• With Matt Garza heading for Tampa Bay and Santana looking for a moving van, the health of Francisco Liriano is about to become the Twins' most significant pitching story. But GM Bill Smith reports that Liriano has done so well in his 13 months since Tommy John surgery, he has been told by the medical people he can get ready for spring training as if he'd never been hurt.
The big fear teams normally have with pitchers coming off Tommy John is that they feel so good so soon, they try to rush back and reinjure themselves. "So we told him [after the surgery], 'Don't even think about it. We're not activating you [in 2007] under any circumstances,' " Smith told Rumblings. "It's when you try to cheat the system that you have problems. It's a 12-month program, and when you try to do it in nine, that's when you have setbacks. He's had no setbacks. So let's just say we'll all be very excited to see him come to spring training."
We started hearing rumblings this week that there was a team in on Santana that no one has mentioned. Once we began asking around, officials from two clubs we surveyed nominated Seattle. But don't bet your Space Needle souvenir collection on it. The Twins would almost certainly start the conversation by asking for Adam Jones and Brandon Morrow. And there is practically no scenario under which Seattle could give up Jones, now that Jose Guillen is gone.
The Mariners also would have trouble coming up with a third and/or fourth piece, since their most high-profile prospect, catcher Jeff Clement, wouldn't fit Minnesota's needs. And one more thing: Seattle probably wouldn't be a place Santana would be anxious to waive his no-trade clause to go to, either. So never mind.
As best we can tell, those reports linking Jose Guillen to HGH and that Florida anti-aging clinic have had no tangible impact on his free-agent market value. In addition to the Royals, whose pursuit of Guillen has been well-chronicled, at least two other teams appear to have interest in him. (Our best guess: Padres and Mets, two clubs in the market for right-handed-hitting corner outfielders.)
All of those teams might wait to see if Guillen's name shows up in the Mitchell report. But they don't have to wait for any reports to know that Guillen had more RBIs (99) than any unsigned free agent, and that only Barry Bonds and Aaron Rowand beat him in OPS among players who got to the plate 400 times or more.
Every team needs pitching, and only one of them can trade for Santana. So we'd bet somebody will take a shot this winter at dealing for Texas' Vicente Padilla, whom the Rangers have made extremely available. The good news: Over the last six seasons, Padilla has had as many years with at least 14 wins as Josh Beckett or Curt Schilling (three). The bad news: He's in a high-maintenance zone all his own.
"I once heard somebody say," quipped one baseball man, "that he doesn't just have baggage. He has luggage."
As we reported last week, the unsigned free-agent starting pitcher who had the best strikeout rate and lowest opponent batting average this season is (who else?) Randy Wolf. We're hearing Wolf has six teams chasing him. But the Phillies amped up their pursuit this week by getting nearly every one of their top executives on the phone with him personally.