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Jon Niese Rumors
TODAY: Niese is just “one of many” arms that Los Angeles has some interest in, Rosenthal writes on Twitter, and there are “no active discussions” ongoing between the Dodgers and Mets.
YESTERDAY: The Dodgers are interested in Mets starter Jon Niese, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Just yesterday, Rosenthal reported that the Cubs have also considered dealing for the left-hander.
Niese isn’t quite a world-beater, but he does hold some value as a back of the rotation option. So far this year, he has a 4.12 ERA and 6.3 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 in 14 starts. Those numbers are a beat behind his career numbers (3.89 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9), but his xFIP of 3.85 this season indicates that he has encountered a bit of bad luck in 2015.
Performance aside, Niese’s contract could have a negative impact on his trade value. The 28-year-old is scheduled to make $9MM in 2016 plus a $500K buyout or $10MM option in 2017. As for this year, he’ll earn the prorated portion of $7MM, which is not wholly unreasonable.
After the draft concluded, it was reported that the Mets would turn their attention to dealing a starting pitcher. With lefty Steven Matz now in the fold, the Mets’ starting pitching situation has gotten even more crowded, and moving Niese could help alleviate that logjam while improving the team’s struggling offense.
Last week, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters that despite their recent offensive woes, he sees the acquisition of bats as a “lower priority” to adding arms to the rotation.
Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:
- At 36-40, the Padres have considered buying as well as selling at the trade deadline. They could pursue a shortstop and left-handed hitter if they buy. If they sell, they could consider dealing Justin Upton, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel. Upton is the only one of the three who’s eligible for free agency after the season, though, and the Padres might not want to tear down entirely, since they’re hosting the All-Star Game next year.
- The Cubs have considered dealing for Mets left-hander Jon Niese, although they might also aim higher. The salary remaining on Niese’s current deal (he’ll make $9MM next year, plus a $500K buyout or $10MM option in 2016) might also be a slight obstacle to trading him.
- The Blue Jays are interested in pitching, but also perhaps in outfield help. Acquiring an outfielder would help the Jays to keep top young player Dalton Pompey in the minors — he’s currently hitting very well for Double-A New Hampshire after struggling in both the big leagues and in Triple-A this year.
- Former Padres manager Bud Black could be a possibility for the Braves if they eventually decide to replace Fredi Gonzalez. Black worked for the Indians front office when current Braves GM John Hart was in Cleveland, and Braves president John Schuerholz traded for Black all the way back in 1982, when Schuerholz was GM of the Royals.
6:33pm: Newsday’s Marc Carig hears that the Mets have indeed discussed Aramis Ramirez with the Brewers. Any trade involving Ramirez would be more about how much of his contract the Mets would take on as opposed to what the Brewers would get in return. As for Segura, Carig writes that he’s not likely to be made available.
Though the two sides have talked, a Ramirez trade seems unlikely. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal hears that there’s little traction in Ramirez discussions because Milwaukee is uninterested in Niese (Twitter links). While Gee might be a better fit, there would be a lot more financial legwork to figure out in that scenario, per Rosenthal. Gee is owed a bit more than $3MM through season’s end, but Ramirez is owed an additional $8.8MM.
It could be argued that adding Ramirez wouldn’t be an upgrade for the Mets anyhow. While the team may very well benefit from upgrading by replacing Niese or Gee with Matz, much of that benefit could be outweighed by the lack of flexibility to make future moves as well as the possibility that Ramirez continues to produce at a sub-replacement-level pace.
5:37pm: The Mets have placed their efforts to trade a starting pitcher on hold during the draft but will now look to trade a starting pitcher “in short order,” tweets Newsday’s David Lennon. That lines up with recent reports from ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin and the New York Post’s Mike Puma stating that lefty Steven Matz could be up in the near future — perhaps before the end of June.
