- Outfielder Logan Schafer, who was outrighted off the Twins’ 40-man roster earlier this week, confirmed that he’ll elect free agency to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That was all but a foregone conclusion for a veteran of nine professional seasons that lost his roster spot. Schafer tells Berardino that the Twins “treated me well and with great respect” and says he’s open to a return, though he recognizes that they’re in for a busy offseason and he’s probably not on their list of priorities. The 30-year-old center fielder hit .238/.342/.317 in 75 PAs with the Twins after slashing .264/.340/.361 in 64 games for their Triple-A affiliate. Schafer should find the opportunity to compete for a bench spot with a big league club somewhere this winter. You can check out MLBTR’s full list of 2016-17 MLB free agents for a refresher on who’s available this offseason.
- Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke highly of vice president of baseball operations Ben Cherington, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald writes. The Twins “pushed hard” to persuade Cherington to lead their baseball operations department, per Drellich, but Cherington seems to have preferred a more low-key job that allows him to maintain a more normal routine. That may sound counter-intuitive, though as former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos (now the Dodgers’ VP of baseball ops) explained to Drellich, the urgency to hold the coveted GM title is a bit reduced after already running a baseball ops department. As for Cherington’s role with the Jays, Atkins tells Drellich that Cherington will be involved in many facets of baseball operations: “I call him on a very regular basis on every front. And he’ll be involved in all of our offseason strategy, he’ll be involved in our draft, he’ll be involved in the international process. I’d imagine he’ll help negotiate contracts.”
We’re just a few months away from this winter’s Rule 5 draft, so it makes sense to take a look back and see how things shook out from the 2015 selections. Several organizations found useful players, even if the most recent class didn’t include an Odubel Herrera-esque breakout sensation. Some of the most recent draftees have probably locked up MLB jobs again for 2017, though others who stuck on a major league roster all year may head back to the minors for further development. (Once a player’s permanent control rights have been secured, his new organization is free to utilize optional assignments as usual for future years.)
Here’s a roundup of the 2015 draft class with the 2016 season in the books:
- Tyler Goeddel, OF, kept by Phillies from Rays: The 23-year-old struggled with the aggressive move to the big leagues, carrying a .192/.258/.291 batting line in 234 trips to the plate, but showed enough for the rebuilding Phillies to hold onto him all year long.
- Luis Perdomo, RHP, kept by Padres (via Rockies) from Cardinals: It didn’t look good early for Perdomo, but he showed better after moving to the rotation and ended with a rather promising 4.85 ERA over twenty starts. Though he struggled to contain the long ball, and only struck out 6.4 per nine, Perdomo sported a nifty 59.0% groundball rate on the year.
- Joey Rickard, OF, kept by Orioles from Rays: After opening the year with a bang, Rickard faded to a .268/.319/.377 batting line on the year but held his roster spot in Baltimore. He ended the season on the DL with a thumb injury, though, and may end up at Triple-A for some added seasoning.
- Joe Biagini, RHP, kept by Blue Jays from Giants: The only Rule 5 pick to appear in the postseason, Biagini was a great find for Toronto. He ended with 67 2/3 innings of 3.06 ERA pitching, with 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, and now looks like a potential fixture in the Jays’ relief corps.
- Matthew Bowman, RHP, kept by Cardinals from Mets: Bowman rounds out a trio of impressive relievers. He contributed 67 2/3 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 6.9 BB/9 against 2.7 BB/9 to go with a monster 61.7% groundball rate.
Retained By Other Means
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, re-signed by Angels (who selected him from Pirates) after being outrighted: Guerra was in an unusual spot since he had previously been outrighted off of the Bucs’ 40-man roster when he was selected, meaning he didn’t need to be offered back. Los Angeles removed him from the major league roster and then brought him back on a minor league deal, ultimately selecting his contract. Though he was later designated and outrighted by the Halos, Guerra again returned and largely thrived at the major league level, contributing 53 1/3 much-needed pen frames with a 3.21 ERA on the back of 6.1 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9.
- Jabari Blash, OF, acquired by Padres (who acquired Rule 5 rights from Athletics) from Mariners: Blash’s intriguing tools weren’t quite ready for the majors, but San Diego struck a deal to hold onto him and was surely impressed with his showing at Triple-A. In his 229 plate appearances there, Blash swatted 11 home runs but — more importantly — carried a .415 OBP with a much-improved 66:41 K/BB ratio.
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B, outrighted by Angels after Orioles declined return: The 25-year-old scuffled in the bigs but was rather impressive at the highest level of the minors, where he walked nearly as often as he struck out and put up a .346/.434/.527 slash with five home runs in 227 plate appearances.
