Twins showing interest in Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan

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The Cardinals drew only minimal interest when trying to shop shortstop Brendan Ryan at last week’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida.  It appears their luck has changed.

According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Twins are exploring a trade for Ryan, hoping to add middle infield depth in the wake of Friday’s J.J. Hardy swap.

Ryan, 28, batted just .223 with a 573 OPS in 486 plate appearances for St. Louis this past year, but he’s one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball and would be a useful utility infielder on just about any roster.

The Twins won exclusive negotiating rights to 2010 Japanese batting champ Tsuyoshi Nishioka and are expected to work out a deal with the shortstop.  They also have 26-year-old Alexi Casilla on board.  A moving carousel of Nishioka, Casilla and Ryan at second base and shortstop would be plenty respectable.

The Giants might be ready to part ways with Hunter Pence

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Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area hints that the Giants may be done with outfielder Hunter Pence. It’s not clear just how seriously the club is contemplating such a decision, but there are six days remaining on Pence’s rehab assignment, at which point they’ll be able to recall him, reassign him to the minors or release him.

The 35-year-old outfielder has struggled to make a full recovery after spraining his right thumb during the first week of the season. Pence bounced back for a 17-game run with the Giants in April, during which he slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 with one double and one stolen base in 61 plate appearances, but was eventually placed on the disabled list with recurring soreness in his finger. He currently sports a promising .318/.359/.388 batting line with four extra-base hits (including a grand slam) over 92 PA in Triple-A Sacramento.

Despite his recent resurgence in Triple-A, the Giants may not need the additional outfield depth just yet. Mac Williamson, who was recalled in the wake of Pence’s DL assignment, has already cemented the starting role in left field and is off to a strong start at the plate as well. Of course, if the Giants decide to say a premature goodbye to their veteran outfielder (who, it should be said, helped them to two World Series championships over the last seven seasons), it’ll cost them the remaining balance on his $18.5 million salary for 2018.