In order to accommodate Matz, the team seems likely to increase its efforts to find a taker for lefty Jon Niese (earning $7MM in 2015 and guaranteed $9MM in 2016 plus a pair of club options) or righty Dillion Gee (earning $5.3MM in 2015 and controllable via arbitration for the 2016 season). Both Niese and Gee could be viewed as superfluous with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and the veteran Bartolo Colon all representing options, to say nothing of Matz or the currently injured Rafael Montero.
Furthermore, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Mets and Brewers have had preliminary trade talks, with the Mets eyeing Milwaukee’s position players (Twitter link). That might lead to speculation regarding Aramis Ramirez, though in yesterday’s report, Rubin stated that the Mets have little to no interest in Ramirez. The Mets feel that Ramirez’s skills are diminishing, and they’re still hopeful that David Wright will contribute in 2015, so they prefer more versatile bats that can handle multiple positions.
Speculatively speaking, Jean Segura would make sense for the Mets, who have long been looking for an upgrade at shortstop due to defensive deficiencies with Wilmer Flores. Of course, Segura himself is not regarded as an elite defender, though his .287/.322/.408 batting line is superior to Flores’ .245/.270/.417 triple-slash. Segura also comes with an additional three years of club control beyond the 2015 season, making the likely asking price relatively significant. As such, it’s tough to imagine Gee or Niese serving as a significant component in a trade for Segura, though the Mets could always add other pieces.
It’s worth emphasizing, of course, that Morosi categorized trade talks between New York and Milwaukee as “preliminary,” and there are plenty of other teams that may have interest in swapping a versatile, if unspectacular bat for a veteran innings eater that can stabilize the back end of a rotation.
There are a number of other teams looking for some stabilization in the rotation. The Astros and Rays, for instance, have both incurred injuries to starters and have some versatile pieces to offer. Luis Valbuena hasn’t hit especially well this season, but he’s a earning a not-insignificant $4.2MM and could add some power to the Mets’ lineup, with the injured Jed Lowrie slotting back into his position once activated from the DL. The Rays have a number of versatile pieces, including Logan Forsythe, Nick Franklin and Asdrubal Cabrera. Forsythe has probably been too valuable for Tampa to move, however, while Franklin would figure to have more trade value than that of a back-end starter, and Cabrera has played quite poorly of late. A couple other versatile pieces that could be theoretical trade fits if the Mets can sweeten the deal would be the Mariners’ Brad Miller and the Dodgers’ Alex Guerrero.
A player such as Martin Prado or Ben Zobrist would seem to be a strong fit for the Mets’ desires, as Rubin noted yesterday, though they, too, would be difficult to acquire without including pieces beyond Gee or Niese.
As the above speculation indicates, it’s difficult to find an obvious fit for the Mets, as neither Gee nor Niese is teeming with trade value. GM Sandy Alderson will likely have his work cut out for him if his aim is to both free a spot in his rotation for Matz and add a bat that can help at the Major League level in one fell swoop. One way of accomplishing the goal would be to include Montero in a trade, but the promising young hurler has been on the disabled list since late April with a shoulder issue and has not yet begun a rehab assignment.
Dillon Gee and Jon Niese have long seen their names floated in trade rumors, but that trend could increase in the weeks to come, as ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin hears from a team source that the Mets may promote left-hander Steven Matz before month’s end. (Over the weekend, Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote that Matz could be up prior to the All-Star break, adding that GM Sandy Alderson said the lefty had little else to prove to the team in the minors.) Trade efforts surrounding Gee and Niese have taken a back seat to the draft at the moment, Rubin writes, but talks will again pick up once the draft is complete.
The Mets would like to add a bat to help the big league roster in any trade, writes Rubin, but they’d prefer to add someone versatile as opposed to a strict third baseman, because the team still believes that David Wright will return this season. The team is, however, interested in someone who can play third in addition to several other positions. Rubin notes that a versatile piece such as Ben Zobrist or Martin Prado would be ideal, though it’d almost certainly take more than Niese or Gee to acquire either of those pieces.