- Jake Cave, OF, returned from Reds to Yankees: After failing to crack Cinci’s roster out of camp, Cave impressed at Double-A but slowed at the highest level of the minors (.261/.323/.401 in 354 plate appearances) upon his return to the New York organization.
- Evan Rutckyj, LHP, returned from Braves to Yankees: Sent back late in camp, the 24-year-old struggled in limited action on the Yanks’ farm after missing most of the season with elbow issues.
- Josh Martin, RHP, returned from Padres to Indians: In his first attempt at Triple-A, Martin posted 66 frames of 3.55 ERA pitching with 8.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, returned from Phillies to Royals: Slowed by a PED suspension, Stumpf was bombed in a brief MLB stint with the Phils but dominated at Double-A upon his return to K.C., posting a 2.11 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 21 1/3 innings.
- Chris O’Grady, LHP, returned from Reds to Angels: Sent back in late March, O’Grady compiled a 3.48 ERA over 95 2/3 innings in the upper minors, though he performed much better as a Double-A starter than he did as a Triple-A reliever.
- Zack Jones, RHP, returned from Brewers to Twins: The 25-year-old was out with a shoulder injury for most of the year, and ended up being sent back to Minnesota in late June, but has shown swing-and-miss stuff when healthy.
- Blake Smith, RHP, returned from Padres to White Sox: Smith ended up making a brief MLB debut upon his return to Chicago, but spend most of the year pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte, where he ran up a 3.53 ERA in 71 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.
- Colin Walsh, INF, returned from Brewers to Athletics: After struggling badly in his major league stint with the Brewers, Walsh went to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate and put up a .259/.384/.388 bating line over 245 plate appearances.
11:33pm: Milone has elected free agency, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports on Twitter.
8:08pm: The Twins have announced five outright assignments as the team clears 40-man roster space entering the offseason. Southpaws Tommy Milone, Andrew Albers, and Pat Dean were all cut, as were infielder James Beresford and outfielder Logan Schafer.
None of the moves is terribly surprising. Though incoming Minnesota chief baseball officer Derek Falvey has yet to join the organization — he’s staying with the Indians as they continue their postseason run — the organization obviously already knew these five roster spots would be opened up to make way for new acquisitions and/or Rule 5 draft protection.
Milone, 29, was slated to earn a slight raise on his $4.5MM arbitration salary, with MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz projecting a $4.9MM figure this winter. It never seemed particularly likely that the Twins would pick up that tab after Milone turned in 69 1/3 innings of 5.71 ERA ball on the year. He has provided some solid major league innings over the years, though, and could earn a shot at a swingman or even rotation role from another organization in the right circumstances (and at a lower price).
The 31-year-old Albers and 27-year-old Dean have not topped one hundred total major league frames in their careers, and neither have been particularly productive in their limited opportunities. Albers worked 17 frames this year for Minnesota, allowing five home runs and 27 base hits along with 11 earned runs. Dean ended his first MLB campaign with a 6.28 ERA on 6.7 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 over 67 1/3 innings.
As for the position players, Beresford briefly cracked the big leagues for the first time in 2016 but has never really hit much in a decade-long minor league run. The 30-year-old Schafer has seen action in six seasons, but owns only a .214/.292/.318 career batting line in 720 plate appearances.
- Poor fastball command has become a systemic failure for the Twins, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and it was one of the chief reasons for the struggles of top prospect Jose Berrios in the Majors this season. Berardino examines the struggles that the Twins have had up and down their ranks with fastball location and spoke to pitching coach Neil Allen about the problem. While Allen isn’t even sure that he’s going to be employed by the team next season — the fate of the Twins’ coaching staff will be largely determined by new chief baseball officer Derek Falvey — but he’s taken steps to impress his new boss by compiling a comprehensive pitching plan that he hopes to have implemented throughout the entire organization. Allen said that a more stringent organizational emphasis was placed on fastball command while he was serving as the Rays’ Triple-A pitching coach before joining the Twins, and he hopes to deploy a similar philosophy in Minnesota in 2017 if retained.
- There are also questions moving forward for Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, though he remains under Minnesota’s control for one more year. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports, the 30-year-old acknowledged that his future with the organization is uncertain. Plouffe dealt with injuries for much of the year, which he says was especially problematic because he tried to rush a return. With a $7.25MM base salary heading into a final run at arbitration, where he’ll tote a .260/.303/.420 batting line and a dozen homers over 344 plate appearances, Plouffe could be non-tendered or perhaps tendered and traded by a Twins team that suffered through an abysmal 2016 campaign.
The Twins have officially announced that they’ve hired Indians assistant GM Derek Falvey as their executive vice president and chief baseball officer. Falvey will join the Twins once the Indians’ season is over. Rob Antony will continue as interim GM until then. Twins Daily’s Jeremy Nygaard and ESPN’s Keith Law were among the first to tweet that the Twins would hire Falvey, with Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweeting that Falvey had emerged as a favorite.
