Josh Willingham Rumors
WEDNESDAY: Willingham himself confirmed his desire to remain with the Twins to Berardino today: "I do love playing in Minnesota," Willingham said. "I would love to stay here for another year or so." Willingham went on to say that he "would never" approach a front office about an extension but would "obviously" be up for it if the Twins approached him. The veteran slugger added that he respects the people in the organization from top to bottom and doesn't feel they're far from winning, adding that his wife and children "love" Minnesota (All links to Berardino's Twitter).
MONDAY: The Twins have finished 66-96 in both of Josh Willingham's seasons with the Twins, but despite the team's lack of success, agent Matt Sosnick tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his client "loves" Minnesota and "would be happy to finish his career in Minnesota." However, the Twins haven't engaged in extension talks with Willingham, who hopes to play through 2017 if he is healthy, says Sosnick.
Willingham played much of the 2013 season with a knee injury that eventually required arthroscopic surgery in early July. The slugger originally injured his knee on what he described to Berardino at the time of his surgery as an "awkward slide" into second base on his lone steal attempt of the season on April 27 (he was successful). Willingham had hit his fourth homer of the year in that game, boosting his slash line to .254/.397/.542 -- similar numbers to the monster .260/.366/.524 batting line he posted in 2012 with Minnesota. However, following that slide into second base, Willingham batted just .200/.332/.336 on the year.
Willingham, who turns 35 today (Happy birthday, Josh!), is entering the final season of a three-year, $21MM contract. A return to his 2012 form would likely increase the team's interest in keeping him around, but it would also make him a prime trade chip come July if the Twins are unable to turn their fortunes around. Minnesota is likely hopeful that some combination of Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and top prospect Byron Buxton can round out its outfield for years to come (once Buxton is Major League ready), so Willingham's best bet to remain with the club could come as a DH/part-time outfielder.
Should Willingham hit the free agent market next winter, he'll join a group of corner outfielders that includes Michael Cuddyer, Norichika Aoki, Brett Gardner, Torii Hunter and Melky Cabrera, among others.
Josh Willingham's three-year, $21MM contract is the largest free agent contract the Twins have ever issued, but agent Matt Sosnick told Parker Hageman of Twins Daily that Willingham actually turned down a more lucrative offer from a team that was farther west than the Twins are from his Alabama home. More from Hageman's piece and some other Twins-related items below...
- Sosnick also told Hageman he "loves the Twins" and that there's no GM in the game he respects more than Terry Ryan. His respect for the Twins' honesty and player development led him to turn down more money for German outfield prospect Max Kepler back in 2009 to sign with Minnesota. Kepler still signed for $800K, which was, at the time, the largest bonus ever signed by a European prospect.
- Within his piece, Hageman notes that he also spoke with Ryan about the upcoming offseason. Ryan "flinched" when talking about signing pitchers on the wrong side of 30 to multiyear deals, as they're more likely to break down.
- The Twins are one of several teams to reach out to Johan Santana's agent and request his medicals, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Santana's agent, Ed Greenberg, told Neal that his client "still loves Minnesota" and enjoyed working with pitching coach Rick Anderson, who is still serving the same role on the Twins' coaching staff.
- Neal also reports that the Twins have checked in with the agents for Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco (who is represented by Sosnick), Dan Haren and Scott Feldman, though their specific level of interest in each is unknown. Ryan told Neal that he thinks the quick turnarounds of the Indians and Red Sox will be good for non-contending teams' chances at signing free agents, as they served as examples that a team's fortunes can change quickly. The Twins won just 66 games in 2013 -- just two and three games fewer than the Indians and Red Sox won in 2012, respectively.
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported earlier in the week Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are done for their respective seasons in the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League. Buxton has been battling a left (non-throwing) shoulder strain, and Sano has been diagnosed with a strained UCL in his throwing elbow. Sano's injury sounds more serious, but he's been examined by Dr. James Andrews, who agreed with the team's medical staff that no surgery is necessary. Paul Molitor, the newest member of the Twins' coaching staff, told Berardino that Sano's elbow troubles aren't related to his throwing mechanics.
FRIDAY, 12:33pm: The Twins and Orioles could not come to an agreement on a trade, and Willingham has been pulled back off waivers, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Earlier reports indicated that the Twins asked for top prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, causing Baltimore to back off.
WEDNESDAY, 10:57pm: The Orioles are the team that claimed Willingham, a source tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). The O's are trying to work out a deal with the Twins.
5:01pm: Josh Willingham has been claimed off waivers by at least one other team, according to a big league source cited by Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. The team that was awarded the claim isn't known at this point. The Twins will have until noon on Friday to put together a trade for the slugger or pull him back.
