UPDATE: Twins, Josh Willingham near three-year, $21 million contract

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11:15 PM ET: Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Twins and Willingham are “very close” to a three-year, $21 million contract.

UPDATE III: Hold up. Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com and Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune are both hearing that a deal between the Twins and Willingham isn’t done. What’s more, Christensen reports that talks aren’t dead with Michael Cuddyer. This could get interesting.

UPDATE II: Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Twins and Willingham have agreed to a contract, pending a physical. No word on the exact terms, but Crasnick hears that it’s a multi-year contract.

UPDATE: Not only are the Indians out of the mix, Rosenthal now reports that the Twins are “near an agreement” with Willingham.

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Cleveland has been linked to Josh Willingham for weeks now, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported this afternoon that the Indians are no longer pursuing the free agent outfielder and now team president Mark Shapiro has made that very clear on Twitter.

Shapiro made a couple tweets urging fans to be patient despite the Indians’ lack of offseason activity and then responded to a question specifically about Willingham like this:

source:

Nothing is official yet, of course, but it seems pretty unlikely that Shapiro would be willing to make a comment like that about Willingham if there was any chance of him signing with the Indians.

And if the Indians are truly out of the mix for Willingham that leaves the Twins as heavy favorites.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.