Minnesota Twins Rumors

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

Added To The 40-Man Roster: Monday

With teams making decisions on the final piece of their Opening Day rosters, especially regarding Article XX(B) players, we’ll keep tabs on the day’s moves to add non-roster invitees to the 40-man.

Right-handed relievers, somewhat unsurprisingly, dominate today’s news in this arena:

  • Lefty specialist Joe Thatcher has been added to the Astros‘ 40-man roster, Rosenthal reports on Twitter. The Article XX(B) veteran will receive a $1MM salary and can add an additional $1.3MM through incentives. If he can return to form, Thatcher could be quite a nice addition to a Houston pen that was an area targeted heavily for upgrades this offseason.
  • Fellow non-roster invitee Roberto Hernandez will also make the club, the Astros have announced. As MLBTR originally reported, Hernandez will earn $2.65MM on the year. The 34-year-old joined the fold in Houston late in the spring, but provides a sturdy and versatile presence as the club seeks to take the next step this year.

Earlier Updates

  • The Twins have announced that righty Blaine Boyer is now a member of the team’s major league roster. Boyer’s deal will pay him $750K at the big league level and includes up to $100K in incentives tied to appearances, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently spoke with Boyer about his interesting professional journey.
  • Likewise, right-handed Carlos Villanueva has been added to the Cardinals‘ 40-man roster, the club announced. That means that the veteran swingman will be entitled to a $2MM salary this year with St. Louis. Villanueva, 31, has racked up 863 2/3 MLB innings in 76 starts and over 300 relief appearances. Though he had only a 4.64 ERA last year with the Cubs, Villanueva’s peripherals earned him strong marks from ERA estimators.
  • The Indians have informed righty Anthony Swarzak that he will make the pen, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune tweets. Though it does not appear he has been officially added to the 40-man, that will need to occur. The 29-year-old has a 4.48 career ERA in 439 2/3 frames at the major league level, most of them coming from the pen. Swarzak will take home a $900K salary and can earn up to $350K in incentives.
  • Similarly, the Cubs have told southpaw Phil Coke that he will be on the club, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Coke had exercised his opt-out clause on Friday when he was not added to the 40-man at that time, says Rosenthal. Now, it appears he will receive the $2.25MM (and up to $900K in bonuses) that his deal allows; indeed, the team has now announced that his contract was selected.

Twins Outright Stephen Pryor

The Twins have outrighted right-hander Stephen Pryor to Triple-A Rochester, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Twins’ 40-man roster now stands at 38, which, Miller notes, will allow the team to add a pair of non-roster invitees, presumably reliever Blaine Boyer and outfielder Shane Robinson.

The Twins acquired the 25-year-old from the Mariners last July in exchange for Kendrys Morales. Pryor, who underwent surgery to repair his latissimus dorsi muscle in 2013, excelled at Triple-A for the Twins after the trade recording a 0.89 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 14 relief appearances covering 20 1/3 innings, but demonstrated a lack of command as evidenced by his 7.1 BB/9 rate.


Mike Pelfrey Walks Back Trade Comments

SUNDAY: Pelfrey told reporters, including Berardino (Twitter link), “My emotions probably got the best of me…I’ll be a professional and go to the pen and…we’ll figure this thing out. It’s going to work.”

SATURDAY: After losing out on the Twins’ fifth starter spot, veteran Mike Pelfrey says he is open to a trade, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. Pelfrey is not demanding a trade, Berardino reports, but he says would not mind one.

Obviously if some team realizes I’m healthy for the first time in years, and this is probably the best I’ve felt and thinks I can help them, let’s do it,” Pelfrey says. “I think I showed them that I could start. If it happens, great. Let’s go.”

Pelfrey says he believed, heading into Spring Training, that he would be in competition for a rotation job. He also thinks he did enough this month to earn one, allowing only four runs, two earned, while striking out seven and walking two in 13 2/3 innings. Berardino also notes that Pelfrey has regularly hit 94MPH this spring. Last year, his average fastball was below 91MPH as he made only five starts in an injury-shortened season. Tommy Milone, who won the last starting spot, posted somewhat worse numbers than Pelfrey this month.

