- The Twins aren’t inclined to deal right-hander Ervin Santana unless they’re “wowed” by an offer, tweets Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Despite Santana’s age (33) and their distance from contention, the last-place Twins regard him as a quality future piece. Santana, who’s on a $13.5MM yearly salary through 2018 and has a $14MM club option for 2019, has pitched respectably this season (105 1/ innings, 3.93 ERA, 6.41 K/9, 2.48 BB/9).
Here’s the latest on some names who may or may not be on the move by the August 1 trade deadline…
- The White Sox are reportedly asking for “five top prospects” for Chris Sale, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. It’s an incredibly high asking price but one that at least one rival executive thinks will be met, though others believe Chicago may not actually be serious about dealing its ace. The Marlins are among the teams who have inquired about Sale but with such a thin farm system, Miami doesn’t seem close to meeting Chicago’s demand. The Red Sox and Rangers do have deep systems and have asked about Sale, though Heyman reports that the Rangers/White Sox talks haven’t led to much progress.
- The Rangers are known to be widely scouring the starting pitching market, and if Sale can’t be obtained, Texas will turn to the Padres’ Andrew Cashner or the Rays’ Jake Odorizzi or Matt Moore, tweets T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.
- The Rays continue to ask for Jurickson Profar from the Rangers in exchange for a starting pitcher and Texas is still refusing, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports (Twitter links). Several other Rangers prospects have been mentioned in talks between the two teams, including lefty Yohander Mendez and first baseman Ronald Guzman.
- The Twins are seen as something of a “backup plan” for multiple contending teams in case other deadline plans ball through, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (Twitter link). Ervin Santana, Eduardo Nunez, Fernando Abad and Kurt Suzuki are a few of the Twins mentioned as possible trade chips, though since none of these players are top-tier upgrades, it makes sense that contenders would explore other options first.
- Barring a knockout offer, it doesn’t look like the Braves will move Ender Inciarte at the deadline, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. Inciarte received some trade interest even after Atlanta acquired him from the D’Backs last offseason, though a hamstring injury sidelined him for a month and he hasn’t delivered much at the plate. Still, Inciarte has so much defensive value in center field that the Braves consider him to be a strong piece for the future.
Interest in the Twins’ available trade pieces spiked following the club’s dismissal of general manager Terry Ryan, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. Many executives from other clubs expected that he would take a fairly conservative approach at the non-waiver trade deadline, but the way in which interim GM Rob Antony (Ryan’s longtime assistant GM) will proceed is yet an unknown. Olney lists Kurt Suzuki, Brandon Kintzler, Fernando Abad and Ervin Santana as potentially appealing chips on the Twins, and Eduardo Nunez’s name can probably be added to that list as well; he was reported recently to be among Minnesota’s most asked-about trade pieces.
- Abad has long appeared to be a logical trade candidate for the Twins, though he tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was slowed late last month and in early July by a minor back issue that limited his usage. Abad says his back is at full strength again, but the minor tweak was a big part of the reason that he’s pitched in just five games since June 22. Abad says that he’s happy in Minnesota and would like to stay, but a left-handed reliever with a 2.73 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 46.2 percent ground-ball rate that is earning a $1.25MM base salary this year figures to be a sought-after piece — especially considering the fact that he’s controllable through 2017.
The Twins announced to the media following today’s win over the Tigers that right-hander Neil Ramirez has been outrighted to Triple-A Rochester (Twitter link via Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Left-hander Buddy Boshers has been recalled in his place, giving the Twins a third lefty alongside Taylor Rogers and Fernando Abad.
[Related: Updated Minnesota Twins Depth Chart]
Ramirez, 27, was claimed off waivers from the Brewers in mid-June. Minnesota is Ramirez’s third team since Opening Day (Cubs, Brewers), but the former top prospect has struggled at each stop this season. He’s been designated for assignment by both Chicago and Milwaukee, but he never cleared outright waivers when those organizations attempted to sneak him through. The Twins were successful in doing so, meaning they’ll retain the rights to Ramirez but free up a 40-man roster spot. That spot won’t need to go to Boshers, as he’s already on the 40-man and has pitched for the Twins earlier this year.
