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Minnesota Twins Rumors
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Twins have re-signed minor league right-hander Mark Hamburger to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. The 27-year-old St. Paul native has had a brief taste of the Majors, tossing eight innings for the 2011 Rangers after the Twins sent him to Texas in exchange for Eddie Guardado. Last season, Hamburger split the season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a combined 3.69 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 70 2/3 innings.
- The Pirates announced that they have signed right-hander Josh Stinson to a minor league contract that contains in invitation to Major League Spring Training. The Moye Sports client has big league experience with the Mets, Brewers and most recently the Orioles. Over the past two seasons, Stinson has posted a 4.50 ERA with 18 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings for Baltimore. Stinson, who will turn 27 next March, has a career 4.47 ERA in 52 1/3 Major League innings and a 4.88 ERA in 306 innings at the Triple-A level.
As the Royals look to even the score in the World Series against the Giants, other teams in the division are shifting their focus to the offseason. Here are a few notes from the AL Central…
- The Indians are expected to exercise their $3.5MM club option on Mike Aviles rather than pay him a $250K buyout, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Indians could have reasonably gone either way, as the team has some limited financial flexibility (a topic I highlighted in yesterday’s Offseason Outlook). It appears that his versatility will earn him a spot on the 2015 club. The 33-year-old batted .247/.273/.343 in 374 plate appearances with Cleveland last year.
- MLB.com’s Jason Beck spoke with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, and while the GM didn’t specifically say that the team would exercise its $7MM club option on Joakim Soria, he certainly implied as much with his comments: “We still have to make the final decision, but it’s a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also.” Dombrowski said that the team views Joe Nathan as its closer next season, though he indicated that Nathan will have to perform up to his previous capabilities in order to hold onto that role.
- The Twins declined their $3.6MM option on Jared Burton earlier today, and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the team hasn’t expressed an interest in bringing the 33-year-old back, even at a lower rate.
The Twins have sold left-handed starter Kris Johnson to the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. At least six clubs from Japan’s top league showed interest in Johnson, but the Carp submitted the highest bid, according to Wolfson.
The move appears to work out for both the Twins and Johnson, as Wolfson reports in a followup tweet that the Twins will receive a six-figure sum for selling Johnson’s rights, while Johnson himself will have a seven-figure salary in Japan. (Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets the Twins will receive something in the “mid six figures.”)
Johnson, 30, was acquired from Pittsburgh following the 2013 season in exchange for Duke Welker. Johnson and Welker had both been available for the Twins to select as a PTBNL in the Justin Morneau trade. The Twins initially selected Welker, then flipped him back to the Pirates for Johnson in the offseason. (The other player in the trade, Alex Presley, was claimed off waivers by the Astros earlier this year.)
Johnson made three spot starts for the Twins this season, surrendering seven runs in 13 1/3 innings of work with a 12-to-9 K/BB ratio. Though he has very little big league experience, Johnson has six seasons of experience at the Triple-A level and posted a 3.48 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 132 innings at that level in 2014.
Johnson offered the following take on his situation to Wolfson via text message: “I’m very excited about playing for Hiroshima and appreciate the Twins making it happen. I talked to different players about how great the fans and team treat foreign players. I was really impressed with the respect they showed me during the negotiations.”
This transaction marks the second time that the Twins have sold a player to a foreign league, as last offseason the team sent lefty Andrew Albers to the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Twins have declined their $3.6MM club option on right-hander Jared Burton, director of communications Dustin Morse announced (on Twitter). Burton will receive a $200K buyout and hit the open market this winter.
Burton, 33, came to the Twins prior to the 2012 season on a minor league deal after shoulder surgery had temporarily derailed his career with Cincinnati. (The return of former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky to the Minnesota front office may have had something to do with the team’s interest.) Burton proved to be an excellent find for the Twins in 2012, as he pitched to a 2.18 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over 62 innings in in his first year with the team. That performance netted him a two-year, $5.45MM extension, which included this option.
Burton’s performance has tailed off over the past two seasons, though he was still solid in 2013, compiling a 3.82 ERA (3.61 FIP) with 8.3 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 66 innings. This season, he got off to a dreadful start to his 2014 campaign, but he did recover to post a 3.41 ERA over his final four months, with the end result being a 4.36 mark.
Overall, Burton spent three seasons with the Twins, totaling a 3.47 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 10 saves in 203 appearances (192 innings).
