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Minnesota Twins Rumors
The Twins should look to the Cardinals, Braves, and A’s as role models, writes Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com. Like the Twins, those three clubs are middle class franchises, yet they also consistently succeed against the top payrolls in baseball. Mackey highlights a few traits to emulate. Minnesota should seek to supplement their upcoming prospects with affordable trade and free agent acquisitions. They can’t be afraid to trade a player at the height of his value (Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau come to mind). It also wouldn’t hurt to avoid bad contracts and exploit platoon hitters like Trevor Plouffe.
- While Mackey highlights Plouffe as somebody the Twins could platoon, Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune thinks the club should trade him before the waiver deadline later tonight. Plouffe was considered a bridge to top prospect Miguel Sano, who missed this season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but now the club can get similar offense and better utility from Eduardo Escobar. Danny Santana, who Souhan considers the Twins shortstop of the future, could move from center field to shortstop with Escobar shifting from short to third base. Lastly, Aaron Hicks could get another shot at the big leagues before Byron Buxton blocks him.
- Bartolo Colon is still expected to remain with the Mets through the trade deadline, tweets Matt Ehalt of the North Jersey Recorder. As Ehalt notes, things could change between now and the end of the day.
- Jarred Cosart has an “extra chip on his shoulder” following his trade from the Astros to the Marlins, reports Craig Davis of the Sun Sentinel. Cosart has helped to keep the Marlins long shot playoff hopes alive with a 1.64 ERA in five starts. Based on the pitcher’s comments, he was a little irked by the surprise deadline deal. Miami received quite a bit of criticism for the package they sent to Houston (Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, and a 2015 competitive balance pick), but pundits will sing a different tune if Cosart continues to dominate opponents. Looking at his peripherals, Cosart’s short term success seems to depend on a 1.91 BB/9 that’s roughly half his typical walk rate.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
- The Twins have selected the contract of lefty Aaron Thompson, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Thompson will take the roster spot vacated when the Twins lost Sam Deduno to the Astros’ waiver claim. Thompson, 27, posted a 3.98 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 52 innings this season at Triple-A Rochester. The former Marlins first-round draft pick appeared briefly in the big leagues with the Pirates in 2011.
- The White Sox have selected the contract of pitcher Chris Bassitt from Double-A Birmingham, Fred B. Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The White Sox also optioned Scott Carroll to Triple-A Charlotte and recalled pitcher Eric Surkamp. Bassitt will start the second game of Chicago’s doubleheader against the Tigers tonight (against another pitcher making his big-league debut, Kyle Ryan). The 25-year-old Bassitt has pitched well in 34 2/3 innings at Birmingham this year, posting a 1.56 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
The Astros have claimed pitcher Sam Deduno from the Twins, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports (Twitter links). The Twins had placed Deduno on non-revocable waivers, so his contract now belongs to the Astros.
Deduno is already 31 and has gotten middling results this season in Minnesota, with a 4.60 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 92 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. He also doesn’t throw particularly hard, with an average fastball velocity of just 89.7 MPH this season (though the pitch does get plenty of movement). He will not be eligible for arbitration until after next season, however, and his near-league-minimum salary and ability to start will give the Astros flexibility. He also gets plenty of ground balls, with a very high career rate of 57%.
In the short term, Deduno hasn’t pitched more than three innings in an outing since late July, so he might not be able to start right away, if that’s even what the Astros ultimately want. He has also gotten much better results as a reliever than as a starter this season, so he might fit better in a bullpen role.
Deduno briefly pitched for the Rockies and Padres before signing with Minnesota after the 2011 season, where he soaked up starts in some tough years for the Twins rotation. In parts of five seasons in the big leagues, he has a 4.24 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.
