Minnesota Twins Rumors

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

Twins Extend Brian Dozier

The Twins have gained cost certainty over a key piece of their lineup after announcing a four-year, $20MM extension for second baseman Brian Dozier.  The deal will pay Dozier $2MM this season, $3MM in 2016, $6MM in 2017 and $9MM in 2018.  There isn’t any no-trade protection in the contract, as noted during the club’s press conference (hat tip to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).  Dozier is represented by Damon Lapa of All Bases Covered Sports Mangaement.

The extension gives Dozier a raise for 2015 (he was already contracted for $590K as a pre-arbitration player) and covers his three years of arbitration eligibility.  There weren’t any option years attached to the deal, so the 27-year-old Dozier is still on track to become a free agent following the 2018 season.MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins

Looking at other recent extensions for second basemen with between 2-3 years of service time, Dozier’s deal has fewer years and dollars than the contracts signed by Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis within the last 13 months.  Carpenter received six years and $52MM (plus an $18.5MM club option) from the Cardinals while Kipnis received six years/$52.5MM (plus a $16.5MM club option) from the Indians.  If you look at just the first four years of those two contracts, however, both Carpenter and Kipnis received $22MM guaranteed over that span, so Dozier’s deal is a fair comparable.  (It’s also worth noting that Carpenter and Kipnis were both coming off overall stronger seasons prior to their extensions.)

The two sides were known to be discussing an extension earlier this month, and the Twins in fact first explored locking Dozier up last offseason.  “Many scenarios were discussed,” ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson reports, and Wolfson was a little surprised the Twins didn’t look to add at least one option year onto the deal.  On the one hand, if Dozier keeps producing, the Twins now face paying a lot more for his 2019 season and beyond if they want to keep him.  That said, the Twins would obviously be ecstatic if Dozier keeps hitting since it will make their four-year/$20MM commitment look like a bargain, yet the deal is also short enough that it gives Minnesota flexibility if Dozier comes back to earth.  From Dozier’s perspective, he scores one big payday now and still has the freedom to test the open market at age 31.

An eighth-round pick as a shortstop in the 2009 draft, Dozier has produced two solid seconds as Minnesota’s everyday second baseman.  He hit .242/.345/.416 with 23 homers, 21 steals and 112 runs in 2014, posting the fifth-highest fWAR (4.8) of any second baseman in baseball.  Most of that value came with the bat as Dozier is still a bit of a work in progress at second (a -4.4 UZR/150 and no Defensive Runs Saved last year), though it seems to be a tradeoff the Twins are happy to make for 20-20 production from the keystone.  The power is something of a new development for Dozier — he’s already hit 47 home runs over his 1670 Major League plate appearances after hitting only 16 homers over 1613 minor league PA.

Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports Images


Blaine Boyer And His Personal Entourage

In March, it’s not uncommon to see over-the-hill veterans in camp looking to extend their careers for just one more season.  By the same token you don’t normally see marketable 30-year-old players call it quits, but that’s what reliever Blaine Boyer did three years ago.  Boyer didn’t fall out of love with baseball, but he was decidedly heartsick and missing his family back home.  When the right-hander told his wife Ginsey that he wanted to retire and potentially leave a mountain of money on the table, she understood the way he felt and the reasons behind his decision.

I grew up in a household that was broken early.  My parents divorced when I was three and there was just so much inconsistency there,” Boyer told MLBTR in the Twins’ dugout prior to their afternoon contest against the Phillies.  “I’ve had to live with that for a long time.  I was coming and going and I wasn’t consistently there for my boys and my wife and that brought back a lot of what I went through when I was little, so she understood that.  It wasn’t about me not wanting to play baseball anymore, it was much deeper.

While Boyer’s sabbatical from the game effectively amounted to a boxer’s retirement, he was confident that he was done with baseball for good.  When the pull of the sport was too strong for Boyer to resist, he and his wife came up with an unorthodox game plan: she and their two young sons would travel with Boyer on the road as much as humanly possible throughout the season.

Boyer, 33, feels as though he has found the right balance between being an active parent and doing what he feels he was put on this planet to do professionally.

The boys, they’re 3 and 4 now, they’re at the point where they’re kind of expecting baseball season and they love it.  My wife especially, she loves the atmosphere of the games, she loves sitting back and eating a hot dog, watching the boys and the seventh inning stretch and it’s just so much fun for her to be their mother watching them watch their daddy,” Boyer said.  “For me, I’m able to experience this as their father and my wife always being with me, it’s kind of like the Boyer family adventure and it’s a blessing.”

