Minnesota Twins Rumors

Minnesota Twins trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

International Notes: Bonus Pools, Alvarez, Olivera

The bonus pools for the 2015-16 international signing period have been determined, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports, providing the full list of dollar figures.  While the Diamondbacks have the largest bonus pool (just under $5.394MM) of any team due to their league-worst record in 2014, Arizona is unable to sign any pool-eligible player in both the coming signing period and the 2016-17 period for more than $300K.  The D’Backs, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Angels all face this penalty since they exceeded their 2013-14 spending limits, though as Badler notes, the five teams can trade the individual slot values that make up their new pools.

Here’s more about some of the game’s top international prospects…

  • Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez held a showcase for scouts today, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link).  While past reports suggested Alvarez’s camp hoped to have the 18-year-old under contract to a team before the current int’l signing period ends, Sanchez reports that Alvarez isn’t eligible to sign until the 2015-16 international signing window opens on July 2.
  • Sanchez adds (via another tweet) the Rangers to the long list of teams who have already been rumored to be interested in Alvarez, and he notes that more clubs are sure to join the list.  The Rangers (and Cubs) were restricted from spending more than $250K on international prospects in 2014-15 due to overspending in the 2013-14 period, but they’ll again be able to spend more freely on July 2.
  • The Angels are also interested in Alvarez, Ross Newhan of the NewhanOnBaseball blog tweets.  If Alvarez isn’t able to sign until July 2, however, this will surely eliminate the Angels from contention since the righty will command a far higher bonus than $300K.
  • The Twins had scouts present at today’s Alvarez showcase, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com
  • Hector Olivera discusses his health history, his decision to leave Cuba, his transition to American baseball and more as part of a wide-ranging interview with Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required).
  • Olivera missed over a full season of Cuban baseball while recovering from a blood clot in his left biceps, and when he returned, he spent most of his time at DH rather than second base.  This has raised some concern with MLB scouts who wonder if Olivera is able to regularly play in the field, but as Olivera explained to Badler, his extended DH time wasn’t related to his blood issues.  “The reason was we got disqualified early (from playoff contention).  The manager and I talked about giving the younger kids a chance to play. So I asked him to just DH me and play the younger guys,” Olivera said.
  • New Red Sox signee Yoan Moncada speaks to Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (audio link), noting that his preference would be to play second base in the majors.  “[My] baby is second base,” Moncada said via a translator, though he’ll play any position the Sox ask him to play.  Of course, second base doesn’t seem like a likely option for Moncada in Boston given the presence of Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts blocking him at the position.

AL Central Notes: Blanton, Joba, Crain, Albers, Twins

Joe Blanton, who is in Spring Training with the Royals on a minor league deal this year, missed the game more than he thought he would upon briefly retiring in 2014, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Blanton spent his year off with his wife and three children, but he tells Crasnick that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game. “It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explains. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.” Blanton recognizes that there may not be an immediate path to the Major League roster in Kansas City and is open to pitching at Triple-A. “I didn’t play in 2014, and 2013 was a terrible year,” says Blanton. “That’s two years of basically nothing — no good work or no playing at all. So I’m kind of starting back at square one, really.”

Some more news and notes from Blanton’s new division, the AL Central…

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that Joba Chamberlain turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs to return to Detroit, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter links). Talks between the two sides picked up over the past few days and came together last night, Beck adds. “He really wanted to come back,” Dombrowski said.
  • Non-roster invitees Jesse Crain and Matt Albers could be significant boosts to the White Sox bullpen if healthy, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Crain is already further along than he was in an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he spent the entire year on the disabled list. He tells Merkin that he’s already throwing off a mound with just one day between sessions, which is something he didn’t do at all last year. As for Albers, Merkin interestingly notes that he nearly signed with the White Sox last offseason but instead chose to sign with the Astros, where he missed nearly the entire year after tearing a muscle in his shoulder.
  • Glen Perkins called the first day of Spring Training under new Twins manager Paul Molitor the most mentally intensive first day of camp he’s ever had in his career, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Molitor worked with pitchers and catchers to outline the ways in which the Twins need to improve on holding runners to help limit the running game, specifically focusing on tendencies throughout the staff that other teams exploited in 2014. Perkins spoke highly of Molitor’s baseball acumen and teaching ability, and Mackey writes that Molitor’s wealth of knowledge and attention to detail could boost the Twins’ on-field product if he’s able to communicate everything effectively.

