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Twins Notes: More bullpen turnover, and updates on Morneau, Casilla, Pavano and Thome

• The offseason bullpen exodus is now complete, as Jon Rauch signed with the Blue Jays and Brian Fuentes signed with the A’s. They join Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain in leaving the Twins after that quartet combined to throw 45 percent of the team’s relief innings last season while posting a 2.98 ERA. The rest of the Twins’ bullpen had a 3.90 ERA. Here are the contracts each reliever got on the open market:

• Crain: $13 million for three years from the White Sox

• Guerrier: $12 million for three years from the Dodgers

• Fuentes: $10 million for two years from the A’s

• Rauch: $3.75 million for one year from the Blue Jays (with a $3.75 team option for 2012)

Jesse Crain
Jesse Crain

Tough to blame the Twins for failing to bring Crain, Guerrier, Fuentes and Rauch back at those prices, but it would’ve been nice to get more than one draft pick as compensation for letting all four guys leave as free agents. It’s also worth noting that Matt Capps will make more than any of those four departing relievers this season after agreeing Tuesday to a one-year, $7.2 million contract. Also, the Twins traded one of their top prospects in Wilson Ramos for the right to pay (or overpay) him in 2011.

• As noted last week plenty of veteran middle relievers have signed for reasonable money this offseason, but the Twins have yet to add any potential 2011 bullpen help beyond Jim Hoey, a hard-throwing but erratic right-hander acquired from the Orioles in the J.J. Hardy trade. They reportedly were among the half-dozen teams to offer right-hander Jose Veras a minor-league contract, but he opted to sign with the Pirates instead.

Justin Morneau told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he’s yet to “do any hitting or baseball activities” this offseason and doesn’t plan to do so until next month, which seemingly means Morneau and the Twins still have no idea whether he’ll be ready to play this season. General manager Bill Smith also hinted that Morneau continues to experience at least some symptoms more than six months after his concussion, saying:

In July, August, and September the protocol was if he had any concussion symptoms, he needed to back off. Now I think the doctors have given him a little more of the go-ahead. If you have mild symptoms, you need to work through it, play through it.

Smith also stressed to Christensen that the Twins “are very hopeful and very optimistic he’ll be ready to go for spring training,” but it’s tough to trust that anyone really knows anything when Morneau still hasn’t engaged in baseball activities without symptoms. Until he takes that step, there’s only so much anyone can know, good or bad.

Alexi Casilla and the Twins avoided arbitration with a one-year, $865,000 contract, leaving Francisco Liriano, Delmon Young and Kevin Slowey on the arbitration docket. Tuesday was the deadline for teams and players to exchange salary figures for hearings next month, but expect the Twins to work out deals with everyone before then. They haven’t actually gone through with an arbitration hearing since losing to Kyle Lohse in 2005 and 2006.

• Various sources still expect Carl Pavano to re-sign eventually, but Christensen reports that the two sides “appear to be in a temporary holding pattern” while the Twins focus on dealing with the aforementioned arbitration-eligible guys. I’ve heard some speculation that the market for Pavano was overstated because few teams were willing to actually forfeit a first-round pick to sign the Type A free agent, especially once the Brewers got Zack Greinke and bowed out.

Mark Simon of ESPN.com crunched the numbers on Jim Thome‘s domination of right-handed pitching and found that Thome has the third-highest OPS in baseball versus righties during the past five seasons, behind only Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard. And he was as great as ever against right-handers last year, clobbering them to the tune of .302/.455/.698 to rank second in the league behind MVP winner Josh Hamilton. Not a bad guy to keep for $3 million.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka was signed by the Twins to replace Hardy or Orlando Hudson, but how will the Chiba Lotte Marines replace Nishioka in Japan? Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker looks at the other side of the Japan-to-MLB move.

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