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Updated: December 13th, 2011 5:18pm
Outfielder Josh Willingham appears set to join Twins

Outfielder Josh Willingham appears set to join Twins

by Phil Mackey and Darren Wolfson
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The Minnesota Twins are likely to sign an outfielder in the very near future -- and it could be Josh Willingham.

A source told on Tuesday that Willingham was leaning toward accepting the Twins' offer, but that an official decision by Willingham was expected to come before the end of the day Wednesday, barring any last-minute developments.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick later reported that a deal was done, pending a physical -- three years, $21 million, per the Star Tribune -- but the Twins wouldn't confirm a finalized deal. It's hardly uncommon for the Twins to delay confirmation, as they don't generally confirm deals until they are 100% complete. 

The wildcard here is Michael Cuddyer, who remains the Twins' No. 1 priority. However, the Twins' offer to Cuddyer -- believed to be worth $25 million over three years -- has been on the table for seven days.

The Twins have been patient, as general manager Terry Ryan admires Cuddyer's makeup, leadership and perhaps most importantly his versatility and productivity at the plate. But Ryan made it clear at last week's winter meetings that he had contingency plans in place if things didn't work out with Cuddyer.

Sources have told in recent weeks that Cuddyer still had strong reservations about the Twins' ability to turn around a 99-loss team.

Prior to the winter meetings, the message out of Willingham's camp was that the soon-to-be 33-year-old was willing to play both corner outfield positions. Willingham has played primarily left field throughout his career, and his Ultimate Zone Rating since 2009 rates slightly better than Cuddyer's.

Over the past three seasons, Willingham owns a .257/.360/.479 batting line with 69 home runs. Cuddyer owns a .276/.341/.465 batting line with 66 home runs over that same stretch.

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday the Rockies, Rays and Indians had all dropped out of the Willingham sweepstakes, and that report was validated in part when Indians' team president Mark Shapiro tweeted the "defensive fit was not good" with Willingham.

If the Twins were to let Cuddyer walk and sign Willingham instead, they'd collect two compensation draft picks as well.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
Darren "Doogie" Wolfson is the jack-of-all-trades sports guy for 5 Eyewitness News and a contributor to
Email Darren | @darrenwolfson
In this story: Michael Cuddyer