“I believe the addition of Derek Falvey to the Minnesota Twins will markedly enhance our organizational excellence and bring championship baseball back to Minnesota,” says Twins Owner Jim Pohlad.
“It’s a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead the Twins baseball operation. This is a proud, resilient franchise, and I’m eager to return championship-caliber baseball to the Twin Cities,” says Falvey. “We will work diligently and collectively to select and develop top-performers, advance our processes, and nurture a progressive culture that will make fans across Twins Territory proud.”
The Twins had been linked to a number of young executives as they look for a replacement for recently dismissed GM Terry Ryan. Among the other names known to have been in the mix were Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom, Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo and Cubs senior vice president of player development Jason McLeod.
The 33-year-old Falvey will become one of baseball’s youngest executives and represents a significant departure from the status quo for Minnesota. His rise to the position of president is a surprise, to say the least, as he’s spent less than one full season as an assistant GM. Falvey was promoted to that post last October in conjunction with the promotions of Chris Antonetti to president of baseball operations and Mike Chernoff to general manager. Prior to that, he spent four seasons as Cleveland’s director of baseball operations. The Boston native holds a degree in economics from Trinity College, where he also played baseball, and has contributed to the Cleveland front office in many capacities. In addition to his longstanding role in the team’s player development process, Falvey has overseen the advanced scouting department and worked with Antonetti and Chernoff on “financial, statistical and contractual dealings,” per the Indians’ media guide.
Falvey figures to be the first of multiple new hires for the Twins, who reportedly will allow their new president to hire a general manager to work underneath him as well. Beyond that, changes atop a baseball operations hierarchy often lead to personnel shuffling further down the pecking order, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if further new faces join the Minnesota front office. One name that won’t be changing, however, is manager Paul Molitor, whom owner Jim Pohlad has already stated will remain his manager in 2017.
- Geography will be a consideration when Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki picks a team as a free agent this winter, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Suzuki’s family lives in the Los Angeles area. Suzuki has recovered somewhat from a poor 2015 season to post a .258/.301/.403 line in his walk year, although it remains to be seen how he’ll fare on the free agent market, which currently is slated to feature competition like Matt Wieters, Jason Castro and the now-injured Wilson Ramos.
9:34pm: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter) that while Mets assistant GM John Ricco has recently been linked to the Twins’ job, Ricco is no longer in the running at this point. Berardino adds to that report, tweeting that Ricco was never under heavy consideration.
9:28am: The Twins appear to be homing in on a handful of possibilities for their open president of baseball operations position, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Though the team could still conduct interviews with additional executives, it may be that the slate of candidates is already set, he adds on Twitter.
One outside option who has impressed, per Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Twitter link), is Cubs vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod. He is “well-regarded” and “well-positioned” in the Twins’ search after impressing in his early interactions with Minnesota’s top brass, according to the report.
McLeod obviously isn’t the only highly-regarded young executive under consideration. Prior reports have suggested that Rays AGM Chaim Bloom, Indians AGM Derek Falvey, and Royals AGM J.J. Picollo are also in the discussion.
Then, there’s sitting Twins interim GM Rob Antony, who rounds out the five names known to be in the hunt. Per Berardino, he’s the only internal candidate who will receive an interview. The club did consider VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff, scouting director Deron Johnson, and special assistant (and former Reds GM) Wayne Krivsky, but elected not to hold meetings with them.
Twins righty Trevor May has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. His specific condition was diagnosed as a “pars defect” by specialist Dr. Robert Watkins.
It seems that the injury has been present for some time, with Watkins telling May that it had already undergone “cycles of healing” that never completed. “I just kept pitching on it and probably shouldn’t have,” said May. “It was an injury that was a little more serious than I thought it was.”
The 26-year-old said that he anticipates that an offseason of rest will cure the ailment, which is apparently similar to what Lucas Duda has struggled to return from this year. In May’s case, the hope is that he can rest for the remainder of the calendar year before undergoing a strength program and beginning to throw early in 2017.
May has shown plenty of promise despite an unsightly 5.27 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. Working exclusively from the bullpen, he has racked up 12.7 K/9 (with a 13.2% swinging strike rate) against 3.6 BB/9 while sitting at nearly 94 mph with his average fastball.
Home runs have been a problem — May has allowed homers on 15.2% of his flyballs and at a clip of nearly one-and-a-half per nine innings — but the overall numbers seemingly bode well. Of course, there’s an argument to be made that he ought to be given a chance to stick in the rotation before a relief role is set in stone. Regardless the Twins seem to have a useful arm on hand so long as May can progress as hoped from the back issue.