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Updated: December 8th, 2010 6:05pm
Winter meetings notebook: Nishioka 'independent' of other moves

Winter meetings notebook: Nishioka 'independent' of other moves

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins were in discussions with the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday regarding shortstop J.J. Hardy, which comes as no surprise considering the team's apparent logjam up the middle.

If and when the Twins reach an agreement with Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, they will have what the club views as three viable starting options -- including Alexi Casilla -- for two spots.

So does the Nishioka signing -- with a deadline of December 26 -- need to happen before the Twins can make a move with Hardy, or somebody else, to clear space?

"Nishioka's a bit of an independent piece," general manager Bill Smith said. "He fits with everybody. If we could sign Nishioka, we'd have Hardy and Nishioka, and (if) Casilla becomes a utility guy, and that's a good fit."

On the surface, it appears risky to deal Hardy prior to reaching an agreement with Nishioka. It also seems somewhat risky to hand two starting jobs to the unproven Nishioka and the unpredictable Casilla.

The Twins met with Nishioka's representatives on Monday, and various reports say the two sides are considering a three-year deal of some sort, with money reportedly ranging from $9 million to $12 or $15 million.

Thursday is the final day of the winter meetings, but many team executives and player agents leave the Swan & Dolphin Resort on Wednesday evening. Smith and company will stay until Friday.

Pavano met with Brewers, but Twins still front-runners?

Tom O'Connell, the agent for free agent starter Carl Pavano, confirmed Tuesday night that his client met with four teams earlier this week, including the Twins. O'Connell said the meeting with Minnesota went "very well," and added that the Twins are indeed serious about retaining Pavano's services.

On Wednesday, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Brewers were one of the other teams Pavano met with, and that Milwaukee is "serious" about signing the righty.

Rosenthall adds that the Twins are still the "front-runner," however.

White Sox remain aggressive

One week after signing slugger Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56 million contract, the division-rival White Sox came to terms on a three-year, $37.5 million deal to retain first baseman Paul Konerko.

That's a lot of pop in the middle of Chicago's lineup.

Do the Twins hear footsteps?

"We have to worry about us," Smith said. "We put our team together, (and) hopefully things will take care of themselves. Obviously you take note of teams in your division and teams in your league are doing."

Other notes

• Joel Sherman from the New York Post reports the Twins would consider shopping Kevin Slowey.

• Still nothing new to report on the bullpen front. Smith said earlier in the week that the Twins planned to meet with agents for Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch.

• The Twins have the 27th pick in Thursday's Rule 5 draft.

• The winter meetings are a breeding ground for future trades. Sometimes trades happen on the spot, and other times talks lead to future trades.

When asked to recall the widest gap between when talks began and when a trade actually took place for the Twins, Smith said, "Probably a year-and-a-half."

He did not divulge which trade.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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