For the right-hander, traveling with the family entourage means that he doesn’t have to live with regret in the present or in the future.

I feel like God has given me the ability to throw a baseball and he hasn’t given that many people this kind of ability.  So, when I have to answer to him about the gifts he has given me, I don’t want to have to say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry I wasted that one.’  On top of that, I didn’t want to be 60 years old and thinking what might have been,” Boyer explained.  “So, the whole no regrets mindset and still playing baseball gives me the opportunity stand up and talk about family and talk about God.  Helping people understand my relationship with Jesus Christ is important to me.”

Boyer has taken his family with him all over the map, even internationally in 2013 when he pitched for Japan’s Hanshin Tigers.  Boyer, who bristled at the thought of takoyaki and some of the country’s more adventurous cuisine, experienced a bit of culture shock, but he also fell in love with Japan’s baseball culture and its people.  It also helped that friend Jason Standridge was pitching with Hanshin and, of course, his family was by his side.

For now, the Boyer family adventure has landed the traveling clan in Minnesota, but that could change in a matter of days.  The reliever has a March 30th opt-out clause that can be exercised if he has not been added to the 40-man roster by that time.  Boyer doesn’t know how that will play out yet, but he’ll have his own personal cheering section with him no matter where he winds up.


Eduardo Escobar Changes Agents

Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar is now represented by Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. Escobar had previously been represented by MDR Sports Management, according to MLBTR’s Agency Database. As Berardino notes, Praver and Shapiro also represent Escobar’s Twins teammates Oswaldo Arcia and Tommy Milone.

Escobar, 26, hit .275/.315/.406 in a breakout season in 2014, playing mostly shortstop but also logging significant time at second and third. He’s on track to become eligible for arbitration for the first time following the 2015 season.



Central Notes: Melvin, Garcia, Beckham, Twins

Now that the Brewers have settled Ron Roenicke’s contract situation, the focus has now naturally turned to GM Doug Melvin, whose own deal is set to expire after the 2015 season.  Talking with reporters, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links), Melvin said that he felt Roenicke’s extension was the more important deal to complete first so Roenicke wouldn’t have “lame duck” status hanging over him with the players.  Getting an extension of his own isn’t as important to Melvin at the moment, though he figures he may talk to owner Mark Attanasio about the topic at some point.

Here are some more items from around both the NL and AL Central…

  • Jaime Garcia‘s checkered injury history and high salary ($9.25MM in 2015 plus $500K to buy out his $11.5MM club option for 2016) make him a tough sell as a trade candidate, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in his breakdown of Garcia’s trade value.  The Cardinals could pay some money to help make a deal happen, though that presumes they want to deal Garcia at all — Miklasz notes that Garcia has pitched well this spring and could be a valuable depth piece for the Cards this season.
  • While the White Sox were looking for a player with Gordon Beckham‘s skillset this winter, GM Rick Hahn tells ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla that he initially didn’t consider Beckham “because I didn’t think this was necessarily right fit for Gordon Beckham, individually.”  Hahn felt Beckham might be better suited to getting a fresh start with a club rather than returning to his original team, but after discussing the matter with Beckham and his agent, the infielder assured the GM that he was happy and eager to return to Chicago.  From that same piece, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that the Halos “were competitive” in making Beckham an offer close to the $2MM he received from the Sox.
  • Danny Santana‘s $530K salary for 2015 makes him the highest-paid of the Twins‘ pre-arbitration players, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.  Berardino has the full list of salaries for all 17 Minnesota pre-arb players.

Quick Hits: Gardenhire, Bryant, Valverde

Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was in attendance as the team his son coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout took on a Twins rookie team Tuesday, would be thrilled to manage again, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “Oh, no. I’ve got a lot left in me in baseball,” says Gardenhire, shown in a photo wearing a T-shirt and smoking a cigar. “If somebody is looking for a manager and I’m a fit, great. I would love to manage again.” After the Twins fired him following last season following the team’s fourth straight season of 92-plus losses, Gardenhire lived for a month in an RV parked near his daughter’s house in Oklahoma while he waited for his first grandchild to be born. Gardenhire turned down a front-office job with the Twins, but says he’s still willing to help his former organization, perhaps with occasional scouting tasks. Here’s more from around the game.