With the Twins, Ramirez logged a 6.14 ERA with an 11-to-10 K/BB ratio in 14 2/3 innings of work. He’s posted a combined 6.00 ERA with a 24-to-18 K/BB in 24 innings this season between the three clubs. While those numbers are clearly not appealing, Ramirez did record a sparkling 1.87 ERA with 10.6 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 in 57 2/3 innings for the Cubs from 2014-15 after coming over from Texas as part of the Matt Garza trade. Ramirez dealt with shoulder woes throughout his minor league tenure, though, and has had similar issues crop up in the Majors in addition to triceps and abdominal injuries. His average fastball is down 2.3 mph from his debut season, likely as a result of those problems, but he’ll look to get back on track with Minnesota’s minor league affiliate.
- The Twins are receiving the most trade interest in shortstop Eduardo Nunez, catcher Kurt Suzuki, right-hander Brandon Kintzler and left-hander Fernando Abad, sources indicated to Rosenthal. Right-hander Ervin Santana has not drawn the same level of interest, likely due to the $28MM remaining on his contract beyond the 2016 campaign. Suzuki, a free agent following the season (unless he reaches 485 plate appearances, at which point a $6MM vesting option will trigger), has had a torrid seven-week stretch during which he’s batted .352/.381/.556 with four homers and 10 doubles. Nunez, Abad and Kintzler can all be controlled through 2017 via the arbitration process, and Nunez in particular has had a productive run, hitting .299/.332/.455 with 16 homers and 30 steals in 154 games dating back to Opening Day 2015.
- Regarding Suzuki, while the Twins were in this position with him a couple of years ago and elected to sign him to a two-year, $12MM extension, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that there have been no extension talks at all between the two sides this time around. That would seemingly make a trade more likely, especially in light of his improved production over the past month and a half.
Twins upper management told Terry Ryan a month ago that he wouldn’t be retained beyond the present season, and allowed him to choose his own method of departure, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN reports (links to Twitter). Ryan, obviously, asked to be let go rather than hanging on the rest of the way, as reflected in today’s announcement. Looking ahead, Minnesota intends to look outside the organization for a permanent replacement, but didn’t commit to that route. Notably, owner Jim Pohlad said that the new GM will not have a chance to replace skipper Paul Molitor.
Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the American League:
- The Twins have engaged in talks with the Red Sox, with Boston keeping an eye on righty Ervin Santana, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. But the teams do not appear to be lining up at the moment. Meanwhile, Minnesota still needs to decide if it wants to keep useful veterans around its talented but not fully realized core, and Berardino wonders whether it will end up making sense to part with the final two years of Santana’s deal now that he’s pitching fairly well.
- One factor in the Twins’ decisionmaking will obviously be related to the financial ramifications of any deals, but now-acting GM Rob Antony says that there isn’t a mandate to trim payroll. As Berardino tweets, Antony says that the organization doesn’t “have financial problems” in need of resolution at the deadline.
- Despite losing Yan Gomes for a lengthy stretch, the Indians aren’t prioritizing the addition of a backstop, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The club is relatively bullish on both Roberto Perez and Chris Gimenez, it seems. Presumably, that assessment is also informed by the club’s view on other needs.
- Outfield would certainly be one area where the Indians could stand to improve, but relief pitching is likely the most pressing. Per Rosenthal (Twitter links), Cleveland is focused on adding a lefty to the team’s right-handed-heavy pen mix. Andrew Miller of the Yankees is “probably” at the top of the club’s wish list, says Rosenthal, though you could certainly say the same of many other organizations that are looking for relief upgrades.
- Whether the Yankees shop Miller or fellow power lefty Aroldis Chapman remains to be seen, but it’s a fait accompli in the view of Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. He argues that the club shouldn’t stop at dealing away pending free agents, but should be willing to deal most any players who draw interest — with Miller among the possible exceptions. Feinsand also notes that New York is taking a close look at the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate.
- Even if he’s traded away, Chapman says that he’d remain interested in re-uniting with the Yankees as a free agent, Feinsand tweets. “I would love to come back and be part of the team again,” said the fireballing southpaw, who matched his own record tonight by launching a ridiculous 105.1 mph heater.
