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maddongardyJoe Maddon, the very successful longtime manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, has exercised an out clause in his contract and is essentially a managerial free agent. This is a stunning development in that folks like Buster Olney of ESPN, someone quite plugged in, didn’t even know he had that clause in his contract.

So suddenly one of the five best managers in baseball is available at a time when only one other team (aside from Tampa, now) has an active managerial opening: the Twins.

The first bit of speculation had Maddon going to the Dodgers to follow Andrew Friedman, but Fox’s Ken Rosenthal said Maddon is not going to L.A. The Dodgers’ current manager is Don Mattingly.

Twins fans are going crazy with optimistic speculation that he could wind up here. We can’t blame them; we’d dare ourselves to dream, too, and certainly nothing can be ruled out.

Olney thinks the Cubs are a more logical landing spot, though Chicago does have a manager (Rich Renteria) already in place. Then again, a lot of teams would drop everything (and anyone) if they had a chance to get Maddon, so the fact that the Twins have an opening while nobody else does probably doesn’t mean a ton.

Would it make any sense for Maddon to jump to the Twins? Not if he’s looking for a big leap in payroll (Twins opening-day payroll last year was around $86 million, while the tight-fisted Rays still checked in around $77 million). Not if he’s looking for a team that has a track record of recent success.

But … if he’s looking for a fresh challenge, a huge upgrade in ballpark and he believes that the Twins’ highly touted prospects make them a candidate to be contenders for the next 5-7 years … then, well, maybe?

Again, there are other teams that make more sense. But it’s not as though the Twins make no sense. And they are the only team with an existing opening. If Terry Ryan and the Pohlads don’t at least make an inquiry, they’re doing the search a disservice. And until we’re all told otherwise, dream away.