Twins would like to bring back third baseman Blake

By Joe Christensen

McClatchy Newspapers

The Twins released Casey Blake twice, in 2001 and 2002, before he established himself as a big league regular with Cleveland.

Now, Blake is a free agent, and the Twins would love to bring him back.

Blake’s agent, Jim McDowell, said Friday that the Twins are among seven teams that have expressed interest in his client, who batted .274 with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs this year for the Indians and Dodgers.


The free-agent market opens Thursday, at 11:01 p.m. CST. The Twins hope to upgrade at third base and shortstop, but outside of Blake, their best options might come via trade.

According to people familiar with their discussions, the Twins have spoken to the Rockies about third baseman Garrett Atkins, and their list of trade targets also includes Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy and Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar.

In each case, the Twins need those teams to decide other matters first.

The Rockies are shopping left fielder Matt Holliday. The Brewers are trying to re-sign C.C. Sabathia. The Braves are trying to acquire San Diego ace Jake Peavy.

Once those issues are settled, the Twins’ trade options should become clearer headed into the winter meetings, Dec. 5 through 8.

For the first 15 days after the World Series, teams can negotiate exclusively with their own free agents. The Twins have had discussions with Nick Punto but have yet to make an offer.

"There’s no question Nick loves Minnesota," Punto’s agent Jeff Caulfield said. "It’s just a matter of his role. I know they’re trying to upgrade at a few different positions."

Punto batted .284 and finished the season as the Twins’ everyday shortstop. He is one of manager Ron Gardenhire’s favorites, but the team would rather pay him as a utility player than as a starting shortstop.


Despite scoring 829 runs this year, third-most in franchise history, the Twins ranked last in the American League with 111 home runs.

Hardy, 26, smashed 50 homers over the past two seasons for Milwaukee. He’s also due for another raise after making $2.65 million in his first year eligible for arbitration.

If the Brewers can’t re-sign Sabathia or Ben Sheets, they’ll need pitching, which the Twins have. Milwaukee also has a shortstop prospect, Alcides Escobar, who hit .328 in Class AA this season.

Yunel Escobar, no relation, batted .288 with 10 home runs in 136 games at shortstop for Atlanta in his second big league season. The Twins were among the teams interested after Escobar, 26, defected from Cuba, but the Braves grabbed him in the second round of the 2005 draft.

Atlanta reportedly has included Escobar in the Peavy talks. If that deal falls through, and the Braves are still looking for pitching, the Twins might have a match.

They have tried prying Atkins from the Rockies in the past but always found the asking price too steep.

Blake, 35, would cost the Twins money but not talent.

He made $6.1 million this year and will likely get a three-year deal.


Blake still makes his offseason home in Indianola, Iowa.

"Casey liked his time with the Twins," McDowell said. "And competing against them as often as he did, he has a pretty good feel for their organization. The feedback I get from him is all positive."

The Indians and Dodgers are interested, too. But maybe with the Twins, Blake’s third time would be a charm.

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