The team could improve its chances of landing an MLB-ready bat by packaging Niese or Gee with a younger piece with some additional team control. Yesterday, Puma reported that Rafael Montero could be considered a trade chip when he’s healthy, but the team has no intention of trading catcher Kevin Plawecki, even once Travis d’Arnaud is activated from the disabled list. A healthy Montero would appeal to a number of clubs, though as Puma noted, his injury troubles have lowered his trade value.
Neither Gee nor Niese would completely turn the tide for a struggling rotation, but either could provide some stability toward the back end of a currently top-heavy group of starters. Gee, who is earning $5.3MM this season, can be controlled through 2016 via arbitration. In 674 career innings, Gee has a 3.94 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 46.2 percent ground-ball rate.
Niese is more expensive but also has a better track record. The 28-year-old lefty is earning $7MM this season and is guaranteed $9MM in 2016, and his deal contains 2017 and 2018 club options valued at $10MM and $10.5MM, respectively. Each option has a $500K buyout. Niese has battled shoulder problems in his career, but he has a 3.90 ERA in 954 2/3 big league innings. Niese has averaged 7.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 with a 49.4 percent ground-ball rate in his career, and he’s outperformed his ERA in the eyes of metrics such as FIP and xFIP.
Here’s the latest from the National League East:
- The Mets are “ramping up [their] efforts” to trade both Dillon Gee and Jon Niese, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. New York indicated today that it’s likely the club will back off of its six-man rotation and return to a traditional schedule. With Noah Syndergaard now fairly firmly installed at the big league level, and Steven Matz not far behind him, it makes sense that the club would be looking to see what it can get out of Gee and Niese. Both have good track records of steady production and are controllable in the future at affordable rates, but unfortunately neither has matched their historical results thus far in 2015.
- As they weigh rotation moves, which rate as good problems, the Mets are dealing with more troubling issues in the infield. The team has placed infielder Daniel Murphy on the 15-day DL with a strained quad, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com was among those to report. It’s not believed to be a serious injury, according to manager Terry Collins, but the club can ill afford any significant absence from Murphy. New York is already missing third baseman David Wright for an indeterminate stretch, while highly-regarded youngster Dilson Herrera is also working back from the DL (as well as backstop Travis d’Arnaud). An infield addition of some kind already seemed a plausible target for the Mets, though of course this injury is unlikely to have an impact unless it turns into something worse than expected.
- While the Marlins continue to wait and see how to proceed at the deadline, the club is looking to build out its pen to give it the best chance at entering the contention picture, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. Miami has discussed David Carpenter, who was recently designated by the Yankees and is about as intriguing an arm as you can hope to find at a reasonable price tag at this time of year.
- Nationals righty Doug Fister is set to make his first rehab appearance this weekend at Triple-A, James Wagner of the Washington Post tweets. It would appear as if things have gone about as well as could be hoped since he hit the DL with forearm tightness after his start on May 14. He’ll be a welcome addition to the Nats rotation, assuming he can return after a few minor league starts, and can begin attempting to rebuild his free agent value.
In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by examining the possibility of the Astros making a run at the Phillies‘ Cole Hamels. Houston is seeking a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Hamels is on their radar, Heyman hears, even though he’s something of a long shot. The Astros are seeking a No. 1 or No. 2 starter, one person told Heyman, though Houston GM Jeff Luhnow indicated they’d be interested in any arm that could start Games 1-3 of a playoff series. The Phillies are said to be intrigued by outfield prospects Preston Tucker and Brett Phillips, among others, Heyman notes. Houston won’t part with top prospect Carlos Correa or impressive rookie right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., and they’d prefer to keep righty Vincent Velasquez as well. Heyman adds that it’s uncertain whether or not Hamels would approve a trade to Houston, with one source indicating that they didn’t find the scenario likely. If Hamels were to approve the trade, he’d likely ask that his 2019 option be exercised, and the Phillies would almost certainly have to pay down some of the $24MM he is owed annually, per Heyman.
