-The Twins have signed RHP Scott Baker to a 4-year deal worth $15.25 million. The deal starts with this year and goes through 2012, with a $9.25 million option for the 2013 season. Since Baker is under team control through 2012, the contract really just provides cost certainty for the club, at the expense of paying Baker whether he is healthy and effective or not. Of course, the option year is big, as it puts one of Baker's free agent years under the Twins' control. Locking up young players early in their pre-arbitration years has become a trend in baseball lately, with guys like Dustin Pedroia, James Shields, and Evan Longoria signing deals early on in their careers. I've always thought this was a good strategy, and I am encouraged to see the Twins following suit with their signings of Jason Kubel and now Baker.
-Though I don't usually trust anything that Charley Walters writes, I hope that this note about Joe Mauer in his "Don't Print That" is true:
"This week, general manager Billy Smith was expected to meet with Mauer's agents, who were spotted at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla."
Obviously, it can be presumed from this that there will be some premliminary talks for an extension done, with each side feeling each other out on what their expectations and ideas for Mauer's next contract are. It will probably take a contract in the 9 digit range, but whatever it takes, the Twins need to do it. Despite all his accolades, including his Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, Mauer is still somewhat underrated, partially because his positional value as a catcher is often not taken into proper consideration and partially because he doesn't hit for the power he was once expected too. Hopefully the Twins surprise me and come out of spring training with a new contract for their still only 25-year old catcher.
-After being the only team last season to start the year with no players on the DL, injuries have been one of the biggest stories thus far down in Fort Myers. Pat Neshek was lost for the year back in the fall when he underwent Tommy John surgery, while Boof Bonser went down for the season due to a shoulder injury just a couple weeks ago. With an already weak relief corps hit by two major injuries, the fact that the Twins' best reliever, Joe Nathan, had to pull out of the WBC with a shoulder injury was a panic-inducing bit of news for some. However, he has been throwing fine since then, and is on track to pitch on Sunday, so hopefully the injury was just a convenient excuse to skip the Classic and stay in camp. Another pitcher, Nick Blackburn, has been struggling with an inflamed knee after having surgery in the offseason. His situation is a little more questionable than Nathan's, but after having the knee drained Blackburn says he doesn't feel any pain. He was supposed to have a bullpen session today, and if all went well he should be back in the rotation soon. Finally, of course, there's Joe Mauer, who still hasn't participated in any game action. Personally, I wonder if his surgery was more serious than the Twins let on, because it has taken longer than the six weeks they originally claimed for him to recover. Whatever the case, though, I am just excited to see him take the field for opening day, whether he plays in the spring or not.
-Lastly, a bit of non-Twins news. Last week I mentioned Jerry Seinfeld's new show, "The Marriage Ref", but this week there's some even better Seinfeld news: Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer, or at least the actors who play them, will be reuniting for a few epsiodes of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" this fall. Aside from "Seinfeld" itself coming back, I don't see how there could be better news for fans of the show such as myself. This makes me even happier that we get HBO on Georgetown cable (though don't get me started on all of its negatives), and I'll be anxiously awaiting these episodes in a way that I haven't done in a long time for a TV show.