The Pirates will send top prospect Gregory Polanco back to the minor leagues today, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). However, Polanco’s demotion is likely to be relatively short-lived, as the 22-year-old could rejoin the team as soon as next Monday, when rosters expand. Polanco got off to a blazing start to his MLB career, but he’s cooled significantly since that time. He’s hitting .241/.308/.349 on the season as a whole, but he batted just .219/.276/.337 from July 1 through present day. Rosenthal tweets that Jose Tabata is expected to get the call to replace Polanco for the time being.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- Though the Cubs have been making headlines by stockpiling high-upside young talent, the success of 33-year-old left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada is making the organization consider him as an option beyond the 2014 season, writes the Chicago Tribune’s Fred Mitchell. “He is pitching very, very well. There are decisions that have to be made. He certainly has put himself in a good position,” manager Rick Renteria tells Mitchell. Wada, who signed a minor league deal this offseason, pitched to a 2.77 ERA in 113 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, and he’s continued his success in the Majors. Since being promoted, Wada has turned in an outstanding 2.56 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 37.8 percent ground-ball rate in 45 2/3 innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators FIP (3.55), xFIP (3.61) and SIERA (3.50) all feel that while he’s been a bit fortunate, he’s still been highly effective.
- Speaking with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twins GM Terry Ryan clarified a comment that he made last week in which he suggested that manager Ron Gardenhire would return in 2015. Ryan explained that his comment was made off the cuff, without any consultation, and that no one’s job — including his own — was guaranteed in 2015. Twins owner Jim Pohlad did state last fall that Ryan’s job as GM was his for as long as he wanted to remain GM, but “everybody’s got a breaking point,” Ryan said to Miller. “I would never hold Jim Pohlad to that statement, because it wouldn’t be fair to him. We’re losing way too many games here for anybody to put that kind of faith in anyone.”
- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn appeared on the Mully and Hanley show last Friday and said that his staff is pleased with the results of the 2013-14 offseason, and he expects to be active in free agency this offseason. Hahn also sang the praises of top pick Carlos Rodon, saying that he’s even more advanced than the team had anticipated, and his transition to pro ball has been nearly seamless. Hahn did downplay, to an extent, the rumors surrounding a potential September callup for Rodon: “…ultimately the decision to bring him up or not bring him up is going to be about what’s best for his long-term development. We’re going to have to be real cautious before we decide just to bring him up and run him out there in big league games this year.”
Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks suffered yet another setback in his return from back surgery i a rehab game on Sunday, according to James Schmel of MLive.com. Dirks sustained the second hamstring injury of his rehab assignment, and while the results of a Tuesday MRI have yet to be disclosed, it’s looking unlikely that he will play for the Tigers at all this season, writes Schmel. There are just 13 games remaining in the minor league regular season, and Dirks may not have enough time to rehab and prepare himself to suit up for the reigning AL Central champs this year.
Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…
- Much has been made of the Cubs‘ plan to pursue top-of-the-rotation arms this offseason, but GM Jed Hoyer said to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times this weekend that a veteran position player is a priority as well. “…[T]here’s a lot of positions on the field that we want to dedicate to the guys that are here or to young players,” said Hoyer. “But I do think it’s important to have some veteran guys with good approaches that these guys can lean on… … It’s certainly something we want to find.”
- Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton was originally placed on the disabled list for a hip issue, but he has now been diagnosed with a sports hernia, he told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Morton will try to return in 2014, but that doesn’t appear to be a certainty, and even if he does, offseason surgery remains a possibility.
- Twins top prospect Alex Meyer is right where he should be in regard to the team’s projected innings limit, GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ryan will watch Meyer’s final home start of the year next week but is not ready to concretely say that the flamethrower will receive a September call-up. The Twins would need to add Meyer to the 40-man roster to do so, but as Berardino notes, that would happen following the season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft anyway. Meyer ranked on the midseason Top 50 prospect lists of ESPN’s Keith Law, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, placing as high as 12th overall (on B-Pro’s list).
- Following the Reds‘ recent four-game losing streak — each of which featured the bullpen blowing a lead — John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines that it’s time to shift the focus to 2015. Fay examines the club’s chances of contending and writes that they won’t be big players on the free agent market, as is typically the M.O. of owner Bob Castellini. Fay also notes that the Reds debated moving a starting pitcher at the non-waiver trade deadline, but Castellini wouldn’t sign off on a sale. Fay feels that a starter, such as Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos, could become trade bait in the offseason with the Reds in need of a bat.
Angels skipper Mike Scioscia is less-than-thrilled with Josh Hamilton and feels that he’s not quite the player he was when he was with the Rangers, writes Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News. “Josh is not the same that we saw when we were looking at the other dugout,” Scioscia said. “He’s not in the batter’s box with the confidence we know he has. He’s not attacking the ball like he can. He’s working hard to try to find it …but we need him to do what he’s capable of doing, or close to that.” More out of the American league..