- The Angels announced that catcher Geovany Soto is headed to the 15-day DL with left knee inflammation. That seems to take him off the table for pre-deadline dealing, though Soto could certainly end up being dealt in the revocable waiver trade period. Los Angeles selected the contract of Juan Graterol to take his place on the active roster. The 27-year-old will receive his first major league opportunity after opening the year with a .292/.331/.357 slash in his first full year at the Triple-A level.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says that he expects to be busy over the coming weeks, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. But that doesn’t mean the club will be pushing the action; Luhnow says “there’s no real sense of urgency on our part necessarily.” Rather, he explained, “as teams pick up the pace, we’re certainly going to be involved in the conversations.” It’s possible to imagine Houston targeting a starter, as McTaggart notes, but Luhnow says that he’d only be interested in a certain kind of arm. The ’Stros would be looking at starters who are not only healthy and effective at present, but who are capable of slotting into the team’s hopeful post-season rotation.
The Twins announced today that they have relieved general manager Terry Ryan of his duties. Longtime assistant GM Rob Antony will act as the team’s new general manager on an interim basis. Unlike many teams the dismiss their GM midseason, the Twins will not delay their search for a new general manager until the offseason and are expected to begin considering candidates in the coming weeks, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com (via Twitter).
“Since joining our organization as a player in 1972, Terry has been a dedicated, loyal and respected member of the Minnesota Twins family,” said Twins owner Jim Pohlad in a statement. “Terry has been a gifted leader of the baseball department for over eighteen seasons. It is impossible to overstate his contribution to our game, our team and the Upper Midwest baseball community. The decision to part with Terry was difficult, painful and not obvious. We are extremely grateful and very thankful to Terry, his wife Karilyn, and their family for being a part of the Minnesota Twins.”
Ryan has spent two separate stints as the Twins’ general manager, first from 1994 through 2007 and once again from 2011 through present day. Longtime Ryan lieutenant Bill Smith was Minnesota’s GM between Ryan’s two stints, though the Twins’ tailspin into their current status as AL Central bottom-dwellers began under Smith, prompting the club to replace him with Ryan. Trades of Wilson Ramos and J.J. Hardy as well as the ill-fated signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka under Smith set the club back, and while Ryan did well to rebuild a farm system that has received plenty of national acclaim, the Twins have seen few of those farmhands convert into difference-making talent at the big league level. Moreover, the Twins have simply performed as one of the worst teams in baseball over the past half-decade under Ryan’s watch, and while his defenders can point to a bolstered farm system, the Twins had no shortage of missteps in terms of free-agent signings and trades for big league talent under Ryan’s watch.
The signing of Ricky Nolasco, to this point, hasn’t worked out in the least, and the three-year extension of Phil Hughes on the heels of his breakout 2014 campaign looks questionable with the benefit of hindsight. Injuries, of course, have played a role in each of those now ill-fated contracts, though the Nolasco deal in particular seemed to come with limited upside even at the time of the signing. The three years that Mike Pelfrey spent in a Twins uniform produced little to no on-field value, and the decision to re-sign him to a two-year deal following a woeful debut campaign was questioned by many. Minnesota also inked Ervin Santana to a four-year, $55MM contract under Ryan, and while he’s performed reasonably well when on the field — Santana served an 80-game PED suspension before ever throwing a regular-season pitch in a Twins uniform — the Twins already had a host of mid-rotation arms at that point.
On the trade front, swapping three years of Denard Span for Alex Meyer hasn’t paid off (though, again, Meyer’s balky shoulder has largely contributed to that disappointment), and the additions of Vance Worley and Trevor May in exchange for Ben Revere haven’t yielded much big league value for the Twins outside of a solid 2015 campaign for May. The Kevin Jepsen pickup panned out well in 2015, but Jepsen has struggled all season in 2016 and was recently released by Minnesota.
All that said, Ryan was a significant factor in the Twins’ rise to prominence in the early to mid-2000s. Faced with minimal payrolls and an unflattering home venue that made it difficult to use the limited resources he had to lure free agents to Minnesota, Ryan and his staff were able to bring the Twins from the brink of contraction to perennial contender in the American League Central. Ryan remained loyal to Minnesota even in the face of contraction, turning away the opportunity to join the Blue Jays due to his longstanding place within the Twins organization. Those in the media and in the industry persistently offer nothing but the utmost praise and respect for the longtime executive. The Twins’ 2000s core of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer were all success stories from the draft, and the club’s Rule 5 pickup of Johan Santana will go down as one of the best in history. Ryan’s trade of A.J. Pierzynski for Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser is to this day lauded as one of the more lopsided swaps in recent memory.