It's been a disappointing season for Willingham, 34, who missed all of July with a knee injury. Since returning to the lineup on Aug. 9, he's hit just .177/.316/.371. As MLBTR's Steve Adams noted on Tuesday, the left fielder has continued to hit for power and post a strong walk rate, but more pop-ups and fewer line drives have dragged down his batting average. However, it was just a year ago that Willingham slashed .260/.366/.524 for the Twins in 615 plate appearances, so he may be a good candidate for a bounce-back campaign in 2014.
Willingham is owed $1.26MM for the remainder of the 2013 season and will be paid $7MM next year.
12:15pm: The Twins asked the Orioles for multiple pitching prospects in exchange for Willingham, according to Kubatko. Prized lefty Eduardo Rodriguez was among Minnesota's targets. The 20-year-old Rodriguez ranks as the No. 86 prospect in baseball at this time, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
9:42am: The Orioles have been highly active on the waiver market this week, claiming both Josh Willingham of the Twins and Mike Morse of the Mariners. Morse is far likelier to end up with Baltimore it seems, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that a Willingham trade is "not happening at this point" because of the Twins' lofty asking price. Kubatko says the Orioles and Mariners are still actively trying to work out a deal for Morse, though.
Willingham is under contract for 2014 at just $7MM and belted 35 homers for the Twins last season, so it's not a surprise to see them asking a lot even in a down season for Willingham. Despite his low batting average, he's still posted strong OBP and ISO numbers. Morse is a free agent at season's end and owed just over $1.1MM for the remainder of the 2013 season. There have been reports indicating that he's likely to be moved, as he no longer has a place in the Mariners' organization. He hasn't played in either of the team's two games since being claimed by the Orioles.
Former White Sox exec Dave Wilder received a two-year federal prison sentence today for his role in taking kickbacks from international signings, as first reported by Larry Yellen of FOX 32 (via Twitter). From December 2004 through February 2008, investigators said that Wilder orchestrated a kickback scheme in which he and other White Sox scouts artificially inflated the value of international players, signing them to bonuses beyond their value and taking a cut for themselves, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. In total, there were kickbacks involved with 23 signings, according to the federal investigation. The White Sox released a statement calling the scandal a "painful betrayal". The good news for the White Sox is that Wilder was ordered to pay the club roughly $441K in restitution, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Here's more out of the AL Central..
- An unknown team claimed Twins outfielder Josh Willingham off waivers, but Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports that it wasn't the Indians. The Indians negotiated with Willingham when he was a free agent before the 2012 season. Willingham wound up signing a three-year deal with the Twins after the Tribe would only go to two.
- Hoynes adds that while Willingham won't be coming to the Indians, the recently DFA'd Jason Kubel could be of interest to them. The Tribe liked Kubel when he played for Minnesota and there were reports that they claimed him on waivers in August of 2011, right around the time they acquired Jim Thome from the Twins.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan confirmed that Minnesota will receive cash from the Royals in the Jamey Carroll trade, tweets Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. The Twins had the choice of cash considerations or a PTBNL in the swap.
The Athletics should consider claiming outfielder Jason Kubel, InsideBayArea.com's John Hickey argues. The Diamondbacks designated Kubel for assignment Tuesday afternoon. After losing Josh Reddick to a wrist injury, the A's are short an outfielder. Their current plan is to slide Brandon Moss to the outfield and have Daric Barton play first base, but Hickey thinks it might be better to keep Moss at first and play Kubel in an outfield spot instead. He notes that exchanging Barton for Kubel would be a defensive downgrade, however, and it's questionable how much more offense Kubel might provide. He hit .220/.288/.324 for the Diamondbacks this year, and would have to make a significant rebound in the direction of his 2012 form to be an upgrade. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Josh Willingham of the Twins says August waivers are "no big deal," Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (via Twitter). The Twins placed Willingham on recovable trade waivers earlier today, raising the possibility (even if it isn't an incredibly likely one) that Willingham could be dealt. Willingham tells Miller he's in no hurry to leave Minnesota. The outfielder is hitting .214/.348/.393 this season.
- It's still not impossible that the Twins could trade Justin Morneau. But Morneau is a free agent after the season, so even if the Twins dealt him, they could bring him back for 2014. That decision could be based on how often they want Joe Mauer to play first base, 1500ESPN's Phil Mackey argues (on Twitter). Mackey argues that, in any case, the Twins shouldn't consider more than a one-year deal for Morneau, who appears to be past his prime and doesn't stack up particularly well against other first basemen.
- Scott Boras, who represents the Nationals' Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, half-jokingly says he prefers "12-year deals" for his players, MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko reports. "I'm more into 12-year deals for young players," says Boras. "The M.O. is that you want to keep within the franchise, you want him there for a long time and you want to be there for the fans and be a marquee for them. ... You're going to have to do something different if you're going to be a team of distinction." Boras was in Washington for the Nationals' game against the Marlins, and he seemed to be talking about Harper, although he did not name him directly.
