Also Monday, the Red Sox shuffled their baseball operations
department, promoting David Howard from major league scout to
special assistant to the general manager.

In other news at the meetings:

" Former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and ex-Dodgers owner Walter
O'Malley were elected to the Hall of Fame by the revamped Veterans
Committee along with managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth
and former Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss. Ex-players' association
head Marvin Miller saw his vote percentage plummet from 64 percent
to 25 percent, largely due to a shift that made current and former
management members a majority.

" Washington acquired outfielder Elijah Dukes from Tampa Bay for
minor league left-hander Glenn Gibson.

" The Chicago White Sox obtained outfielder Carlos Quentin from
Arizona for minor league first baseman Chris Carter.

" Boston reached a preliminary agreement on a $3 million,
one-year contract with reliever Mike Timlin.

" The Yankees finalized their $4 million, two-year deal with
backup catcher Jose Molina and designated first baseman
Andy Phillips for assignment.

Other trades were percolating in the meeting rooms.

Florida is expected to deal third baseman Miguel Cabrera
sometime soon, and Baltimore is shopping shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Oakland is checking out the market for pitcher Dan Haren.

Buster Olney covers baseball for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.