History aside, the 2016 Twins are considered one of the most, if not the single most disappointing team in baseball, having gone from an 83-win club that looked to be headed in the right direction to a last-place team that is on pace for fewer than 60 wins and has seen rising young talent like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Kyle Gibson all perform considerably below expectation. With Ryan out of the picture and former manager Ron Gardenhire swapped out for Minnesota native Paul Molitor, the Twins have moved on from one of the longest-tenured leadership pairings in all of Major League Baseball.
The question, then, is whether the Twins will continue their traditional trend of promoting from within the organization or look to move in another direction entirely in the front office. The Twins are regarded as a largely traditional club, typically eschewing more modern statistical analysis in favor of traditional scouting tactics. That’s not to say that the club has no analytics department in place whatsoever, of course, but it’ll be interesting to see if the club follows the path of organizations such as the Brewers and Phillies — who hired young, analytically inclined execs David Stearns and Matt Klentak — or mirror an organization like the D-backs, which replaced an “old-school” GM (Kevin Towers) for a similarly traditional blend of executives (Tony La Russa, Dave Stewart).
Shifting from a more long-term outlook to a short-term lens, the decision to part with Ryan will task Antony, special assistant Wayne Krvisky (formerly the Reds’ GM) and vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff with navigating the team’s trades in the coming two weeks. Ryan has previously said that he felt it necessary to be open to listening on any player, and given Minnesota’s standing, it’d be a surprise if the remaining decision-makers employed a different approach to the non-waiver deadline. Players like Santana, Eduardo Nunez, Kurt Suzuki, Fernando Abad and Brandon Kintzler each could hold appeal to teams in the hunt for midseason upgrades, as each is performing well and offers limited remaining control for the Twins.
- The Twins would willingly take a lesser return for right-hander Ervin Santana if it enables them to jettison the remainder of his $28MM salary. The Orioles and Royals, whom Santana previously pitched for, are potential fits for the 33-year-old. Santana has logged a 4.12 ERA, 6.68 K/9 and 2.58 BB/9 in 98 1/3 frames this year.
JULY 11: The Twins have released Jepsen, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
JULY 3: The Twins have designated right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen for assignment, reports LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link). To replace Jepsen on its roster, the club has recalled outfielder Eddie Rosario from Triple-A Rochester, tweets Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com.
[Related: Updated Twins Depth Chart]
Jepsen, whom the Twins acquired from the Rays for minor league righties Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia at last year’s trade deadline, is in the midst of his worst major league season. Aside from his 3.52 walk rate per nine innings, which matches his career total, most of the longtime Angel’s numbers have dropped off precipitously this year. It’s no surprise, then, that his stint filling in for injured closer Glen Perkins went poorly. Over 30 2/3 innings with the Twins this season, the 31-year-old Jepsen posted a 6.16 ERA, 6.46 K/9, 30.2 percent ground-ball rate and blew four of 11 save opportunities.
For his career, Jepsen has recorded a 3.83 ERA, 8.31 K/9 and 46.4 percent grounder rate in 381 major league frames. The fact that Jepsen is fresh off his best two-year stretch makes his decline this season more surprising, as he pitched to a 2.47 ERA and backed that with an 8.96 K/9, 3.34 BB/9 and 46.6 percent grounder mark from 2014-15.
Jepsen’s average fastball velocity has fallen since 2014, though it’s still at 94 mph. Given his velo and recent viability as a late-game option, Jepsen could catch on with another team for the stretch run. If he clears waivers and then signs elsewhere, the Twins will owe Jepsen the remaining portion of his $5,312,500 salary – which is $2.64MM, per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press – minus the prorated league-minimum amount he’d earn from his next club.
