Thad Levine is certainly not one to shield his cards carefully.
Or maybe he’s someone who likes to stir the pot and sit back to watch the bees buzz.
The Twins general manager proclaimed his team planned to be a major player in the free agent market this offseason, and that includes talking to agents for top free agent starters like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, and also agents for top-of-the-line relievers.
Levine also confirmed the Twins are interested in the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” Shohei Ohtani, a hitting and pitching star who intends to play in MLB next season.
On Sirius XM Radio Sunday, Levine said Ohtani is “a unique free agent … we're working diligently and that’s a top priority for us.”
"He hasn't narrowed this down to specific markets. He's looking for a competitive environment in which he thinks he can thrive and develop in the major league level."
Ohtani, 23, could have been in line for a major contract if he waited two more years to come to America. The CBA will limit him to a minor league contract, and that gives every MLB team a shot at him if they are willing to post $20 million to the Nippon Ham Fighters, his team in Japan.
The Twins have the third most money ($3.25 million) in the international bonus pool, but it seems on the surface they would be a long shot because Ohtani and his representatives are likely interested in a market (New York? Los Angeles?) with great marketing opportunities, even if the baseball contract is small potatoes.
There’s still a question about whether Ohtani could play both pitcher and a position (DH or right field, most likely), a debate that will continue until he’s in spring training with a team, no doubt.
"He wants to start competing against major league hitters right now," Levine told Sirius, hinting pitching might be Ohtani's future.
Darvish seems more realistic for the Twins. He’s the top starter available at age 31, and came to the Texas Rangers from Japan five years ago when Levine was the Rangers’ assistant GM.
"He really grew as a man and a player while he was there, and he came out of that experience a really solid teammate. He and I have been in contact despite my departure from Texas ... I don't know how much that will ultimately weigh in. ... We're actively having conversations with his agent."
Darvish won't come cheap. He's expected to get a multi-year deal in the $150 million range.
Levine told the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller two weeks ago that the Twins’ international bonus money (which was inflated when they got $500,000 in the Brandon Kintzler trade and $3 million when they bailed on the Jelfry Marte deal) could be used in trades – in other words, the Twins could trade that money to a team interested in sweetening the (relatively small) pot for Ohtani.
Ohtani's representatives have asked for a homework assignment from teams interested in signing him.