Nice to have options: 2 more possible first base replacements emerge for Twins

Joe Mauer hit .282/.351/.379 as the Twins primary first baseman last season and then retired.

Even with a hole to fill at first base for the first time in five years, there’s no need to fret. The Twins ought to be able to replace the production.

We’ll soon find out whether that’s internally — with players like Mitch Garver, Tyler Austin or Max Kepler — or externally. Two possible replacements emerged Tuesday.

One of them is one of the biggest names around.

Paul Goldschmidt is on the Twins’ radar, according to a report from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.

Note: “Preliminary talks” could mean just about anything. Just like “due diligence” or “kicking the tires.”

Then there was this report from Dan Hayes:

Even so, I’m intrigued. Goldschmidt is a huge name and that would be a fun trade for the Twins. Last season the perennial MVP candidate hit  .290/.389/.533 with 33 home runs for an Arizona Diamondbacks team that was threating to win the N.L. West for much of the season. He’s got one year and $14.5 million standing between him and free agency. In a year that free agents should cash in — and Arizona could look to shed payroll — Goldy would make a fascinating trade target.

Whether or not the Twins trade for him, it serves as a good reminder that they are loaded with currency. They can go shopping with cash (in free agency) or they can shop with prospects (in trades). Both avenues could prove fruitful in what I expect will be a busy and productive winter.

Backup options

The Rays on Tuesday designated first baseman C.J. Cron for assignment. Yes, the same Cron who hit 30 home runs with Tampa (.253/.323/.493) and who was set to make a modest raise in arbitration. Here’s an excerpt from a story by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

Needing roster spots and unable to work out a trade for Cron, who is projected to make $5.2 million via arbitration, the Rays chose the DFA route, giving them seven days for resolution. Cron is expected to be placed on waivers and if unclaimed would become a free agent.

“This was a was a tough call obviously because of what C.J. did this past year and what he meant to our group,” senior VP Chaim Bloom said. “We certainly haven’t closed off the possibility of a return. But with as many deserving players that we have on our club that need playing time and also the number of possible paths for our off-season to take, it didn’t make sense to us to commit to him right now.”

The Rays love saving money and the move will help them to do that. If the Twins need an established bat they could do worse than to add Cron. Also, they could do better.

Last week it was reported that another first baseman might be on the move. Carlos Santana is being “aggressively shopped” on the trade market, according to one report. He’s owed $40 million over the next two years and was a better hitter than Mauer last year. He adds a little more power with the same on-base skills, and if the Phillies are trying to move on just one year after landed the once key cog to the Indians’ lineup, he could make sense in Minnesota. But at $20 million per season the winter that Mauer’s $23 million comes off the books, you could forgive the Twins if they had that money earmarked for some greater purpose .