AL Notes: Gardenhire, Angels, Pujols, De Aza

Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has rejected a position within his old organization and will spend the year away from the game, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes. “He’s doing fine, but he’s not going to be participating with us,” says GM Terry Ryan. “I talk to him often. He’s doing pretty good, but he wants to take a year off.” Ryan adds that Gardenhire is interested in continuing to manage. The Twins fired him in September after the team had four straight seasons of 70 wins or fewer. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Josh Hamilton could be out for up to 12 weeks after having shoulder surgery earlier this month, but the Angels are not actively looking for an outfielder to replace him, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. “If throughout the spring, if we see something that fits for us, like we do any other spring, we’ll certainly pay attention,” says GM Jerry Dipoto. “But it’s not something we are focused on at this point.” The Angels feel that Matt Joyce, Collin Cowgill and Dan Robertson give them enough options to fill Hamilton’s spot until he returns.
  • Fellow Angel Albert Pujols could retire before his contract expires in 2021 if his gymnast daughter, Sophia, makes it to the Olympics, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. The plan for Sophia is to get to the Olympics by 2020. “That might have to be the year I retire,” says Pujols. “You can put that in the paper, because I don’t want to miss it. … Either that, or they’ll have to put me on the disabled list for two weeks.” Of course, that’s still five years away, and Sophia is only nine and will still be too young to compete in 2020 under current rules, so it might be unwise to read much into Pujols’ comments at this point.
  • The Orioles considered a multiyear extension for outfielder Alejandro De Aza before figures were filed for De Aza’s arbitration case, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. De Aza says he was not aware of those discussions, but that he would consider an extension. “I’m interested in the opportunity,” he says. “I’m excited about the opportunity here, and I want to be here for a long time.” De Aza, who lost his arbitration hearing yesterday, is eligible for free agency after the season.


Central Notes: Youkilis, Liriano, Murphy, Tigers

Recently-retired veteran Kevin Youkilis will be joining the Cubs as a special assistant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. The connection will be obvious for many: Youkilis rose to prominence and made most of his impact on the field playing for former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.

Here’s more from the central divisions:

  • Pirates starter Francisco Liriano held talks with the Red SoxTwinsAstros, and Royals before re-signing with Pittsburgh, the lefty told Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (Twitter links). Kansas City went as high as $36MM over three years, said Liriano, who ultimately took home $39MM from the Pirates. Interestingly, Liriano noted that he felt the qualifying offer did not significantly hinder his market.
  • If Brandon Moss and Nick Swisher prove their health this spring, outfielder David Murphy (or another roster candidate) will likely need to be dealt before breaking camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. It may be hard to find a taker without eating a good bit of Murphy’s $6MM salary, should that come to pass. For now, this remains an interesting story to watch over the coming months.
  • While the Tigers do have some worrying signs in their large contracts and low-rated farm, they are not yet facing the kind of difficulties that the Phillies have found, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. If nothing else, Detroit still looks to be legitimately competitive at present, and has time to prepare for a soft landing when its window does finally begin closing.

Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Olivera, O’s, McGowan

The agent for Cuban teenager Yoan Moncada, David Hastings, says that “offers are coming in,” Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Hastings says he is “still hopeful” that he and his client “can make a decision soon.” Last we heard from Hastings, on Valentine’s Day, he indicated that no formal offers had been made and softened somewhat the idea that Moncada would be in position to sign by February 23rd. While there appears to be some movement, the precise timeline remains uncertain.

