Minnesota Twins Rumors

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

Central Notes: Lucroy Injury, Iglesias, Twins, Shields

The Brewers announced today that a mild right hamstring strain will cost All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy four to six weeks of action in Spring Training. Obviously, that news brings into question whether or not Lucroy can be ready for Opening Day with the Brewers. As Adam McCalvy of MLB.com writes, however, Lucroy recently had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his hamstring to speed the recovery process and believes he will be ready come Opening Day. The team does have a serviceable backup in Martin Maldonado, should Lucroy’s recovery take longer than expected, but even missing a few weeks of Lucroy’s bat and elite glove could be a significant detriment in what figures to be a highly competitive NL Central Division. (For more on Lucroy’s defense, check out this excellent article by Rob Arthur of Baseball Prospectus detailing the effect of pitch-framing not only on called strikes but on expanding a hitter’s swing profile.)

Here are a few more notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias, signed by the Reds to a seven-year, $27MM contract last summer, has a legitimate chance to end up in Cincinnati’s rotation, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer in looking at 10 pertinent questions facing the Reds as Spring Training approaches. Scouts in the Arizona Fall League and manager Bryan Price all raved to Fay about Iglesias’ AFL performance. “Four pitches with command — that spells out starting pitcher, especially when it’s plus-stuff across the board,” Price said. “He was 93-97, so the velocity is there. The action on his fastball is there, much better changeup than I anticipated seeing and two quality breaking balls and a good feel.” If Iglesias can indeed crack the rotation, that could be a significant boost to a team that saw both Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon depart via trade this winter.
  • Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN writes that he has been asked by Twins fans, and wondered himself, why Minnesota didn’t go on a Padres-like tear to restructure their roster into a win-now club. While Mackey concedes that Minnesota’s deep farm system makes it possible to have done something similar, he points out that the Padres had a lower payroll to start with than the Twins and even after their flurry of moves are now on par with Minnesota. Additionally, San Diego’s method comes with plenty of risk, as Justin Upton looks to be a one-year rental, and the team has taken the risk that Matt Kemp‘s arthritic hips will hold up, and James Shields‘ productivity will continue through age 36. Mackey looks at recent winter remakes by the 2008 Tigers and Mariners, the 2012 Marlins and 2013 Blue Jays and notes that none have been successful (though Detroit eventually emerged as a perennial contender). Ultimately, he concludes, his preference is for a long-term, sustainable run at success with a deep farm system, such as the one currently possessed by the Twins.
  • Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and several scouts were on hand today to watch Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez in the Dominican Republic, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Just 18 years old, Alvarez was clocked between 93 and 97 mph and received positive words from Fangraphs prospect/scouting guru Kiley McDaniel earlier today.
  • Though the Royals will miss Shields’ arm in their rotation, he gave them exactly what they needed at a time they needed it the most, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Shields helped instill a winning culture in the Royals’ clubhouse, bringing a “swagger and a level of confidence that we didn’t have before,” GM Dayton Moore explained to Flanagan. Shields created a belief among his teammates that they could win on any given night and orchestrated elaborate victory celebrations. Not only that, but he became a role model for young arms such as Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura“He was a tremendous help to me,” Duffy told Flanagan. “You learn so much just talking to him.” In addition to those intangible benefits, of course, the Royals got two years of excellent production and the No. 33 pick in the 2015 draft.

Quick Hits: Prospects, Offseason Assessment, NPB

Baseball Prospectus has released its top-100 (+1) prospects list, and it has some fairly significant differences of opinion at the top from other compilations. Most notably, BP lists Cubs standout Kris Bryant fifth overall, preferring the more well-rounded skillsets of the Twins‘ Byron Buxton (No. 1) and three shortstop prospects to Bryant’s immense power potential. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis list their favorite sleeper prospects, with Mayo choosing Mets farmhand Gabriel Ynoa at the top of his board and Callis giving the nod to Astros outfielder Brett Phillips.