As the Twins continue to seek a replacement for longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire, here are the latest news and rumors:
- Molitor’s one-on-one meeting with GM Terry Ryan went “fine” but did not result in a job offer, per a tweet from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Internal candidate Gene Glynn is out of the running, according to Jim Mandelaro of the Democrat and Chronicle. It is unclear if he will return to his current post as manager of the Rochester Red Wings.
- Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN would hire Lovullo, he writes in his latest piece. Lovullo offers substantial experience and outside ideas from a first rate organization. Mackey notes that the Twins like to hire from within, which favors Molitor and Mientkiewicz. It does appear as though Minnesota has narrowed down to these three candidates.
- Speaking of Lovullo, the Red Sox have granted the Twins an extension to continuing speaking with him, tweets Nick Cafardo.
- Molitor has a one-on-one meeting with GM Terry Ryan today, tweets Wolfson, which could mean a number of things.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that Lovullo is “very much” still in the mix, and Mackey echoes that sentiment.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that Orioles bench coach John Russell, once a rumored candidate, never heard from the Twins.
- Still in the running for the post, according to Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter), are Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Torey Lovullo.
- The Twins have told Alomar that he is no longer under consideration, tweets Wolfson. Hale has also been advised that he will not get the position, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun (h/t Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).
- Wolfson tweets that McEwing has been ruled out for the position, meaning that the team could be inching closer to making a decision.
SungWoo Lee, the diehard Royals fan from South Korea whose visit to Kansas City earlier this summer made headlines around the sports world, is on his way back to watch his favorite team compete in the World Series. The Royals have gone 40-20 in the regular season and playoffs since Lee first arrived in the United States on August 5. Lee’s very first game at Kauffman Stadium was a matchup between the Royals and (talk about karma) the Giants on August 9, which was won by K.C. as part of a three-game sweep.
As Kansas City prepares for its first World Series game since 1985, let’s take a look around the AL Central…
- The Twins have yet to schedule a private workout for Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson tweets, and there have been “no serious talks, just brief ones” between the club and Tomas’ representatives.
- Emilio Bonifacio, Luke Gregerson, Brandon McCarthy, Andrew Miller and Colby Rasmus are five free agents who could be fits for the Tigers‘ bullpen, center field and No. 5 starter needs this offseason, Mlive.com’s James Schmehl opines.
- The Indians and Royals top Baseball America’s list of teams who had the best 2014 draft, based on how the prospects selected in June have thus far performed in their young pro careers. A number of AL Central prospects appear in the follow-up lists based on player performance, with Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan‘s name appearing multiple times — no surprise there, given that Finnegan has already reached the majors and has thrown some key bullpen innings for K.C. during the postseason.
Congratulations to the Royals, who not only reached the playoffs for the first time since 1985 this year but are now headed to the World Series on the heels of a dominant 8-0 showing through the Wild Card game, ALDS and ALCS. As KC fans celebrate the end of a long World Series drought, the rest of the division is focused on how they can get to that point in the near future. Here are some notes pertaining to the AL Central…
- Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer looks at the Indians’ payroll, estimating that without any extensions, trades or free agent signings, the team has roughly $73MM committed to next year’s club (including arbitration estimates). Cleveland would, in that scenario, be able to spend about $8-12MM this offseason to maintain a payroll in the $85MM range. While the team’s wealth of young, cost-controlled players would normally put them in an ideal spot to make a big trade or free agent signing, the commitments to Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher make that unlikely. Instead, he wonders if the Indians will look to make an extension offer to ace Corey Kluber this winter, but otherwise they’ll have to get creative in trades or make complementary free agent additions rather than targeting front-line names.
- The Twins spoke with Yasmany Tomas‘ camp as recently as Monday this week, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). It’s “clear” that Minnesota very much likes Tomas, though their problem, as Wolfson notes, is that about 10 other clubs do as well at this point.
- Wolfson also tweets that while he can’t handicap the Twins‘ managerial search at this juncture, he hears that Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo “nailed” his interview.
- In his latest mailbag piece, MLive.com’s James Schmehl focuses primarily on the Tigers’ offseason and how it might shake out. He notes that Don Kelly is a clear non-tender candidate, and it’s possible that Andrew Romine, who will earn close to the league minimum next season, could take on Kelly’s utility role. Schmehl also speculates on Luke Gregerson, Kelly Johnson and Emilio Bonifacio as targets, noting that he doesn’t feel the team will be the highest bidder for Andrew Miller. Schmehl also discusses the possibility of retaining Victor Martinez or Torii Hunter (he does not feel both will return) as well as the possibility of making a run at Tomas.
Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…
- Righty Stephen Fife was reinstated from the 60-day DL and outrighted to Triple-A by the Dodgers, the club announced on Twitter. Fife, a depth starter for Los Angeles who just turned 28, underwent Tommy John surgery late in the season and will likely miss most or all of 2015. He owns a 3.66 ERA in 91 career big league innings over the last three years, with 6.9 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9.
- The Twins have outrighted journeyman shortstop Doug Bernier and right-hander Yohan Pino to Triple-A Rochester, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Bernier has already elected free agency, Berardino reports, and Pino is expected to do the same. The 34-year-old Bernier has batted .233/.352/.283 in 73 PA with the Twins over the past two seasons. He was outrighted last year at season’s end as well but returned on a minor league deal and saw another brief callup late in the year. Pino, 30, made his big league debut with Minnesota this season and posted a 5.07 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 11 starts (60 1/3 innings). He was much better in 73 Triple-A innings, registering a 2.47 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.
After sharing some White Sox-centric notes, let’s take a look around the rest of the AL Central…
- The December 2010 trade of Zack Greinke to the Brewers was a major moment in Royals history, and Tyler Kepner of the New York Times revisits that blockbuster deal to see the impact it had on Kansas City’s current ALCS run. Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain are playing big roles for the Royals, while Jake Odorizzi was flipped to the Rays as part of the package that brought James Shields and Wade Davis to K.C. two years later.
- Mike Aviles‘ $3.5MM club option for 2015 could be a key part of the Indians‘ offseason plans, Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. If the Tribe keeps the veteran utilityman, it could make Jose Ramirez expendable and create a clear path for Francisco Lindor to win the starting shortstop job in Spring Training. Lindor seems likely to debut in the majors in 2015 and, if he and Ramirez are both around, then $3.5MM might be a bit much for the Indians to pay for a backup like Aviles, despite the depth he provides all over the field.
- Jack Goin, the Twins‘ manager of baseball research, talks to Parker Hageman of Twins Daily about how the club’s use of analytics has evolved over the years.
The arbitration order regarding Mid-Atlantic Sports Network television rights fees that is now the subject of litigation between the Nationals and Orioles would deliver about $300MM in payments to the Nationals over the five years, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. Documents filed in court show the structure of the award, which spanned the 2012-16 seasons and therefore would have both retroactive and going-forward impact. Beginning with an approximately $53MM payout for 2012, the award escalated to $66MM in 2016.
While that matter goes through the court process, let’s round up the news of the day:
- In other television money news, the Cubs are sending signals that the team could be lining up for an earlier-than-expected cash boost, as Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports. The club has an unusual split of its TV rights, the more important part of which is not up for negotiation for some time, but seemingly could be lining up a means of unlocking some revenue ahead of schedule. (Of course, the now-underway Wrigley Field renovations have long been pitched as the key to the team’s anticipated return to big spending.) “We haven’t reached that next level yet where the payroll’s going to significantly increase,” said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. “The TV deal is really the magic bullet, the paradigm-shifter that’s going to put us in a whole new level.”
- The Mariners had a deal in place with Nelson Cruz last winter before ownership nixed the idea, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Cruz was set to sign for a relatively meager $7.5MM or so, while giving the team an attractive option in the $9MM range. Though the magnitude of Cruz’s production this year is surprising, that deal — and, especially, the upside conveyed via the option — sure look good in retrospect, especially for a Seattle club that fell one win out of a postseason slot. It is strange that Seattle did not follow through with the contract for several reasons. With a protected first round pick, the Mariners gave up their second pick to sign Robinson Cano, meaning that Cruz wouldn’t have hurt much in that area. And the team ultimately committed $7MM to Corey Hart.
- Nationals assistant GM Bryan Minniti has left the team, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Twitter. Minniti said he felt it was time for a change, as James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. Indeed, he could be preparing to enter another field of work entirely. GM Mike Rizzo made clear in a statement that Minniti was an integral part of the organization’s rise over the last five years.
- The Twins could use Danny Santana at short or in center next year, GM Terry Ryan tells Darren Woolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). That flexibility will presumably open up some additional possibilities for Minnesota. The 23-year-old had a stunning debut, putting up a .824 OPS that dwarfed anything he had done across seven minor league seasons.