I know what I was told in December. I don’t know what happened,” says Pelfrey. “I know one thing that didn’t happen is I didn’t get outpitched.”

The Twins have Pelfrey pitch in long relief, a role Pelfrey sounded more open to when he spoke with reporters, including MLBTR’s Zach Links, earlier this week. Pelfrey has one more year and $5.5MM remaining on the deal he signed with the Twins prior to the 2014 season.



AL Notes: Wright, Vazquez, Russell, Pelfrey

Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News writes Spring Training is broken. Grant suggests reversing the current reporting schedule of players with minor leaguers and non-roster invitees reporting at the beginning of camp and the 40-man roster showing up ten days later. Grant also proposes expanding the roster to 28 for the month of April with 25 designated as active for games. This would allow teams, Grant reasons, to carry more pitching in April, as the hurlers continue to build their durability.

In today’s news and notes from the American League:

  • In a separate article, Grant reports the Rangers have informed Jamey Wright he will not make the team, but the right-hander has decided to remain in camp. “If they change their minds, I’m still here,” said Wright, who is an Article XX(B) free agent. “But, if not, I’m showcasing for all the other teams.” As an Article XX(B) free agent, the Rangers must pay Wright a $100K retention bonus, if they decide to keep him in their organization.
  • Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has an appointment with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday increasing speculation his recent MRI results could lead to Tommy John surgery and the end to his season before it begins, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
  • Despite the uncertain status of Vazquez, the Red Sox have not engaged the Blue Jays about Dioner Navarro, tweets CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. With Vazquez’s injury, Heyman notes the Red Sox will give prized catching propsect Blake Swihart an extended look during the final week of Spring Training.
  • James Schmehl of MLive.com tweets he wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers take a flyer on James Russell, even though the left-hander has had a terrible spring. The 29-year-old was released by the Braves Sunday morning.
  • The Tigers will only go as far as their veteran stars take them, but there is some important young talent on the roster and their performance could prove pivotal as the franchise bids for its fifth straight AL Central title, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan did not address whether Mike Pelfrey has requested a trade in the wake of the right-hander’s comments yesterday after losing the battle for a rotation spot, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey threw one inning of perfect relief against the Orioles today needing just eight pitches in lowering his spring ERA to 1.23.
  • Ryan Madson, in camp with the Royals on a minor league contract, calls his comeback from elbow injuries “a challenge” and knows he can pitch again at the MLB level, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. “If it doesn’t happen here, I will see if there’s any other interest and will go from there,” said Madson, who has a May 1st opt-out. “I mean, I came in not knowing whether I could pitch on consecutive days or three times a week, and now I’m past that. I know what I can do and I want to pitch again in the Major Leagues.

Twins Have Inquired On Rafael Soriano

SATURDAY: A Twins official says the team has very limited interest in Soriano and “might” watch him pitch if he were to hold a workout, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets.

FRIDAY: The Twins have inquired about watching free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano throw, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter). Minnesota is known to be looking for bullpen help, and Soriano is the most established relief arm left on the open market. It’s possible, Wolfson notes, that they’ve already seen him throw in Miami.

Soriano, 35, is a client of Scott Boras and the lone remaining player from MLBTR’s list of Top 50 free agents that is yet unsigned this winter. At first glance, his 2014 numbers might make the fact that he remains a free agent surprising. He did, after all, work to a 3.19 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 32 saves with the Nationals.

Soriano did also benefit from the second-lowest homer-to-flyball ratio of his career, however, and he lost the handle on the closer’s gig in September. Over Soriano’s final 18 appearances last year, he yielded 13 runs in 16 2/3 innings for a 7.02 ERA. Those struggles likely played a big role in the somewhat tepid market for Soriano this offseason, as scouts told ESPN’s Buster Olney last month that they felt the veteran closer’s stuff evaporated late in the year.