  • With much of the winter’s business conducted, it is time for observers to pronounce winners and losers. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs rightly points out, in assessing a club’s hot stove season, some tend only to focus on clubs that have done the most trading of future assets for present expected production.
  • While this year’s free agent crop had plenty of question marks, that may have driven a memorable offseason of swaps, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. Ben notes that some deals seemingly came about in part due to weakness in areas of the free agent market, to say nothing of the fact that clubs were obviously interested in buying up shorter-term commitments by dealing for pending free agents (twenty of whom changed hands).
  • The anecdotal evidence of bias against foreign players in Japan’s NPB remains largely unclear after applying available statistical methods, Eno Sarris writes in a piece for FOX Sports. While there is “some evidence of systematic differences,” differences in approach and styles of play could be the root cause, rather than some systemic disfavoring of non-native players.

AL Notes: V-Mart, Miley, Hunter, Mariners

News broke earlier today that Victor Martinez will undergo knee surgery on Tuesday, and until the veteran slugger’s procedure is complete, the Tigers have no choice but to play the waiting game. “I don’t know what I need to fill [on the roster],” GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jason Beck). “We’re going to have to wait to do all of that until Tuesday.” If the best-case scenario of a four-to-six week absence is met, Detroit can rely on short-term fill-ins to take Martinez’s place. Mlive.com’s James Schmehl lists several internal options within the organization, and he also opines that free agents Dayan Viciedo and Chris Colabello could also fit as temporary replacements or bench depth.

Here’s some more from around the junior circuit…

  • Wade Miley‘s three-year extension with the Red Sox has some positive luxury tax implications for the team, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. By locking Miley up now, he’ll likely cost Boston less against the tax than he would’ve had he gone year-to-year in arbitration. These savings could help the Sox get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold next winter or in 2017.
  • In an interview on the MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show (hat tip to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger), Torii Hunter said he wasn’t yet sure if 2015 will be his last season. “I don’t know. Right now, I’m just taking it one year at a time,” Hunter said. The 18-year veteran reportedly turned down some two-year offers before signing a one-year deal with the Twins in December.
  • Mariners president Kevin Mather and GM Jack Zduriencik both attended a private workout for Cuban players Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez, though Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times “wouldn’t overthink” why the two front office figures were present. As Divish notes, Mather and Zduriencik were already in the Dominican Republic for organizational meetings, so while it’s usually rare to see upper management at workouts, it makes sense that the two would check in on the workout during their visit.
  • The Blue Jays‘ focus on developing young starting pitching is the backbone of Alex Anthopoulos’ plan to make the club into a consistent contender, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi writes. The Jays have built a very solid offensive core, but if the young arms fail to deliver, the team’s plans over the next few seasons become very uncertain.
  • Astros owner Jim Crane likes his team’s offseason moves and tells MLB.com’s Richard Dean that GM Jeff Luhnow has more possible acquisitions in the works. “Jeff’s still working on a few — we’re looking for a couple more players [to see] if we can make a couple more key additions,” Crane said. “But we like the moves we’ve made, and I think the team’s going to be very exciting this year — a lot more competitive.”


AL Central Notes: Tigers, Albers, Giambi, Gwynn

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed reporters yesterday and touched on a number of Hot Stove related topics. Via James Schmehl of MLive.com (All Twitter links), Dombrowski again stated that he’s happy with his current group of starters and rejected the idea of a serious pursuit of James Shields. Dombrowski did say he’s open to adding another arm, but it would come in the form of a non-roster invite, if it happens at all. As for free agents Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain, both of whom posted sub-4.00 ERAs out of the Detroit bullpen last year, there’s been no serious discussions with either of them, and neither is likely to return to the team in 2015.

Here are a few more notes out of the much-improved AL Central as Spring Traning nears…

  • The Tigers will be among the teams in attendance to watch righty Matt Albers throw next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Shoulder problems limited the big righty to 10 innings of work in 2014, but he’s been quite effective dating back to 2012, posting a combined 2.63 ERA in 133 1/3 frames. Albers averaged 5.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in that time, registering an exceptional 59.4 percent ground-ball rate as well.
  • The Indians have a standing offer to Jason Giambi to work for the team in a non-playing capacity, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted earlier this week. It’s unclear exactly what role Giambi would fill, but he’s beloved in the Cleveland clubhouse and organization after playing there the past two seasons, so it’s likely that the players would be receptive to such an idea. Giambi, 44, has batted a combined .171/.246/.346 with 11 homers in 286 plate appearances for Cleveland since signing there prior to the 2013 campaign.
  • Tony Gwynn Jr.’s representatives at John Boggs and Associates are trying to sell the Twins on his defensive prowess in center field, but the team isn’t biting at this time, tweets 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson. Minnesota’s outfield defense does figure to be a problem in 2015, but they’ll go with a mix of Oswaldo ArciaAaron Hicks, Torii Hunter and Jordan Schafer to open the year. I’d imagine Gwynn could be stashed at Triple-A, making him a reasonable add, although Byron Buxton figures to occupy center field at Triple-A sometime in 2015 as well, so the Twins may simply prefer not to bring in an outside veteran. It’s been a quiet offseason for Gwynn, though this is the second time this month we’ve heard some rumblings about the 32-year-old defensive standout.