  • MLBPA head Tony Clark says it’s “unfortunate” that teams delay promotion of top prospects for service-time reasons, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. “We don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest, and we don’t think it’s in the industry’s best interest, to not have the best players on the field all the time,” says Clark. This has become, of course, a point of discussion every year. This season, top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been the focus of the issue. The Cubs are likely to send him to the minors to start the season even though he’s leading MLB in Spring Training homers with six.
  • One Padres move that didn’t attract much attention in a high-profile winter was their signing of former Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal. Valverde has performed well in camp, however, and now appears to have a good shot to make the team, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “I feel like I’m 21 because I’m throwing 98 [mph],” says Valverde. “I’m surprised because I haven’t walked anybody yet.” Bloom suggests Valverde could even be the Padres’ closer. That would be an upset if it came to pass, since Joaquin Benoit performed well in that role last year after the team traded Huston Street.

Central Notes: Lackey, Snider, Robinson

Cardinals starter John Lackey remains interested in re-working his contract for this season, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lackey, of course, is set to make the league minimum salary this season due to an unusual clause in the contract he signed with the Red Sox several years ago. Lackey says he would “love to hear something from the Cardinals. I’d listen to any offers. The ball is in their court.” Last month, however, GM John Mozeliak explained why any new arrangement is unlikely. The Cardinals have no reason to restructure Lackey’s contract without adding a year or more of additional control, and the 36-year-old Lackey will likely want to explore free agency after the season. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • The Pirates appreciate outfielder Travis Snider‘s work with them in the past several seasons, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. The Bucs faced Snider’s new team, the Orioles, in Spring Training action earlier this week. “The last three months of the season, this guy performed very, very well for us at a time it was critically needed,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “Just well-liked, well-appreciated.” The Pirates traded Snider this offseason partly to clear space in right field for the younger Gregory Polanco (and also partly because going with Andrew Lambo or someone else on their bench gives them more flexibility than did Snider, who was out of options). “I didn’t take it personally,” says Snider. “I understand the potential of Gregory Polanco.”
  • Outfielder Shane Robinson has an April 2 opt-out clause in his minor-league deal with the Twins, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. He would be paid $550K at the big-league level this season. The longtime Cardinal hit .304/.380/.398 in 216 plate appearances with Triple-A Memphis last season and has had a good track record of getting on base at the Triple-A level in the past several years. He can also play all three outfield positions. Robinson has never really caught on in the big leagues, though, hitting .231/.303/.308 in parts of five seasons.

Offseason In Review: Minnesota Twins

The Twins have spent four years in the cellar of the AL Central, but they’ve begun to spend on free agents in the past two offseasons in anticipation of the arrival of some of the game’s most highly touted prospects.

Major League Signings

Trades and Claims

  • None

Extensions

Notable Minor League Signings

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Twins finished seventh in the Majors in runs scored last season and batted a combined .254/.324/.389, making them one of 10 teams in baseball to outproduce the production of a league-average hitter, per Fangraphs’ wRC+ metric (102). However, while scoring runs wasn’t a problem for Minnesota, preventing them certainly was, as their pitching and defense were each among the league’s worst.

Torii  HunterThe Twins explored multiple options on the starting pitching market this offseason before eventually agreeing to a four-year, $54MM contract with Ervin Santana. Minnesota had interest in Santana last year in Spring Training, so it wasn’t a shock to see them pursue the righty again. Santana should provide the team with 200-ish league-average or slightly better innings — something it has been lacking in recent years. That’s much the same role that Ricky Nolasco was supposed to fill when he was signed prior to 2014, but Santana has a superior track record and has already demonstrated recent success in the American League.

Though the Twins have a number of outfield prospects rising through the system, none are quite ready to make the leap to the Majors just yet. Understandably then, they sought to find a stopgap, and the Twins made a sentimental play to bring back franchise favorite Torii Hunter on a one-year deal. The 39-year-old Hunter was the Twins’ first-round pick back in the 1993 draft, and he emerged as a star and a core player for the Twins in the mid-2000s as the team perennially contended for the AL Central crown. Hunter can still hit — .286/.319/.446 last year — but his defense has deteriorated significantly. Though he’s on a one-year deal, he’s expressed an openness to returning beyond this season if he’s still productive. With top prospect Byron Buxton fast approaching the Majors alongside other well-regarded prospects like Eddie Rosario, I would think that Hunter may have to accept a reduced role, perhaps as soon as 2016, in order for that to occur.

