The Minnesota Twins are closing in on a major trade, though not the one most of the baseball world is awaiting.
While talks continue surrounding two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, the Twins are moving swiftly in attempting to replace Torii Hunter's bat in their lineup, lining up a deal with Tampa Bay in which the Twins would acquire outfielder Delmon Young and two others for right-hander Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett and reliever Juan Rincon.
Multiple sources said the deal was close late Wednesday, though the Rays, according to those with knowledge of the talks, are said to be holding things up because of concerns regarding medical reports on Rincon's elbow.
If consummated, the Twins will net a talented but enigmatic corner outfielder. Young played in all 162 games this summer and finished second to Boston's Dustin Pedroia in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, batting .288 with 13 homers and 93 RBI.
But he also was criticized on multiple occasions for a failure to hustle, and the issue came to a head when Rays manager Joe Maddon yanked him from a game during the season's final weekend in Toronto. Young, the brother of major leaguer Dmitri, just turned 22 in September and Maddon acknowledged before the incident during an interview in September that he simply has some growing up to do, and added that he is confident that Young will mature quickly.
Based on the end of his season, however, some unwanted attention undoubtedly will follow him to Minnesota, and whether Twins manager Ron Gardenhire can control him will be an issue.
Not only did things turn ugly between Young and Maddon on the season's final weekend -- "I'll see you guys next year," Young said angrily during a profanity-laced, post-game tirade after being yanked. "I'm shut down for (Sunday)" -- before the outfielder apologized, Young also was suspended for 50 games while playing for Triple-A Durham two summers ago following a bat-tossing incident.
There is no question, though, that Young has skills: He led all AL rookies this season in games played (162), hits (186), RBI (93), total bases (263), batting average with runners in scoring position (.349), multi-hit games (55) and outfield assists (16).
And the fact that the Twins would trade for him simply emphasizes the fact that, following Hunter's departure and on the eve of a likely Santana trade, they are navigating their way through what perhaps will be the most unsettling offseason in franchise history. Normally, the Twins veer away from players with the sort of baggage carried by Young.
Garza, a first-round pick in 2005, was 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 16 appearances (15 starts) for the Twins in 2007. He never could get a firm grip in the rotation, though he is still well-regarded in the game as a coming talent and at least one major league executive Wednesday applauded the pitching-thin Rays for apparently acquiring a potential top-shelf starter.
As for Santana, the most desired pitcher on either the trade or free agent market this winter, industry sources reiterated on Wednesday that the Twins have sent definite signals that they intend to trade him, though talks with multiple clubs are said to remain in the early stages.
"I'm anticipating that the discussions will heat up in Nashville," said one source with knowledge of the Twins' thinking, of next week's winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland hotel. "But with the money, the no-trade clause, the fact that a long-term deal will have to be in place before he goes ... it's going to take awhile."