Twins Assistant GM Antony On Offseason, Farm System, Future

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down for his yearly interview with Jesse Lund of SB Nation’s Twinkie Town, and the two discussed a number of topics, including the Twins’ offseason moves, the future of Torii Hunter in Minnesota, the 2015 rotation, the farm system in general and the timelines of vaunted prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. The whole interview — split into a Major League portion and a Minor League portion – while lengthy, is well worth the read for Twins fans (and baseball fans in general). Here are some highlights…

  • Antony explains to Lund that the Twins are aware of Hunter’s defensive decline but still feel that he can be adequate in right field. The Twins valued Hunter’s bat and also his experience and vocal leadership style — something the front office feels the team has lacked in recent years. Hunter “doesn’t have any interest in playing anywhere else,” Antony adds, noting that while he’s on a one-year deal, Hunter could return for future seasons as long as he remains healthy and productive. I’d imagine that would eventually require a reduced role for Hunter, possibly as soon as next season.
  • Left-hander Tommy Milone struggled greatly after being acquired from the A’s on July 31, but the reason for his troubles may very well have been a benign tumor that was discovered in his neck after the season. Antony tells Lund that the tumor “took a long time to discover” but has since been removed.
  • Milone will be one of several starters battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, alongside Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Tim Stauffer and Mike Pelfrey. Antony discusses the Twins’ signing of Ervin Santana and how leaving just one spot in the rotation may block some useful players but creates much-needed depth. He also confirms that the Twins had interest in Santana on a multi-year deal late last offseason. “I think we actually kind of picked up our conversations. He had a little bit better idea of where his market was [this offseason],” Antony adds.
  • Shortly before the Santana signing, the Twins “took a run at some relievers” that ultimately signed elsewhere, per Antony. Mike Berardino reported in December that the Twins made an offer to Jason Frasor, so he’s likely one of the names in question. As for the others, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek are possibilities, as they signed with Houston just one day before the Twins added Santana. David Robertson and Andrew Miller also signed in the week leading up to Minnesota’s addition of Santana, though it strikes me as unlikely that the team made a serious run at either.
  • Asked about a previous report that the Twins thought they had a pair of trades agreed upon before the other party took a different offer at the last minute, Antony replied: “It wasn’t anything major, where we were on the cusp of doing anything big. We had conversations with a few different clubs, and they showed some interest in our players and we exchanged names and those types of things … it didn’t evolve.”
  • It was Phil Hughes‘ camp who first approached the Twins about an extension, Antony says, and the team was immediately receptive to the idea. The Twins recognized how steeply the asking price would increase if Hughes repeated his 2014 season and was only a year from free agency and “took an opportunity.” Antony feels that with Hughes getting financial security and the team getting a potential building block for its rotation, the trade worked out for both parties.
  • The Twins’ front office feels the team underachieved in 2014 and was capable of winning 76-77 games rather than the 70 with which they finished. As such, Antony said he’s hopeful of finishing near or above the .500 mark this season and believes the team should be fighting for a playoff spot come 2016.
  • While Minnesota used to shy away from pitchers who were likely destined for the bullpen near the top of the draft, Antony says their philosophical outlook has changed. Players with plus velocity and a strong secondary pitch are typically off the board early, he notes, and the Twins loaded up on such arms this year, grabbing the likes of Nick Burdi, Michael Cederoth and Jake Reed.
  • Both Sano and Buxton could be with the team in 2015, with Antony specifying a September callup as a possibility for Sano while speaking more generally about a possible Buxton promotion. Additionally, Antony didn’t rule out the possibility of highly regarded right-hander Jose Berrios making the 2015 club at some point.
  • Asked about the reasoning behind signing Santana as opposed to waiting until next offseason when there is a stronger crop of free agent starters, Antony cited a desire to get better for the 2015 season and faith that some of the arms in the system could eventually develop into front-end types to pair with Santana and Hughes. Specifically, he mentioned Meyer: “[H]opefully Alex Meyer is a guy that, six/seven years from now, people are saying ‘Glad the Twins signed him long-term’ … and he becomes one of those guys.”
  • The Twins are hopeful that Sano, Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia will settle in as their 3-4-5 hitters of the future and don’t foresee adding any big-time power bats to the mix in the near term.