The Twins also quietly added Tim Stauffer on a one-year deal with a reasonable $2.2MM base salary. He’ll compete for a spot in the rotation, but the likelier outcome is that Stauffer will end up in the bullpen to pick up some of the innings that Jared Burton, now with the Yankees, had accounted for in previous seasons. (The Twins elected to buy out Burton’s $3.6MM option rather than retain him.)

For a team that finished in last place once again, this is a relatively brief “Needs Addressed” section, but the Twins will likely be counting on their farm system to fill in many of the holes around the roster. Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, Josmil Pinto, Trevor May and Alex Meyer are all eventually to contribute in varying capacities this season. Top prospects Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios could also debut in 2015 as well.

Questions Remaining

The Twins have spent aggressively on the starting pitching market over the past two offseasons, giving a combined $138MM to Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey, Phil Hughes and now Santana. While they struck gold on Hughes, who set the Major League record for single-season K/BB ratio last year (11.63) and parlayed that into a three-year, $42MM extension, Nolasco and Pelfrey contributed nothing in 2014. It remains to be seen whether Santana will live up to his deal, but certainly given the expenditure they’ve put forth, one would hope their rotation would have a better outlook. As it is, however, Hughes, Santana and former first-round pick Kyle Gibson will likely be joined by Nolasco and one of Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, Alex Meyer or Trevor May in the fifth slot. While there’s some depth there and Meyer has top-of-the-rotation upside, the unit as a whole looks underwhelming.

As I opined in my Offseason Outlook for the Twins, perhaps the best way to help the pitching may have been to improve an outfield defense that ranked as one of the worst in baseball last season (-36.2 UZR, -50 Defensive Runs Saved). Someone such as Peter Bourjos or Craig Gentry, for instance, could have had their relatively light bat hidden in an otherwise-serviceable lineup while drastically improving the defense. The Twins went another route by bringing back Hunter, who, as mentioned before, has plenty of life in his bat but has seen his once-sterling defensive reputation tarnished with age. Hunter was worth -18 runs per both UZR and DRS last season, so the Twins will again employ a pair of range-challenged corner outfielders in Hunter and Arcia, who will shift to left field with Hunter taking right.

Between them will likely be Aaron Hicks, a former first-round pick and Top 30 prospect that has yet to pan out at the plate or in the field. Though Hicks possesses an incredible throwing arm and is fleet of foot, poor route-running has led to sub-par defensive marks in center field. This will be the now-25-year-old Hicks’ third crack at establishing himself after originally skipping Triple-A to open the 2013 season as the team’s center fielder. He’s batted just .201/.293/.313 in 150 big league games. Hicks could be pushed for playing time by Jordan Schafer, who impressed the Twins after being claimed on waivers last year. Schafer is a lock to make the team either as a fourth outfielder or in a more regular role, but he, too, is a former top prospect that has never realized his offensive potential.

The Twins’ bullpen will be anchored by Minnesota native Glen Perkins, though the 32-year-old ended last season with a minor elbow issue that caused his ERA to balloon in the final month. That’s cleared up now, but he’s been battling an oblique problem in Spring Training as well. It seems minor enough, but the Twins’ bullpen group is thin on established arms. Casey Fien has been nothing short of brilliant in the first half of each of the past two seasons before wilting in each second half, but he’ll be the primary setup man. I’d imagine that Stauffer will take one bullpen slot, and Brian Duensing, who had struck me as a non-tender candidate, will be back in the fold from the left side. If manager Paul Molitor deploys him primarily against southpaws, he should be effective. Pelfrey seems likely to end up in the bullpen as well if he doesn’t win the final rotation spot.

Beyond that mix, names like Michael Tonkin, Caleb Thielbar, Ryan Pressly, Aaron Thompson, A.J. Achter, Logan Darnell and Lester Oliveros will get looks. Non-roster invitee Blaine Boyer would seem to have a good chance as well following a nice comeback effort with the Padres last year. Still, it’s a thin group, and with Perkins ailing somewhat, I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott Boras were trying to sell GM Terry Ryan on Rafael Soriano to come in and solidify the bunch.