- The Brewers and other clubs are looking for relievers, but a Twins official tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter) that another August deal is doubtful.
- White Sox skipper Robin Ventura knows that Adam Dunn has a tough decision on his hands as he considers retirement after the 2014 season, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. “That’s always a tough decision for guys,” Ventura said. “When they get where he’s at and Paul and all those guys that are of age, you get close and you might see the end. You don’t know. It’s a tough decision. This is something he’s done most of his adult life. It’s important. It’s still fun. You just never know. I’ve also heard guys talk that way and end up playing five more years.”
- In case there was any doubt about his intentions, George A. King of the New York Post writes that Alex Rodriguez has been spotted working out at the University of Miami, where the baseball stadium is named after him, and at UCLA in Los Angeles. The 39-year-old former MVP has three years and $61MM remaining on his contract with the Yankees.
- The Yankees aren’t rushing Masahiro Tanaka back, but they are favoring an approach more proactive than protective, writes Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger. “I think it’s important that we know he is healthy,” manager Joe Girardi said, “and the only way to find out is to get him in games.” The Yankees’ $175MM investment threw fastballs from flat ground last week.
Twins GM Terry Ryan was on-hand in New Britain tonight to see top prospect Byron Buxton‘s Double-A debut, but the evening took a scary turn for the five-tool center fielder. Buxton collided with right fielder Mike Kvasnicka and was unconscious on the field for roughly 10 minutes before being driven away in an ambulance and has been diagnosed with a concussion, Ryan said on the MiLBtv broadcast (Twitter links via MiLB.com’s Ash Marshall). It’s been a lost season for the consensus top prospect in baseball, who had already missed much of the season with wrist injuries. Ryan notes that the injury could have been much worse, and reports indicate that Kvasnicka, a Minnesota native whom the Twins acquired from the Astros in minor trade last season, was able to walk off the field (though he, too, was taken to the hospital as a precaution).
More links on what has been a scary night for the Twins organization…
- Recently acquired left-hander Tommy Milone tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he isn’t worried about the fact that the Twins may have stashed him in the minor leagues for a week in order to delay his free agency by a season. Milone will finish the year just shy of three full years of service time but said, “…as long as I’m here, I’m happy. You never know what’s going to happen four years from now.” As Berardino points out, Milone will still qualify for arbitration this offseason as a Super Two player, which lessens the sting a bit. Berardino notes that both Travis Wood and Ivan Nova had comparable ERAs and innings totals to Milone heading into arbitration, and the duo received first-time salaries of $3.9MM and $3.3MM, respectively.
- Berardino also summarizes the Twins’ trades to this point, noting that the club saved approximately $7.93MM by trading Kendrys Morales, Kevin Correia and Josh Willingham. He also has a third piece noting that Kurt Suzuki is on pace to earn all $500K of his playing time bonuses after already receiving a $25K bonus for making the All-Star team. That would boost his salary from $2.75MM to $3.275MM.
- Speaking of Willingham, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer runs down some reasons that the Indians neglected to claim the former Twin on waivers — a decision that resulted in the division-rival Royals landing him. The Indians, who had interest in Willingham as a free agent back in 2011-12 and recently lost David Murphy and Nick Swisher to the DL, didn’t want to pay the remaining $2MM on Willingham’s contract. They also were hesitant about his injury history and didn’t want to block playing time from younger players.
Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia has switched agents and is now represented by Praver Shapiro Sports Management, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. He had previously made multiple changes, most recently moving to the Legacy Sports Group over the winter.
The 23-year-old Arcia has hit at a roughly league-average rate since reaching the bigs last year. Over 629 total plate appearances, he has a .241/.305/.417 slash with 22 home runs. Those numbers have dipped a bit this year, but he still looks to be a solid young option for a rebuilding Minnesota club. Defensive metrics have looked more favorably upon his work in the corner outfield this year, though he has spent just 1,218 total innings in the field.
Arcia is set to reach arbitration in 2017, unless he is able to qualify as a Super Two. He could reach that status, as Berardino estimates he will have 1.131 days of service at year’s end (even after a brief minor league stint earlier this year), though of course it is far too soon to know.
