Twins enter free agency quietly

By Joe Christensen

McClatchy Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS — The big question as Major League Baseball enters free agency this year is whether the sluggish economy will drive down salaries.

The market opens at 11:01 p.m. tonight. But even if prices shrink, the Twins aren't expected to be major players.

They are among seven teams who have expressed interest in third baseman Casey Blake, according to his agent, Jim McDowell.


But the Twins sound more determined to address their needs through trades, with Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, Atlanta's Yunel Escobar and Colorado's Garrett Atkins among the infielders piquing their interest.

In late September, some within the Twins organization viewed free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera as a potential fit, but weeks later it's clear that's not the consensus view.

The Twins do want to bolster their infield, and this week they learned reliever Pat Neshek will need elbow surgery and miss all of 2009.

"We always look (at the free agent market)," Twins GM Bill Smith said. "We always try to find the best fit for our club. I'm not going to get too deep into what's a good fit and what's not. We'll have to see how it plays out."

The Twins could lose their own free agents, Nick Punto, Adam Everett, Dennys Reyes and Eddie Guardado.

The Twins have so many young players making close to the major league minimum ($400,000), they could fill a respectable 25-man roster for about $58 million — well below their franchise record payroll of $71 million in 2007.

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