  • The market for more advanced Cuban infielder (and, presumably, soon-to-be free agent) Hector Olivera seems quite robust. Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons has heard from additional team executives, and he counts at least five that predict a deal of $70MM or more for Olivera. (Twitter link.)
  • The Orioles may not be done adding, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That holds true even if the club’s deal with Everth Cabrera is finalized, presumably, as the report indicates that Baltimore is expected to sign at least one more pitcher to a minor league deal.
  • One arm that the O’s have been connected to is Dustin McGowan. Another team that has expressed interest in the 32-year-old, the Twins, is not expected to land the free agent righty, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

Quick Hits: MiLB Deals, Announcements, Prospects

In a fascinating piece for FOX Sports, former big leaguer C.J. Nitkowski discusses his experiences looking for minor league deals. Nitkowski says that he often took it upon himself to look for the best opportunity, considering all aspects of the possibilities he could unearth to get the best shot at making it onto an active roster.

Here are some more notes from around the game:

  • Agency Sosnick Cobbe Sports has announced the addition of agent and general counsel Adam Karon to its nameplate. The firm, which represents big leaguers such as Josh Johnson and Jay Bruce, will now be called Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon.
  • In another announcement, the Phillies say they have promoted Michael Stiles to the position of executive VP and CEO. Per the release, Stiles will operate in the business and general administration realm. Stiles had already been said to be in charge of the day-to-day business affairs of the organization back when Pat Gillick had yet to have the interim label removed from his title of president.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has released his list of the game’s top 200 prospects, along with worthwhile breakdowns of the players that made it. Working from that list and applying valuations to the ranked players, colleague Dave Cameron presents a ranking of the most valuable farm systems in the game. Baseball Prospectus has also issued its own organizational rankings in recent days, so be sure to check those out as well. Both sites agree on the top four teams — the CubsTwinsRangers, and Dodgers – though Fangraphs ranks them in that order while BP prefers the Los Angeles farm to that of Texas.

Central Notes: Kang, Twins, Tigers

The Pirates‘ signing of Jung Ho Kang didn’t represent a big expenditure in terms of today’s baseball dollars but it was a pretty big deal for a historically budget-conscious Pirates team, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes.  Still, the Bucs have one of the smallest payroll in all of baseball.  This year, the Pirates will have doubled their payroll in a six-year span and could still rank in the bottom third of MLB.  The Pirates will continue to receive additional spending money via revenue sharing and television money from MLB’s central fund, which allocates each team with a chunk of money from the league’s national television deals.  As for their own TV deal, team president Frank Coonelly called the Pirates’ local deal “competitive,” and suggested that the team will continue to be forward-thinking in terms of acquiring talent.  “I think our foray into the South Korean market this offseason is an example that we can’t sit still,” Coonelly said. “We’ve got to continue to look to see where the next horizon is and be first on the next horizon if it’s feasible for us.” More from the Central divisions..

  • A Twins official told Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter links) not to put too much stock into the idea that the Twins are still after a right-handed bat. That’s something they could explore, but it probably wouldn’t come until late March.   With that said, the Twins are actively scouring the free agent market and have interest in making minor league depth signings.
  • There are questions abound when it comes to the Tigers, including their new-look rotation which features only two starters who were in the starting five at the beginning of the 2014 season, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes.
  • As spring training approaches, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wonders which version of A.J. Burnett the Pirates are getting in 2015.  The 38-year-old struggled mightily with the Phillies last season and he hopes to get back to the form he exhibited in Pittsburgh in the previous two years.  For his part, Burnett says he’s healthy from a hernia injury that nagged him throughout the 2014 season.
  • After Travis Snider was shipped to the Orioles, Nesbitt wonders who the Pirates‘ fourth outfielder will be.  Recently, GM Neal Huntington listed about eight names who could fill that void, including the recently-signed Corey Hart.