Some more highlights…
- The Reds are currently reluctant to sell any pieces according to rivals who have reached out to the team. That may simply be due to the fact that the team is set to host the All-Star game this year and doesn’t want to begin a potential fire sale before that game. However, other execs have indicated to Heyman that owner Bob Castellini prefers to see how his big-money investments in Joey Votto and others will play out rather than commencing a rebuilding effort.
- Both Dillon Gee and Jon Niese remain widely available, as the Mets would prefer to add promising lefty Steven Matz to their six-man rotation. One scout that spoke to Heyman said Matz is better than any pitcher in the rotation aside from Matt Harvey, which is high praise, particularly considering Jacob deGrom‘s brilliant start to the season and the flashes of brilliance displayed by Noah Syndergaard.
- The Yankees are interested in the Athletics‘ Ben Zobrist as an option at second base and also still like Dustin Ackley despite his struggles with the Mariners. New York has been surprised by Jose Pirela‘s troubles to this point, and they still have questions about Rob Refsnyder‘s glove at second base. Heyman adds that the Yankees don’t expect to be big players on Cole Hamels this winter, and they were worried about Mark Teixeira enough this offseason that they checked in on Ryan Howard, though clearly those concerns have dissipated in light of Teixeira’s excellent resurgence.
- The Cardinals, Blue Jays and Cubs are the three teams that Heyman mentions as most realistic options for right-hander Rafael Soriano. He calls the Cards “a surprise entry” into the Soriano mix, adding that the Jays have not given up the idea of signing him but will need to see what his price tag is now that he’s switched representatives.
- The Mariners will probably see a need to add a veteran catcher after trading Welington Castillo to the D-Backs in order to land Mark Trumbo. Heyman spoke to someone close to the Mariners who described the team as “desperate” to add offense prior to the Trumbo deal, as they’ve received struggles from many of their outfielders and, surprisingly, Robinson Cano.
- Red Sox higher-ups have an immense amount of respect for manager John Farrell, so while votes of confidence from ownership and executives often mean little, Heyman feels that Boston’s recent vote of confidence in Farrell has more weight behind it. However, Boston won’t be swayed by the fact that Farrell’s contract runs through 2017 if they do decide a change is needed down the line.
- Both Dodgers right-hander Jose De Leon and Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo have hired Scott Boras to represent them. The pair of prospects is well-regarded within each organization.
Full Story | 348 Comments | Categories: Ben Zobrist | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Cole Hamels | Dillon Gee | Dustin Ackley | Houston Astros | John Farrell | Jon Niese | Jose Pirela | Los Angeles Dodgers | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Newsstand | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Preston Tucker | Rafael Soriano | Ryan Howard | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Toronto Blue Jays
Despite struggles throughout their lineup, the Mets aren’t looking at adding any bats via trade, GM Sandy Alderson tells ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. The Mets prefer to wait until David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud have returned from the disabled list before assessing any needs they may have to fill from outside the organization, Rubin writes. Both Wright and d’Arnaud could realistically return to the team within two weeks, though probably not much sooner. Alderson said a week isn’t enough time and each should require 10 to 14 days to get back.
A few more notes on the Mets to kick off Wednesday morning…
- The Mets should clear a path for their much-ballyhooed pitching prospects to permanently join the rotation by trading Jon Niese, opines Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. However, one executive of a club that formerly had interest in Niese tells Martino that the club waited too long to move the lefty and “missed their window to get a lot for him,” as clubs are increasingly scared of Niese’s shoulder. Martino notes that the front office’s reply is that they never wanted to trade him and want Niese to pitch for them. Despite a pair of rocky performances of late, Niese’s ERA is still a perfectly acceptable 3.72, though estimators such as FIP and xFIP aren’t as bullish, calling for something more in the low-4.00s. Manager Terry Collins told Martino and other reporters following his most recent poor outing that a move to the bullpen isn’t in the cards.
- With Noah Syndergaard and eventually Steven Matz needing rotation spots (to say nothing of the injured Rafael Montero and Dillon Gee — both of whom have made starts in 2015), the Mets do have an enviable surplus of starters. Alderson tells Rubin (Twitter link) that Super Two considerations will not play into the decision whether to keep Syndergaard on the big league roster when Gee is ready to come off the DL. Regardless of the reason, the club would seemingly risk considerable fan blowback were it to bump the prized rookie out of the rotation at this point (unless he falters).