While many clubs are averse to making trades within their own division, the Twins and Royals showed little hesitation to do so last night when Minnesota traded Josh Willingham to Kansas City in exchange for right-hander Jason Adam. The Twins, in fact, seemingly have little qualms about dealing to division rivals. Within the past five years, they’ve traded Francisco Liriano to the White Sox, Delmon Young to the Tigers and acquired Carl Pavano from the Indians. They also flipped Jim Thome back to Cleveland and Jamey Carroll to the Royals for players to be named later/cash considerations. Of course, most of these are fairly minor trades, but the Pavano trade and the Liriano trade have had lasting effects on the organization (Minnesota acquired Eduardo Escobar in the Liriano deal).
Here’s more on the most recent intra-division trade and the rest of the AL Central…
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and second baseman Brian Dozier about Willingham’s departure. Gardenhire said the move was tough for the clubhouse to swallow, while Dozier called Willingham his mentor and best friend. As Berardino points out, Willingham currently has the eighth-most games of any active player that has never made a postseason appearance. Berardino was also among the reporters on hand to speak with Willingham himself in the Twins’ clubhouse following the announcement of his trade (All video links).
- Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer began an excellent series by taking an in-depth examination of the Indians‘ analytics department and the contributions they make to the baseball operations department. Director of analytics Keith Woolner has been with the team since 2007 and has seen the Indians add two other analytics experts to his side based on the value they felt Woolner added. “There’s a lot of conversations out there, most of which never amount to anything,” Woolner said, “but you don’t know which ones are going to come to fruition, so you spend a lot of time evaluating a bunch of possibilities … so that when that one comes along, you have the information in place so that [GM Chris Antonetti] can make the best decision.”
- Justin Verlander tells Chris Iott of MLive.com that he had the “worst” stuff of his career in Monday night’s disastrous one-inning start. Verlander, who will undergo an MRI on his shoulder, said he’s nervous to learn the results, but his shoulder has been bothering him for a while of late. In a second piece, Iott looks at the sudden dearth of pitching for the Tigers, with Verlander ailing and Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria hitting the DL. Iott points out that Detroit, which already has two rookies in its rotation for the time being, will have a pair of double-headers later this month, which could cause them to dip even deeper into a shallow pool of talent. While Iott doesn’t write this, it’d be surprising to me if GM Dave Dombrowski wasn’t actively looking to acquire further bullpen and/or rotation depth.
The Royals have acquired Josh Willingham from the Twins, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter). The Twins will receive right-hander Jason Adam, per Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link).
Willingham was claimed by Kansas City off revocable waivers, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The veteran outfielder is owed $1.836MM for the last 48 days of the season, Berardino further tweets.
The right-handed hitter, 35, is set to reach free agency following the season and will therefore be a pure rental for the Royals. He has posted a .210/.345/.402 slash with 12 home runs through 278 plate appearances on the season after spending time on the DL early on. His production has not matched up to his high-level numbers over 2006-12 (.847 OPS), but they are a step up over a disappointing 2013 campaign.
Willingham brings some much-needed pop to a Royals lineup that has struggled to score runs at times. He is expected to see many of his plate appearances out of the designated hitter spot, per a tweet from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, sharing time with the lefty-swinging Raul Ibanez. Of course, Willingham is also capable of playing the corner outfield, though he has historically been regarded as a well-below-average performer on the field.
The return for Willingham is not insignificant, which is a fair achievement for Minnesota given that the pending free agent was claimed (leaving the Twins without leverage to deal with multiple trade partners). Adam, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2010. He has scuffled somewhat in the upper minors as a starter (5.13 ERA in 242 1/3 Double-A innings), but has had some success at Triple-A this year in a relief role (2.35 ERA over 15 1/3 frames). Baseball America rated him Kansas City’s 9th-best prospect coming into the year, saying he has a solid heater and average slider but will need to develop a go-to third offering (change or curve) in order to succeed against lefties at the next level. MLB.com also rated him in the ninth slot among KC prospects entering the year, but dropped him to 16th in its mid-season update. Ultimately, Adam represents a controllable depth piece for a Minnesota club that already picked up young starter Tommy Milone earlier this summer.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.