Minor league deals often go unnoticed or are met with an eye roll from fans — the ever-witty “Championship!” comments abound following such deals — and more often than not, they end up as inconsequential moves that are quickly forgotten. Each year, though, a handful of minor league signings yield legitimate value for their new clubs. With the more than half of the season in the books and the All-Star break upon us, enough of the season has passed that we can discern which minor league deals have yielded the most significant dividends in 2016…
- Robbie Grossman, Twins: Grossman wasn’t an offseason minor league signing, but he inked a minors pact with the Twins in mid-May and was brought up to the big leagues almost immediately thereafter. Since arriving in Minneapolis, he’s seen regular playing time and enjoyed the most productive stretch of his career. The switch-hitter is batting .289/.421/.465 with six homers and 10 doubles over the life of 195 plate appearances and has walked at an incredible 18.5 percent clip. Defensive metrics are way down on his work in left field, but the bat has been good enough that Fangraphs pegs him at a strong 1.1 WAR thus far. He’s controllable for another four seasons as well.
- Matt Joyce, Pirates: Joyce’s 2015 season with the Angels was awful, but he’s more productive on a per-plate-appearance basis in 2016 than he ever has been before. He’s been heavily platooned, as usual, and has posted an excellent .295/.420/.558 batting line with eight homers in 157 plate appearances as the Pirates’ fourth outfielder. He, too, has drawn poor marks from UZR and DRS, but he’s been productive enough at the plate that he won’t be settling for a minor league contract again this winter.
- Dae-ho Lee, Mariners: Lee didn’t generate as much interest as countryman Byung Ho Park, but he’s been the better player of the two thus far. Through 188 plate appearances, the former KBO and NPB star is hitting .288/.330/.514 with a dozen homers and four doubles. He’s been platooned quite a bit himself, but his numbers against righties are actually a bit better than his still-strong production against lefties.
- Fernando Abad, Twins: Some of the shine has worn off from Abad’s early dominance, as he’s yielded seven runs in his past six outings. In spite of that slump, though, Abad boasts a 2.83 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 46.7 percent ground-ball rate. He’s pitched 28 2/3 innings for the Twins and could be a trade chip this summer. He’s controllable through the 2017 campaign, which adds to his appeal.
- Matt Belisle, Nationals: A strained calf has limited Belisle to 19 innings with the Nats this season, but he’s been terrific when healthy. The veteran right-hander has a 2.37 ERA with 16 strikeouts against four walks (two intentional) with a 41.1 percent ground-ball rate in D.C. He’s helped to stabilize what has been a vastly improved Nationals bullpen in 2016.
- Ryan Buchter, Padres: The 29-year-old has been brilliant for San Diego in 2016, logging 38 innings with a 2.61 ERA and averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings. He has some control issues, averaging five walks per nine as well, but he’s missed so many bats that the free passes haven’t hurt him often. He’d only thrown one big league inning prior to this season, so San Diego can control him for six years if he can maintain this breakout. (Apologies for leaving Buchter off the initial list; he was added to the 40-man back in January, which caused me to incorrectly remember him as a Major League signee.)
- Matt Bush, Rangers: That Bush even made it to a Major League mound after the trajectory his career took is astonishing on its own, but his performance thus far with the Rangers has been excellent as well. The 30-year-old has a 2.49 ERA with 8.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 37.1 percent ground-ball rate through 25 1/3 innings out of the Rangers’ bullpen. With Shawn Tolleson’s 2016 struggles and a three-month stay on the disabled list for Keone Kela, Bush’s emergence has been critical for Texas.
- Dillon Gee, Royals: Gee’s 4.11 ERA isn’t exactly flashy, but he’s provided 57 serviceable innings in 13 relief appearances and five starts for the Royals. And, with Chris Young shifting to the bullpen, Gee could continue to get some starts for Kansas City following the All-Star break. The Royals can hang onto him for another season via the arbitration process, as well.
- Brandon Kintzler, Twins: The former Brewers right-hander has found himself in the closer role for the Twins following an injury to Glen Perkins and a disastrous season for Kevin Jepsen. Kintlzer doesn’t miss bats (5.5 K/9), but he’s walked just two batters in 26 innings and has posted an exceptional 64.2 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 2.42 ERA. Like his bullpen-mate Abad, Kintzler is controllable through the 2017 season and could be appealing to clubs in need of relief help.
- Chien-Ming Wang, Royals: Wang’s improved velocity was a big storyline in Spring Training, but he’s settled in at an average of 91.6 mph, which is right in line with his career mark in that regard. The 36-year-old’s sinker isn’t generating grounders like it used to, but he’s still managed a 3.68 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 46.2 percent ground-ball rate in 36 2/3 innings with the reigning World Series champions this year.