- That the Mets are in first place and acting the part of a contender may actually put Collins’ job in jeopardy, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Certainly, if the team maintains its status at or near the top of the division, Collins’ job would appear safe, but the team has looked more mediocre than great since its 11-game winning streak, Sherman notes. Continuing that stretch and sliding out of playoff contention would leave him as a lame duck manager (he’s signed only through 2015) whose club failed to live up to early expectations. Sherman notes that Collins has been on thin ice multiple times in the past, so it’s possible he could end up there again.
- For all the hand-wringing over shortstop Wilmer Flores, those concerned with the team’s lineup may be missing the real issues. Flores actually rates as the team’s second most productive overall player behind Lucas Duda (by measure of fWAR). In terms of offensive numbers, the real problems lie in the early-season struggles of Michael Cuddyer and Daniel Murphy, combined with those of the club’s reserves. Other than Anthony Recker, who is now one of three catchers on the roster and has only 31 plate appearances, not a single bench player has an above-average overall batting line, with important reserve players like Ruben Tejada, John Mayberry Jr., and the since-designated Kirk Nieuwenhuis all posting rather dreadful numbers.
Jon Niese‘s name surfaced in trade rumors earlier this offseason, but the left-hander tells Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he has been told he won’t be dealt. “They told me they didn’t want to move me,” Niese said, which is fine with him since he’s excited about the club’s young talent. The Mets have reportedly been shopping Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon and Niese, though of that trio, Niese was the pitcher the team was least willing to deal since he’s the only lefty in the rotation and is controllable through 2018 (if the Mets exercise both of their options on his contract). Here are some more Amazin’ news items…
- GM Sandy Alderson discussed the positives of the Mets’ pitching surplus during a recent interview with Chris Russo of the MLB Network (hat tip to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo). “Right now, we feel very good about the fact that we’re eight or nine deep going into the season,” Alderson said. “You always need extra starting pitching. Things will probably work themselves out during Spring Training. Hopefully we don’t have an injury. But we do have some flexibility in the ‘pen, so if somebody has to move to the ‘pen for a period of time, I think that would be acceptable to us.” Earlier this winter, Alderson said he intended to trade a starter prior to Spring Training, though this no longer appears to be the case.
- In a Q&A with season ticket holders on Wednesday, Alderson said the Mets are unlikely to pursue Yoan Moncada, Metsblog.com’s Matthew Cerrone writes. While the Mets have scouted Moncada and “we like him,” Alderson notes that the financial commitment required to sign Moncada would essentially prohibit them from the international market for the next two years. “From my standpoint, it’s a little like the stock market. Do you want to go all in on Shake Shack? Or, do you want to invest in a mutual fund that gives you a little more diversity and a little more spread over time,” Alderson asked. “I think our goal here is that we invest at least somewhat efficiently, but also spread it out so we give ourselves the best chance to succeed.”
- The Mets’ offseason has been underwhelming, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines, as he feels even a modest $20MM payroll increase could’ve helped address several uncertain positions on the team. Sherman notes that David Wright‘s struggles in 2014 could have a major impact on the Mets’ willingness to spend, as management could be more hesitant about signing major contracts if Wright continues to under-perform over the course of his extension.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a market yet for Ryan Howard, but perhaps there should be, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. True, the Phillies would have to pay a large chunk of the $60MM on Howard’s contract, but Howard still has home run power and is healthy this offseason. Howard also revised his limited no-trade clause last fall to accommodate possible trades, and would likely approve deals even to teams on his no-trade list, Rosenthal reports. “If you’re looking for a DH and want some left-handed power – which doesn’t exist out there – and a good quality person who knows how to win and wants to play, this guy is the guy to go get,” says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “The fact that we’ve been so public makes people think we’ll release him. That won’t happen.” Contract aside, Rosenthal thinks Howard’s market value ought be be something like $7MM to $10MM per season. Even that seems ambitious for a 35-year-old who has been below replacement level in two of the last three seasons, however. Here are more notes from throughout baseball.