Still, it’s not entirely surprising to see Minnesota inquiring on Soriano. I noted in my Offseason Review of the Twins that it wouldn’t be surprising for Boras to try to sell GM Terry Ryan on Soriano, as closer Glen Perkins was shut down late last year with a forearm injury and has been battling an oblique issue this spring. Beyond Perkins, the Twins lack established bullpen arms. Casey Fien looks to be the top setup option, and lefty Brian Duensing is a lock for the ‘pen as well. Tim Stauffer will probably hold down a spot despite a poor spring, and his former Padres teammate Blaine Boyer looks increasingly likely to make the club as a non-roster invitee. Additionally, it’s possible that Mike Pelfrey, Trevor May or Tommy Milone, each of whom is fighting for the fifth starter’s role, could end up in the ‘pen as well. Other options such as Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin have already been optioned, though Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is still in the mix for a spot and may yet make the club to open the season.


Minor Moves: Roberts, Baez, D-Backs, Putkonen

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The Royals have released 2B/3B Ryan Roberts, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Roberts, 34, played sparingly for the Red Sox last season and has a career .243/.320/.388 line in parts of nine seasons, also playing for the Blue Jays, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Rays.
  • The Royals have announced that they’ve traded righty Angel Baez to the Astros for cash considerations. Baez, 24, pitched 62 innings of relief for Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season, posting a 4.65 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9, improving somewhat upon the control problems with which he had struggled in the low minors.
  • The Diamondbacks have released a number of players, including righty relievers Jeremy Accardo and Henry Rodriguez, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets. The 33-year-old Accardo spent 2014 in independent ball and last appeared in the Majors in 2012. He’s played parts of eight big-league seasons and appeared in the Blue Jays’ bullpen in every season from 2006 through 2010. The hard-throwing Rodriguez has appeared in the big leagues in all of the last six seasons (with the Athletics, Nationals, Cubs and Marlins), but has never really established himself, thanks in large part to control problems — he has 6.4 BB/9 for his career. Both pitchers signed minor-league deals with the D-Backs this offseason.
  • Twins utilityman Tyler Grimes has retired, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. The 24-year-old Grimes played at Class A+ Fort Myers in 2014, hitting .232/.313/.355 in 307 plate appearances while, remarkably, playing catcher, second, third and all three outfield positions. He had been a non-roster invite to Twins big-league camp.
  • The Tigers have released righty Luke Putkonen, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. Putkonen, 28, pitched 29 2/3 innings out of the Tigers’ bullpen in 2013 and handled himself well, posting a 3.03 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He missed most of the 2014 season due to elbow issues, however. The Tigers designated Putkonen for assignment and outrighted him in January.

Central Notes: Hicks, Pirates, Madson

The Twins have optioned Aaron Hicks to Triple-A Rochester, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. Heading into Spring Training, Hicks had seemed to be the likely choice for the Twins’ starting center field job. He has struggled this March, however, putting up a .206/.300/.324 line that’s very consistent with his career .201/.293/.313 performance. The demotion is another setback for the former first-round pick, who is still struggling to establish himself at age 25. It appears the team will go with Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson in center field. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred praised the Pirates while visiting with the Bucs and Twins Friday, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I think the Pirates have tremendously benefited by (owner) Bob Nutting’s presence and leadership,” Manfred said. “For those of you who know the history, you’re not going to be surprised to hear me say I am a huge Frank Coonelly fan. I think he’s done a fantastic job as president of the Pirates, including his selection of (general manager) Neal (Huntington).” Coonelly worked in the commissioner’s office before becoming the Pirates’ president. Manfred added that his controversial comments about banning defensive shifts were only an idea, and that the league isn’t likely to make changes in that area, particularly given the feedback he’s gotten about it.
  • Ryan Madson‘s opt-out with the Royals is May 1, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 34-year-old Madson, who’s had a mess of injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, is attempting a comeback with Kansas City. He’s gotten decent results so far, striking out four batters and walking none in seven spring innings. The Royals have another month to evaluate him, however, which makes sense — one imagines he’ll still need time to prepare to pitch in meaningful games, given all the time off he’s had.

