Twins seek Lester medical info as Santana talks continue

Updated: December 5, 2007, 1:08 PM ET news services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The rivalry continues.

With talks between the Yankees and Twins losing steam, the Red Sox have emerged as the favorite to land left-hander Johan Santana.'s Buster Olney reports that the teams continued to talk from late Monday into early Tuesday morning, with the Twins even asking to see medical reports on Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.

Last week the Red Sox offered Lester, outfielder Coco Crisp, minor league infielder Jed Lowrie and another minor league pitcher for Santana.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune cited a Red Sox source as saying late Monday that the Twins have asked for Lester, Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Lowrie.

"I know there's a lot of speculation that we're close to something big," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said on Tuesday afternoon. "Until we reach an agreement, then we're not that close."

Multiple reports this week said that Boston would only include one of the group of Lester, Ellsbury and pitcher Clay Buchholz.

As Monday turned to Tuesday, the Yankees' deadline to get a deal done with the Twins passed without resolution.

"A deadline is a deadline. It was pretty much done as of this morning," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said on Tuesday. "He's a fine pitcher, but there's a lot of things that go into this. This isn't fantasy baseball."

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said on Monday night that he would not put a timetable on talks.

While refusing to discuss Santana specifically, Epstein said at the baseball winter meetings that there was no expiration date on any trade talks. In the past, he has set a deadline for potential deals if they were holding up other deals.

"I think we've only done that when we thought it was in our best interest," Epstein said in his suite at the Opryland Hotel. "We don't have current discussions ongoing for which I think that would be in our best interest. We're pretty content with where we are and we don't think anything major is getting held up."

Santana, who is eligible for free agency next year, could become too pricey for the small-market Twins.

The Yankees have offered pitcher Phil Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera and a midlevel prospect for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

Usually when both Boston and New York are involved in negotiations for a trade or a free agent, the other side can count on playing them off each other to take advantage of their competitiveness, and paranoia. But Steinbrenner said he would pull the Yankees' offer off the table if the Twins didn't make a decision by Monday.

Epstein wasn't as eager to force a conclusion.

"There's a natural order of things this winter and we're just going to let it play out," he said. "If we think the dynamic changes or our interest changes, we certainly wouldn't hesitate to put a timetable on something or other. But this doesn't apply right now."

Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, said his client was angered by a report that he has told the Twins to only trade him to the Yankees or Red Sox. Santana has made no such request, Greenberg said, and also hasn't ruled out returning to the Twins next season.

"He was very adamant about that. He wanted to make sure we clarified that. That upset him," Greenberg said. "He's been very clear all along that he wants Bill to make the best deal possible."

Usually active during the winter, the Red Sox might just stand pat at the major league level after winning their second World Series title in four seasons. The most likely move is to trade Crisp to make room for Ellsbury, the spark plug who forced his way into the lineup during the playoffs.

"We're in a good position to have two quality center-field options," Epstein said. "I certainly wouldn't be opposed to having both guys in camp. It takes more than three outfielders to get through a season."

Aaron Rowand and Andruw Jones are the top center fielders on the free-agent market; Torii Hunter has already agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

"I think that needs to settle itself before you see more trade activity at that position," Epstein said.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he has tried to keep in touch with his players during the offseason, in part to make sure they're not bothered by seeing their names floated about.

"I know it's part of the game. I think they know it's part of the game," Francona said. "I said something to Lester the other day, I said, 'You still here?' He just kind of laughed."

Francona was named manager of the year on Monday by Baseball America.

"I think it's very well-deserved," Epstein said. "Because we have a team that's expected to contend every year, the manager can be overlooked in those situations. I'm glad Baseball America didn't overlook Tito because he did a fantastic job this year."

Francona said he was honored to receive the award but said the credit needs to be shared with the rest of the organization.

Also Monday, the Red Sox shuffled their baseball operations department, promoting David Howard from major league scout to special assistant to the general manager.

In other news at the meetings:

• Former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and ex-Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley were elected to the Hall of Fame by the revamped Veterans Committee along with managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth and former Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss. Ex-players' association head Marvin Miller saw his vote percentage plummet from 64 percent to 25 percent, largely due to a shift that made current and former management members a majority.

• Washington acquired outfielder Elijah Dukes from Tampa Bay for minor league left-hander Glenn Gibson.

• The Chicago White Sox obtained outfielder Carlos Quentin from Arizona for minor league first baseman Chris Carter.

• Boston reached a preliminary agreement on a $3 million, one-year contract with reliever Mike Timlin.

• The Yankees finalized their $4 million, two-year deal with backup catcher Jose Molina and designated first baseman Andy Phillips for assignment.

Other trades were percolating in the meeting rooms.

Florida is expected to deal third baseman Miguel Cabrera sometime soon, and Baltimore is shopping shortstop Miguel Tejada. Oakland is checking out the market for pitcher Dan Haren.

Buster Olney covers baseball for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.