Some at meetings think Yankees could get involved again

NASHVILLE -- As the Boston Red Sox waited a second day to see if they have the goods to land Johan Santana, two particular questions lay heavy in the Christmas tree-scented air at the Opryland Hotel:

What exactly are the Minnesota Twins thinking as they sit back and contemplate Boston's two trade proposals?

And are the New York Yankees really, truly out of it?

The Yankees pulled out of the Santana sweepstakes Tuesday when senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner told the Associated Press that "a deadline is a deadline." But the Yankees' recent about-face on Alex Rodriguez left them credibility-impaired on the subject of deadlines, so nobody in Nashville is buying the premise that they're completely disengaged.

"All you have to do is look at what the Yankees said on A-Rod, and you take what they're saying now for what it's worth," said a club official at the meetings. "All it takes is one phone call for them to get back in it."

At the moment, the Red Sox are the only team publicly linked to a pursuit of Santana, who is available in trade because he's eligible for free agency next winter and almost certainly beyond the Twins' price range.

It appears that none of the names in play changed Tuesday. A club source confirmed that Boston has one proposal on the table consisting of starter Jon Lester, center fielder Coco Crisp, infielder Jed Lowrie and a minor league pitcher -- either Justin Masterson or possibly Michael Bowden.

Boston's other package consists of outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Lowrie and someone from the Masterson-Bowden menu.

When the Twins failed to give Boston any feedback Tuesday, it led to some inevitable speculation: Is Minnesota waiting for the Yankees to jump back into the bidding or hoping the Red Sox decide they really, truly want Santana enough to discuss top pitching prospect Clay Buchholz?

Or is Bill Smith, the Twins' new general manager, simply taking a reasoned and diligent approach to a transaction that might ultimately define his tenure in Minnesota? Lots of people think the Twins might be best served hanging onto Santana and making a run at the AL Central title in 2008. Just because the Santana talks are generating so much hype, Smith isn't necessarily obligated to provide the "SportsCenter" highlight.

Meanwhile, the Angels were dragged into the fray Tuesday. After weeks of speculation that they were going to acquire Miguel Cabrera from Florida, the Angels watched the All-Star third baseman go to Detroit with Dontrelle Willis as part of an eight-player deal.

As of late Tuesday night, there was no formal announcement of a Marlins-Tigers trade, and none of the players had been officially informed they'd been dealt -- prompting one agent to speculate that somebody's medical reports might be getting a thorough going-over.

When reports began swirling that the Angels -- jilted on Cabrera -- were suddenly in hot pursuit of Santana, Los Angeles GM Tony Reagins told the media to take a deep breath.

"There are a lot of things out there being reported, but I don't see anything on the horizon," Reagins said on the subject of Santana. "We haven't had any discussions with regard to adding starting pitching."

The Angels, who recently signed center fielder Torii Hunter to a five-year, $90 million contract, continue to focus their efforts on upgrading the offense. While Reagins had a conversation with Smith on Monday here in Nashville, Santana's name apparently wasn't part of the discussion.

Pitching isn't on the Angels' wish list at the moment because they already have six starters -- John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver, Jon Garland, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders. But if the Angels change their minds, they have enough talent to put together an attractive package.

Pick any three from a group of Weaver, pitching prospect Nick Adenhart, second baseman Howie Kendrick, third baseman Brandon Wood and shortstop Erick Aybar, and the Twins would certainly have to listen.

That's why this deal might take a while to play out. The Twins are hesitant to jump on Boston's offer in the event the Yankees or Angels might have second thoughts and come up with something better.

There's the additional consideration of Santana's next team wanting a 72-hour window to negotiate a contract extension with the pitcher. So even if Minnesota and Boston agreed on the players involved today, the trade couldn't possibly be formalized until everybody has packed up and flown home from Nashville.

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com