Here's Tuesday's list of players who have been placed on revocable trade waivers...
- Ervin Santana -- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Ervin Santana has been placed on waivers. He instantly becomes one of the most desirable pieces on waivers, but the Royals are likely not inclined to move him. Santana, 30, has a 3.21 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in what has been a tremendous rebound campaign with the Royals. He's owed about $2.23MM this season and is a free agent at season's end. However, Kansas City is still within striking distance of a Wild Card spot and will be making Santana a qualifying offer following the season, so a return would likely have to overwhelm them.
- Francisco Rodriguez -- Rosenthal's tweet also reported that K-Rod has been placed on waivers by the Orioles. This is likely nothing more than a procedural move, as he's been solid for the O's, and they're just 2.5 games back from a Wild Card spot.
- Wesley Wright, David DeJesus -- Rosenthal also noted that the Rays have put both of their most recent waiver pickups back on waivers. However, in a second tweet he cautions that DeJesus needn't be worried this time, as the Rays are merely putting all of their players through waivers as a procedural move right now, which explains Wright's placement as well.
- Josh Willingham -- Peter Gammons of the MLB Network tweets that the Twins have placed Willingham on waivers. Minnesota was expecting big things out of Willingham following a 35-homer season in 2012, but knee injuries diminished his production at the plate and he ultimately underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in early July. Since being activated on Aug. 9, he's batting just .177/.316/.371 with a pair of homers and six doubles. Willingham's walk rate (13.4 percent) and power (.179 ISO) remain strong, but his strikeout rate is up (26.7 percent) and his average is down due to a decrease in line drives and an increase in pop-ups. He's owed roughly $1.3MM for the remainder of the season and is owed $7MM in 2014 -- the final season of a three-year, $21MM contract.
- Earlier today, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported that Marlon Byrd, Pedro Feliciano and John Buck of the Mets were all on waivers, and at least one trade is likely. Byrd was claimed by an unknown NL team shortly thereafter.
- The Twins are receiving lots of calls on Perkins but still telling teams they won't trade him, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The team is also receiving interest in Willingham, despite the fact that he's currently on the DL.
- Berardino writes that Willingham is drawing interest, and one rival talent evaluator told him he could see a scenario where Willingham is dealt. GM Terry Ryan spoke to the media about trade chips last night, adds Berardino. While he didn't mention Willingham's name, he referenced the recent trade of Jesse Crain and a previous trade the Twins had made with injured players: "We did that once with the Dodgers, way back in the day, so it can be done."
- An August trade of Morneau is a more likely outcome than a deadline deal, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Rangers are a long shot to make a run at Morneau, the Orioles have cooled on him and the Pirates have other targets atop their wish list at this time.
- The Pirates, Orioles and two unidentified teams make up the market for Morneau at this time, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Rangers don't appear to be a fit, as they're seeking a right-handed bat, and the Yankees are content with Lyle Overbay as a lefty swinging option at first base.
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the Twins are willing to eat some of the remaining $4.6MM on Morneau's contract if it means receiving a decent return.
- Reports from earlier today stated that Morneau wasn't a fit with the Orioles due to his contract and lack of production.
While earlier reports have said that the Twins are likely to trade longtime first baseman Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP isn't drawing significant interest, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Multiple teams that make sense as landing spots are "cool to the idea" at this time, Heyman writes.
The Rangers and Yankees prefer to focus their efforts on acquiring right-handed bats. The Orioles could use an extra bat, but they don't want to pay the $6MM remaining on the final year of Morneau's six-year, $80MM contract. ESPN's Jim Bowden recently connected the Rays and Pirates to Morneau, but Heyman says the Pirates "aren't heavily involved yet," and the financial element is a deterrent to the Rays as well.
Twins-connected sources tell Heyman there's almost no chance that Josh Willingham will be dealt, and closer Glen Perkins is likely to stay as well. The southpaw told Heyman over the All-Star break: "I'd love to be part of the future. And from what I gather, [the Twins] feel the same." Even Kevin Correia, halfway through the first season of a two-year, $10MM deal, doesn't sound likely to be dealt at this time, according to Heyman's contacts.
The Twins may have lost a trade chip today when they placed Josh Willingham on the disabled list. The outfielder told reporters, including MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link), that he expects to miss the next four to six weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery.
Playing through the knee injury, Willingham's 2013 season hasn't been nearly as productive as his 2012 was, though he's still done a good job drawing walks. After a career-best 35 homers last season, Willingham is hitting .224/.356/.398 with 10 homers. As recently as four days ago, it was reported that the Twins had begun to receive calls on Willingham. Those trade hopes are likely dashed now, and given his modest $7MM salary in 2013 and 2014 -- he's midway through a three-year, $21MM contract -- it's unlikely that he'd clear waivers in order to be eligible for an August trade once healthy.