For all of the questions elsewhere on the roster, the infield is relatively set. The Twins will hope that better health means a rebound to some degree for Joe Mauer. Brian Dozier emerged as the team’s regular second baseman over the past two seasons and may yet land a long-term deal this spring. Danny Santana had an excellent rookie season playing mostly center field, but he’ll be back at his natural shortstop in 2015. He won’t repeat his preposterous .405 BABIP, but his strong line-drive rate and speed do suggest that he can maintain a mark well above the league average in that regard. Trevor Plouffe continues to see year-to-year improvement and was quietly worth 3.5 fWAR/4.0 rWAR last season. Still, he may be a placeholder until Sano’s massive bat surfaces in the Majors.

Kurt Suzuki signed a two-year, $12MM extension last summer, but as a slow-footed catcher, his .310 BABIP will be tough to repeat, so he may see some regression at the plate. If Pinto hits like he did in 2013 rather than in 2014, the two may eventually flip. Vargas will be the team’s everyday DH after an impressive .274/.316/.456 debut, but he’ll need to refine his approach and improve his abysmal 63-to-12 (5.25) K/BB ratio.

The biggest question surrounding the Twins may simply be if/when Buxton, Sano, Meyer and possibly Berrios arrive in 2015. That group of lauded top prospects is widely believed to be a quartet of potential core players, and Twins fans have long been awaiting their arrival.

Deal of Note

Though the Twins were willing to give Santana three years and $30-33MM this time last year, Santana preferred to bet on himself and take a one-year deal in the NL with the hope of securing a better deal a second time around. (Had he taken the Twins’ offer, he’d have essentially given away the 2015-16 seasons for $16-19MM total.) The Twins reeled him in this time around, however they did so by offering an extra year and another $20MM or so despite the fact that Santana is now a year older.

Santana was often used as an example of why players should accept qualifying offers throughout the 2014 season, but this contract shows that the more likely culprit in his 2013-14 offseason woes was an unreasonable asking price. It’s worth noting that he’ll come away with a combined $68.1MM over his age-31 to age-35 seasons, so he ultimately did well despite having to take a one-year deal in his first foray into free agency.

The greater note, however, is that the signing signals that the Twins do believe they can compete within their division this season. Next year’s market features a wealth of starting pitching options, so it would have made some sense for the Twins to lay low this winter and pounce in six months’ time, adding a premium starter rather than a middle-of-the-road arm to complement a young core that is transitioning to the Majors. Minnesota may still play in free agency next year, depending on how things pan out with Gibson, Nolasco, Milone, Meyer, Berrios and May, but Ryan has said that the Santana signing was made to compete in 2015.

Additionally, it has to be pointed out that the Twins surrendered a high second-round pick (their first-rounder is protected) in order to land Santana. The No. 47 overall pick in last year’s draft was worth $1.188MM, and it could be worth around $1.29MM in the coming draft. That’s a significant amount of bonus money, which might have been used to add to an already excellent farm system.

Overview

The Twins seem likely to be a better club than they were in 2014. The addition of Santana will improve what was, but may still be, a below-average pitching staff. For Minnesota, the 2015 season will be expected to be one in which a corner is turned; looking around the lineup, three spots — shortstop, left field and DH — will be occupied by top organizational prospects that have graduated to the Majors and already begun to realize some of their potential. In the rotation, Gibson will be asked to take a step forward, and the Twins can only hope for some degree of breakout from Hicks in center field. If he’s not able to contribute, he may not factor into their plans much longer, with outfielders Buxton, Arcia and Eddie Rosario presenting a possible trio to build upon.

Reinforcements will be on the way throughout the season, but it still seems a stretch to peg this team as a wild card or division contender. Stranger things have happened, and the talent is there if some prospects make a greater-than-expected impact, but 2016-17 seems like a more realistic timeframe for the Twins to again find themselves in a playoff hunt.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Out Of Options Players: AL Central

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I’ve included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR’s sources.  Today, we’ll take a look at the AL Central.

White Sox: Maikel Cleto, Conor Gillaspie, Javy Guerra, Dan Jennings, Hector Noesi

The White Sox claimed Cleto off waivers from the Royals in February 2014, removing him from their 40-man roster in May and re-adding him in August.  He and Guerra are among those vying for a couple of spots in the team’s revamped bullpen, which features new additions David Robertson, Zach Duke, and Jennings.  Opening the season with an eight-man pen is possible.  In a Saturday post, Jim Margalus of South Side Sox ranked Cleto ahead of Guerra.