- This weekend’s trade of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar could make the Rays a potential bidder for Howard, since the Rays gained payroll flexibility in the deal and have pursued stopgap designated hitters and first basemen in the past, Ryan Lawrence of Philly.com writes. It seems unlikely that the Rays would trade for Howard, however. They acquired John Jaso in the Zobrist deal with the idea that he wouldn’t primarily be a catcher, but rather a left-handed bat who might DH or play first base or outfield. (In fact, Jaso has said the Rays plan for him to play mostly DH.) Jaso’s role would seem to overlap with Howard’s potential spot in Tampa, so if Howard’s performance didn’t rule him out as an option for the Rays, Jaso’s presence probably would.
- The Rockies have had discussions with free agent starter Ryan Vogelsong, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. The Rockies have been connected to low-cost starting pitchers like Josh Johnson, Aaron Harang, Kevin Correia and Kyle Kendrick, and Vogelsong would seem somewhat similar. Pitchers like Kendrick have shown some ability to get ground balls, however, while Vogelsong is more of a fly ball pitcher, potentially making him an awkward fit for Coors Field. The 37-year-old posted a 4.00 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 184 2/3 innings with the Giants in 2014.
- The Diamondbacks are trying to acquire a catcher, Morosi tweets. After trading Miguel Montero to the Cubs, the Snakes have Tuffy Gosewisch penciled in as their starter. The only other catcher on their 40-man is Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez, who played in Class A last year. They did sign Matt Pagnozzi and re-sign Blake Lalli to minor league deals, but they still appear short on experienced catching.
- The Mets are in active trade discussions involving starting pitcher Dillon Gee, Andy Martino of New York Daily News tweets. Gee’s name came up in the three-team Ian Desmond / Ben Zobrist deal the Mets discussed with the Rays and Nationals, Martino adds. Rumors about Gee have simmered all offseason, with the Rockies, Giants and Twins among the teams connected to the righty. The Mets have reportedly been trying to trade a veteran starter, with Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon as other potential candidates, although Gee appears to be the most likely to be traded.
- The Orioles will get a close look at Rule 5 picks Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett at minicamp this week, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Garcia (who was originally selected by the Astros before being traded to Baltimore) just turned 22 and has not yet pitched above Class A, but Encina says the righty impressed the Orioles with his performance against their farmhands in instructional league play last fall. Verrett is more experienced, having held his own as a starter for the Mets’ Triple-A team last year as a 24-year-old. He’s more likely to relieve for the Orioles. It seems unlikely that a contending team would keep two Rule 5 picks on its roster for too long, so the amount of time Garcia and Verrett have to prove themselves might be somewhat limited.
Here’s the latest from the American League:
- With Melky Cabrera off the board, Alex Rios remains on the Mariners‘ radar, tweets Bob Dutton of The News Tribune. Cabrera agreed to a three-year contract with the White Sox yesterday, which should pay him roughly $14-$14.5MM per season.
- MLB.com’s Greg Johns entertains other scenarios (both external and internal) in which the Mariners can fill their vacancy in right field.
- The Rangers have $10-12MM in financial flexibility remaining; but, because of the health questions surrounding their core players, they could sit on that cash until midseason when they will have had time to gauge what kind of team they really have, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes wonders if Indians outfielder David Murphy is more of a platoon player at this stage of his career and believes a reader’s proposed trade of Murphy to the Mets for Ohio native Jon Niese would favor the Indians.
- The White Sox have filled many holes with their high-profile acquisitions this offseason, but right field, second base, third base, and catcher remain areas of concern, opines Jim Margalus of South Side Sox.
- The Twins have invested heavily in the free agent market this offseason and last because payroll was shed and there’s optimism over the performance of Minnesota’s young core, writes 1500ESPN.com’s Phil Mackey.