- The Twins bullpen “still needs some work,” Paul Molitor tells MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, as the manager says the team is continuing to look for possible upgrades.
The Dodgers have expanded their search for a second baseman, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Los Angeles remains engaged on longstanding targets Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, and Logan Forsythe, but appears to be looking elsewhere in the event that those players can’t be had at a palatable rate.
Among the players that could potentially be fits, per Rosenthal, are switch-hitters Jurickson Profar of the Rangers, Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies, and Wilmer Difo of the Nationals, though he notes that of that trio, Profar is the only one on whom the Dodgers have definitively inquired. All are young and controllable somewhat controllable — Profar through 2019, Hernandez through 2020 and Difo all the way through 2022. Only Hernandez, though, has put up a full and productive major league season.
Beyond those possibilities, Rosenthal says that there’s still some potential for a reunion with Chase Utley. Still, the club would rather find a hitter who swings from the right side. That would also appear to leave little room for interest in the other top remaining second-base-capable free agents.
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs recently suggested that the best fit on paper might be Javier Baez, with young pitching going to the Cubs in exchange. But that doesn’t seem particularly likely, as Cameron notes and Rosenthal also echoes.
All things considered, Rosenthal explains, Dozier might still be the likeliest target for the Dodgers. Though the club seemingly broke off its talks with the Twins recently, Rosenthal says that the door remains open to a deal. It’s imaginable that Los Angeles could line up with the Rays on Forsythe, but the biggest issue there seems to be that Tampa Bay doesn’t have a ready replacement.
- Twins manager Paul Molitor tells La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he’s hopeful the front office will add a veteran to the roster to help bring some experience to what is overall a young clubhouse. “I’ve talked to Thad and Derek about my opinions about adding, where we could, more experienced people who have the reputation of being influential in clubhouse culture as well as leadership,” said Molitor, “and a guy who can still play.” Neal speculates that an outfield bat would be the likeliest fit, noting that Minnesota is pretty well stocked in terms of infield options and DH types.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak addressed questions from fans and media during the club’s Winter Warm-Up event this weekend. Here are some of Mozeliak’s hot stove-related comments, courtesy of Derrick Goold, Jeff Gordon and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch…
- After failing to reach agreements with Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha before Friday’s arbitration filing deadline, the Cardinals won’t pursue further negotiation with either right-hander and will instead go to arbitration hearings. Martinez asked for $4.25MM while the Cards countered with a $3.9MM offer, and Wacha filed for $3.2MM with a $2.775MM counter from St. Louis. As Goold notes, this will be the first time the Cardinals have gone to an arbitration hearing with any player in 17 years. Mozeliak explained that the Cards had explored using the “file-and-trial” strategy in the last couple of years before finally taking the stance during this winter’s crop of arb-eligible players.
- Martinez and the Cardinals were discussing a multi-year extension this winter, though obviously no agreement was reached before Friday’s deadline. The hearing “would not put a chill” on the relationship between the two sides, as Goold put it, so talks could very possibly resume during Spring Training once Martinez’s 2017 salary has been decided by the arbiter. For his part, Martinez said (via an interpreter) that he wants to spend the rest of his career with the team.
- St. Louis was rather surprisingly linked to Brian Dozier’s name in trade rumors last month, though later reports downplayed the Cardinals’ interest. Mozeliak said his team’s pursuit of Dozier “was news to me.” As Goold explains, the connection could have been due to the Cards’ discussions with teams in order to properly gauge market values, rather than an actual interest in acquiring Dozier. “If [the Cardinals] knew what a top-tier second baseman was going to command on this pricey trade market then they also could evaluate their own players, and they could evaluate their own offers,” Goold writes.
- Left-hander Marco Gonzales said he is feeling healthy and is hoping to begin the season in the Triple-A rotation. Gonzales, picked 19th overall by the Cardinals in 2013, quickly reached the bigs to toss 34 2/3 innings for the club in 2014, and injuries have since derailed his progress. Shoulder problems limited the southpaw to just one game in 2015, and Gonzales missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery.
- The Twins have had a fairly quiet offseason, though chief baseball officer Derek Falvey expects more activity for both his club and others as Spring Training approaches, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “If an opportunity presents itself, we’ll be ready to strike,” Falvey said. “The reality is, we’re standing here today with players still available in free agency that I don’t think any of us would have predicted in October. Things change.”
TODAY: Hwang turned down an offer from the KBO’s Lotte Giants, Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency reports (hat tip to MyKBO.net’s Dan Kurtz). Yoon-won Lee, the Giants’ general manager, said his club extended “a sizeable offer” to Hwang, but the infielder seems intent on testing himself in North America, even if it means earning less money. To this end, Hwang is reportedly open to signing a split contract rather than a straight big league deal.
TUESDAY: The market continues to develop for Korean third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (links to Twitter). He’s most interested at this point in securing an opportunity that comes with a 40-man roster spot, per the report.