Indians: Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Nick Hagadone, Zach McAllister, Brandon Moss

Carrasco and Bauer have rotation spots locked down for the Indians.  McAllister is competing with a pool of others for two open spots, with Gavin Floyd‘s injury creating an opening.  About a month ago, Indians manager Terry Francona implied McAllister will make the club, either as a starter or reliever.  Also about a month ago, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian described Hagadone as a “virtual lock” for the Tribe’s pen.

Tigers: Jose Iglesias, Hernan Perez, Andrew Romine

Perez and Romine were thought to be in competition for one bench spot, writes James Schmehl of Mlive.com, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said recently the team could break camp with both on the roster.  If healthy, Iglesias will be the everyday shortstop.

Royals: Louis Coleman, Jarrod Dyson, Erik Kratz

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star broke down the Royals’ bullpen situation yesterday.  Relievers Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor, and Chris Young are locked into a pen that could break camp with eight.  At present, it seems likely they’ll be able to find a spot for Coleman.

As McCullough noted in an earlier article, Kratz is competing with Francisco Pena for the backup catcher job.  He feels that the 34-year-old Kratz is a better fit for the gig than Pena, who is 25.  Dyson will be the team’s fourth outfielder.

Twins: Eduardo Escobar, Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, Jordan Schafer

Escobar seems assured a utility infield job on the team, but Nunez’s status is uncertain.  A trade seems possible.  Schafer’s all but certain to be Minnesota’s fourth outfielder.


AL Notes: Infante, Baldoquin, Pelfrey

Let’s have a look at a few American League notes to round out the day’s news:

  • Royals second baseman Omar Infante is considering offseason elbow surgery — next offseason, that is — as he tells Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (Twitter link). Infante recently took a cortisone shot to help reduce inflammation in his right arm, which has kept him out of game action thus far this spring. His ability to play through the difficulties in 2015, and rebound from a tough 2014 campaign, will be important to Kansas City’s ability to return to the postseason.
  • The Angels will finally get a look at major offseason international free agent signee Roberto Baldoquin, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. Baldoquin, a twenty-year-old infielder out of Cuba, signed for $8MM but was kept out of camp by visa issues.
  • Righty Mike Pelfrey is vying to make good on the two-year, $11MM deal he signed with the Twins last year by battling his way into the fifth starter role, as Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports. Last year was a wash for Pelfrey and Minnesota, as he struggled mightily before going down to elbow surgery. Pelfrey says he still believes in his ability to succeed as a starter, but is willing to throw from the pen if that’s what the team needs.

Latest On Extension Talks Between Twins, Brian Dozier

MARCH 12: In a radio appearance on 1500 ESPN, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony told Darren Wolfson that nothing is close between the two sides (Twitter link). However, Wolfson hears from other sources that the two sides are still talking.

MARCH 3: 5:04pm: The Twins are set to meet with Lapa tomorrow, MLB.com’s Rhett Bolinger reports. Nothing is imminent right now, per the report.

7:59am: The Twins and second baseman Brian Dozier are making progress on an extension, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The deal is believed to be close, per Berardino’s source. Dozier, a client of All Bases Covered Sports Management’s Damon Lapa, naturally declined comment on any talks, though he did express a willingness and openness to signing a long-term pact. “I don’t want to be anywhere else,” he told Berardino. “If the opportunity presents itself, then I’m all for it. We’ll see.”

Dozier, 28 in May, has gone from a relatively unheralded prospect to what looks to be a potential long-term answer at second base for the Twins in short order. Over the past two seasons, he’s shown 20-homer, 20-steal capabilities and batted .243/.330/.415 with 41 homers and anywhere from slightly below-average defense to slightly above, depending on your metric of choice. (For what it’s worth, I consider Dozier to be underrated by defensive metrics.) Fangraphs has pegged him at 7.3 wins above replacement over the past two seasons, while Baseball-Reference, which likes his defense more, has him at about nine wins.

In terms of plate discipline, Dozier made a significant step forward in 2014, boosting his walk rate to 12.6 percent and cutting his strikeout rate to 18.2 percent. The uptick in walks bodes well for further positive OBP marks in the future, and if he can work to reduce his pop-ups (15 percent of his fly-balls are of the infield variety), he could harness that keen eye into better batting average marks down the line as well.

Dozier isn’t yet arbitration-eligible, and a look at MLBTR’s Extension Tracker shows a pair of potentially relevant comparables in extension talks; both Jason Kipnis and Matt Carpenter agreed to extensions in the $52MM range over six-year terms last spring when they were in Dozier’s same service class.