Twins’ Lewis Thorpe To Have Tommy John Surgery

Highly regarded Twins prospect Lewis Thorpe has a torn UCL and will have Tommy John surgery at an undetermined date, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tweets. Baseball Prospectus ranked Thorpe the No. 91 prospect in baseball last month, and MLB.com ranks Thorpe the No. 9 prospect in an excellent Twins system. His injury is simply the latest in an epidemic of arm problems leading to Tommy John surgery, with Yu Darvish and unsigned 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken among the latest victims.

Thorpe pitched well against much older competition last year in the Midwest League, posting a 3.52 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 as an 18-year-old. The previous season, he racked up 64 strikeouts against six walks in 44 innings in the Gulf Coast League. MLB.com praised the velocity (in the low 90s) and movement on the young Australian’s fastball, noting that he also had a good changeup and was working on two breaking pitches.


AL Central Notes: Graham, Pelfrey, Salazar, Finnegan

Word in the scouting community is that the Twins made a great Rule 5 pick-up in righty J.R. Graham, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets. Graham was once a top-100 prospect with the Braves, who would receive him if he cannot stick with Minnesota or another club for the duration of the year. He scuffled in his second attempt at Double-A last year, throwing 71 innings (including 19 starts) of 5.58 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 3.3 batters per nine.

Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the AL Central:

  • The Twins might benefit from shipping Mike Pelfrey to a team that needs starting depth in exchange for a lefty pen piece, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey is, however, owed $5.5MM this year, which as Berardino notes would stand to complicate any trade efforts. The 31-year-old righty recently spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his situation, saying that he feels good and is preparing to embrace whatever role he is given.
  • The Indians optioned righty Danny Salazar to Triple-A today, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. The 25-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance — in thirty career big league starts, he has struck out more than ten and walked less than three per nine — but has yet to put it all together and struggled badly this spring. With 162 days of service to his name, Salazar will pick up a year of service so long as he spends any real amount of time in the bigs, though a prolonged stint in the minors could jeopardize his ability to qualify as a Super Two down the line. Zach McAllister, T.J. House, and Josh Tomlin are now the three arms in the mix for the club’s final two rotation spots.
  • Also headed back to the minors is Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan, as Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports. A draft pick turned late-season star in 2014, Finnegan had a rough go in his first big league camp and will also benefit from the chance to develop as a starter. “We just thought it was better for him to go down,” said manager Ned Yost. “He had a huge workload last year. He hasn’t been real sharp in Spring Training. Just get him back down, get him going again. And have him ready for whenever we need him.” Of course, the club intends to be careful with limiting Finnegan’s workload, so it remains to be seen how much impact he can have at the major league level. Then again, the loss of Tim Collins leaves the club relying on Franklin Morales and Brian Flynn as pen lefties, so it is not hard to imagine a need arising. Finnegan has 28 days of service thus far, so a few months in the minors would likely keep him shy of a full year of credit.

Twins Outright Lester Oliveros

The Twins have outrighted right-hander Lester Oliveros off the 40-man roster, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). The move drops the Twins’ 40-man roster to 39, Berardino adds.

The 26-year-old Oliveros was acquired from the Tigers in a trade that sent Delmon Young to Detroit back in 2011. Oliveros has thrown just 21 1/3 innings with the Twins since being acquired, as part of his tenure has been shortened by 2012 Tommy John surgery. The Twins are likely happy to see Oliveros clear waivers, as he does possess some upside; in 97 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level, Oliveros has a 3.69 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He’s also averaged 93.8 mph on his fastball at the Major League level.

Removing Oliveros from the mix adds a bit of clarity to the Twins’ bullpen mix. Glen Perkins, Casey Fien and Brian Duensing are all locks to make the bullpen, and whichever of Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey don’t make the rotation could join the bullpen also. Other candidates for the bullpen include lefties Aaron Thompson and Caleb Thielbar as well as righties J.R. Graham, Tim Stauffer and Blaine Boyer. The Twins are known to be looking for one, if not two relief pitchers, so this move could provide them with the flexibility to add someone down the line or could be used to add a non-roster invitee like Boyer to the 40-man roster.