Hwang, a 29-year-old free agent, was said recently to have drawn some attention from the Giants. The Brewers and Tigers are also among the team’s with some level of interest, according to Berardino. While the Twins have “checked in” on him, it seems there’s no present fit.
It could be, of course, that Hwang may still need to wait for other moves to shake out before he’s presented with a clear shot at the majors. A return to Korea can’t be ruled out, of course; indeed, a KBO club has made a four-year offer. While that will surely hold appeal, it seems Hwang is still hoping for a chance to play at the game’s highest level.
For San Francisco, the possibility of adding another corner outfielder or third baseman may make the team hesitant to commit. The Brewers already plugged in Travis Shaw at the hot corner, though presumably the right-handed-hitting Hwang could provide a complement (with both perhaps also factoring in at first base). As for the A.L. Central rivals in Detroit and Minnesota, third base appears to be set in both cases. But perhaps there’s some window for Hwang if he’s deemed capable of spending some time at second and one of those teams deal their incumbent options. Alternatively, perhaps, he could factor in the corner outfield.
It has been a tough market for third basemen, with Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe among the players still looking for a job. There’s also a variety of veteran utility types with experience on the left side of the infield — including Aaron Hill, Kelly Johnson, and Stephen Drew — who have yet to sign.
Beyond the enticement of the unknown, Hwang has some possible advantages over some of those options. He won’t turn 30 until July and is coming off of a career year in the KBO. Finally combining both power and contact in a single season, Hwang popped 27 long balls with just 64 strikeouts over 522 plate appearances. He also swiped 24 bags, though he was cut down on ten other attempts.
Twins first baseman Byung Ho Park’s season ended in August after a wrist injury that required surgery, but he’s now able to work out without restrictions and he has returned to batting practice, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. Park, formerly one of the top power hitters in the KBO, will try to bounce back from a disappointing first season in the Majors in which he batted .191/.275/.409 and struck out 80 times in 244 plate appearances. The Twins owe him a total of $9.25MM through 2019. Here are a couple more quick notes from the American League.
- Twins setup man Ryan Pressly will earn $1.175MM in his first trip through the arb process, Crasnick tweets. That’s a shade better than the $1.1MM projection for Pressly, who has three years of club control remaining.
- Brandon Kintzler and the Twins agreed to a $2.925MM deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Kintzler parlayed a minor league deal into a run as Minnesota’s closer following a Glen Perkins injury. He did considerably better than his $2.2MM projection after logging a 3.15 ERA and 17 saves with 5.8 K/9 against 1.3 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings. Kintzler is a free agent next winter.
- The Twins and right-hander Kyle Gibson settled on a one-year deal worth $2.9MM, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The former first-rounder had a solid season in 2015 but struggled to a 5.07 ERA with 6.4 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 in an injury-shortened 2016 campaign (147 1/3 innings). He falls a ways shy of his $3.5MM projection from Swartz. Gibson will remain under Twins control through 2019 and is arbitration-eligible twice more.
The Twins have avoided arbitration with left-hander Hector Santiago by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $8MM, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter). Santiago, a client of Excel Sports, earns a nice raise over last year’s $5MM salary. He’d been projected to earn $8.6MM by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
The 29-year-old Santiago was in the midst of a typically solid season with the Angels (4.25 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 in 121 innings) when he surprisingly found himself traded to the Twins alongside minor league reliever Alan Busenitz in exchange for Ricky Nolasco and injury-prone former top prospect Alex Meyer. Santiago’s fortunes turned immediately upon getting to Minnesota, and he struggled badly with the Twins over the life of the two months he spent in Minnesota.
In 61 1/3 innings, Santiago logged a 5.58 ERA with just 5.4 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 as he became significantly more prone to home runs. Those numbers are obviously an eyesore, but the new Twins front office is apparently confident that Santiago can return to form, as CBO Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine saw fit to retain him at a not-insignificant $8MM rate. Prior to this discouraging season, Santiago had posted a 3.62 ERA 457 innings with the White Sox and Angels from 2013-15, working primarily as a starting pitcher.
The Twins announced that they’ve signed veteran catcher Chris Gimenez to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training.
That the Twins would sign Gimenez isn’t exactly a surprise, as catching has been a priority for them this season, and John Ryan Murphy isn’t a lock to open the year as the backup to newly signed Jason Castro (who inked a three-year, $24.5MM deal). Minnesota’s new front office is also highly familiar with the 33-year-old Gimenez, who spent time with both the Indians (where new chief baseball officer Derek Falvey was an assistant GM) and the Rangers (where new GM Thad Levine was an assistant GM) in 2016. Gimenez was also with both teams back in 2014.
Gimenez didn’t do much at the plate in 2016, hitting just .216/.272/.331 in 155 trips to the dish. However, his framing marks are solid, and Indians manager Terry Francona lauded Gimenez for the manner in which he helped Trevor Bauer produce improved results beginning last May (as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote at the time). The well-traveled Gimenez has spent parts of four seasons in the Majors with the Indians, Rangers, Rays and Mariners, producing a .218/.297/.335 batting line in 776 plate appearances.