1998: Spring Training Notes

March 1998

The two major stories coming out of the winter were the threat that the team may leave Minnesota and the Chuck Knoblauch trade.

In the fall following the 1997 season, the Carl Pohlad signed a letter of intent to sell the team to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver. The sale would be voided if funds were approved by the Minnesota Legislature for a new stadium, but if finalized, the team was destined to move to North Carolina. Several deadlines had come and gone by the time players reported for spring training, but the future of the team remained up in the air, and it was assumed by many that 1998 would be the final season for the Twins in Minnesota.

It was against this backdrop that the Terry Ryan began shopping the team’s best player. Knoblauch trade rumors had been a staple of hot stove talk in Minnesota for several years, but things finally heated up as both player and organization amped up efforts to trade. Initially, it appeared that Ryan might be asking too much for the second baseman. As the winter wore on, two teams that seemed most interested, Cleveland and Atlanta, backed out. Both said Ryan was asking for too much.

Ryan remained confident that a deal could be made before camp opened, and the focus shifted to the New York Yankees, who reportedly had been making a run at Randy Johnson. The deal was finalized in early February. The Twins received Eric Milton, Brian Buchanan, Cristian Guzman, and Danny Mota. It was expected that Milton and Buchanan had the best chance of making an immediate impact for the Twins. Milton, in fact, had a very good spring.

On the field, the news surrounded the new lead off hitter, Otis Nixon, and the status of Paul Molitor’s shoulder. Despite the fact that he was 39 years old, it was expected that Nixon would fill the leadoff role and steal some bases for the Twins. 41-year-old Molitor was recovering from double-hernia surgery in the offseason, but also had a slight tear of the left labrum. Molitor made his way into the lineup slowly, but was ultimately ready for Opening Day.

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