Cafardo On Hamels, Papelbon, Twins

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranked every manager in baseball.  Giants skipper Bruce Bochy took the top spot for his ability to get great production of of good, but not great, talent.  After that, Bochy, Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, and Bob Melvin round out Cafardo’s top five.  The bottom of the list doesn’t necessarily feature baseball’s “worst” managers as the first-timers are automatically the lowest ranked.  More from today’s column..

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said last week that four teams made real offers for Cole Hamels and Cafardo hears from a major league source that one of those clubs was the Red Sox.  From talking with various sources, Cafardo senses that the package Boston offered was heavy on the major league side, trying to avoid giving up any of their top prospects.  Of course, the Phillies are insistent on prospects, and if they don’t get them now they’ll wait until the deadline when teams are a little more desperate.
  • There may be a mystery team out there kicking the tires on Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.  The Phillies are still optimistic that they make a deal happen somewhere, even though the Brewers talks haven’t unfolded as expected.
  • The Twins and Indians are looking for a right-handed bat and Cafardo wonders if Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig could be a fit.  With Shane Victorino in the fold and Bryce Brentz in the minors, Cafardo wonders when Boston will try and clear up the logjam.
  • Chad Billingsley could also be trade bait for the Phillies if he gets off to a good start.  A couple of scouts tell Cafardo that they see Billingsley as an effective 150-160-inning guy at the back end of a rotation.

Prospect Notes: Nix, Montero, Barnes, Buxton, Meyer

Toronto will host the Pan American Games this summer from July 11 to July 19, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Team USA could field a potent roster headlined by Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, Corey Seager, and others. To be eligible, players cannot be on a 40-man roster. They also need permission from their parent club to participate. Each team is different, but some will probably allow their top prospects to attend. Rangers prospect Joey Gallo could be among the players asked to participate, and GM Jon Daniels likes the idea of his players competing internationally. One wrinkle to watch: the Futures Game takes place on July 12.

Here are more prospect notes from around the league:

  • Pitcher Jacob Nix could be a late first round pick in the upcoming Rule 4 draft, reports Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider required). You may recall Nix’s part in Houston’s Brady Aiken fiasco – he was the player who lost a $1.5MM bonus when Aiken failed to sign. Without Aiken’s expected under slot signing bonus, the club didn’t have the funds to honor Nix’s deal without losing 2015 draft picks and money. Nix is now pitching with IMG Academy, a post-graduate team in Bradenton, Florida.
  • Of the prospects in Mets camp, Rafael Montero is the most likely to make the major league roster, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. The club has plenty of starting pitchers, but they could use Montero out of the bullpen. Others like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will look to make a strong impression while at the big league camp. Remember, an opening day assignment to the majors can affect when a player reaches arbitration or free agency.
  • Due to depth at the major league level, the Red Sox aren’t expected to add a prospect to their opening day roster. However, hard throwing righty Matt Barnes could be among the first called up, writes Ian Browne of MLB.com. Barnes pitched a few innings out of the bullpen last season, so he’s already on the 40-man roster. Another prospect with brief major league experience, Garin Cecchini, will work on improving his defensive versatility.
  • The Twins will welcome number one prospect Buxton to their major league camp for the second time, writes Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. However, it’s 29th ranked prospect Alex Meyer who has the best chance to break camp with the club. The giant righty will compete for a spot in the rotation, although he’ll face competition from Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey, Tim Stauffer, and Trevor May.

Central Links: McCutchen, Zito, Albers, Herndon

The expensive costs of youth travel leagues are an obstacle to attracting young talent to baseball, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen writes in a piece for The Players Tribune.  The full scholarships provided by college basketball or football make them more appealing sports than the long, usually financially-unrewarding path to the majors that the vast majority of prospects face — McCutchen himself admits that, were it not for an ACL tear when he was 15, he would’ve likely pursued NCAA football and not been a big league star today.  He argues that kids from low-income families need more entry points into the game, with one possible solution being a new system similar to the academy program for international prospects.

Here’s the latest from around the NL and AL Central divisions…