Quick Hits: Betemit, Prospects, Cuba, Indians

Free agent infielder Wilson Betemit has received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for amphetamine usage, the league announced. Betemit, who turned 33 in November, is currently a minor league free agent. He struggled through 453 plate appearances with the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate last year but is a lifetime .267/.332/.442 hitter in the Majors.

Here are some more notes around the game:

  • The latest top-100 prospect list is out, with MLB.com’s team providing its view of the game’s best young talent in both a list and articles from prospect gurus Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis. MLB.com still sees Byron Buxton of the Twins as the game’s best prospect, placing him above Kris Bryant of the Cubs by a narrow margin.
  • That sort of prospect ranking could increasingly become populated by Cuban ballplayers if changes in diplomatic relations go as far as might be imagined. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez provides an interesting take on that possibility, providing some quotes from notable Cuban ballplayers who are in Puerto Rico for the Caribbean Series.
  • Of course, some of the very best players never receive the recognition of a top prospect. According to Sahadev Sharma, in a piece for FOX Sports, the Indians have been notably excellent at trading for (and developing) high-level big league talent that came unadorned with significant prospect pedigree. Among the team’s recent finds are Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, and Yan Gomes. That handful of players led the way for Cleveland last year, accounting for a remarkable 24.8 fWAR.

Pitching Notes: Zito, Belisario, Twins

Former AL Cy Young winner Barry Zito is throwing for  “select group” of teams on Tuesday, agent Scott Boras tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). Zito, who sat out the 2014 season, is eyeing a return to the game and hopes to sign with a team before Spring Training. He last followed up a respectable 2012 season with a dismal 2013 campaign, pitching to a 5.74 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 133 1/3 innings for the Giants.

Here are a few more pitching notes from around the game:

  • Ronald Belisario‘s contract with the Rays can max out at $1.8MM if he reaches all of his incentives, tweets CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. Belisario inked a minor league pact with the Rays over the weekend just days after a similar deal with the Blue Jays fell through. The right-hander will compete for a spot in Tampa’s bullpen this spring.
  • The Twins are open to adding some relief help, according to previous reports, but Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the team isn’t showing interest in righty David Aardsma at this time. The former Mariners closer, who enjoyed a strong season with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in 2014, will audition for clubs next Monday.
  • Speaking of the Twins‘ bullpen, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger did his best to sort out the many candidates in his latest Twins Inbox column. In addition to his take on who is most likely to comprise Minnesota’s relief corps in 2015, Bollinger notes that offseason signee Tim Stauffer will get a chance to earn a spot in the rotation, despite the fact that most believed he was signed as a bullpen addition.

Quick Hits: Workman, Ogando, Rockies, Loria

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball, per MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. The Cubs have two prospects in the top five – Kris Bryant (second) and Addison Russell (fifth). The Dodgers have three in the top 13 – Corey Seager (seventh), Julio Urias (eighth), and Joc Pederson (13th). The Cubs and Twins are the two teams with five prospects in the top 50. Here’s more news from around the league.


AL Central Notes: Garcia, Viciedo, Weeks, Ichiro

The White Sox rank at the very top of the list of offseason winners compiled by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. GM Rick Hahn ticked through many of the team’s questions this winter and should have a competitive team to show for it, says Heyman. Of course, despite plenty of praise, there are still some non-believers out there. They can point to this year’s PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus, which see Chicago as a 78-win team. Also of note from PECOTA, which is rather down on the division on the whole: the Tigers are tabbed as a .500 club, while the Royals project to win just 72 wins after appearing in the World Series last year.

More from the south side and the AL Central:

  • The White Sox are a much improved team heading into the 2015 season, but much of the optimism surrounding the club relies on the contributions of right fielder Avisail Garcia, writes Fangraphs’ Neil Weinberg. Perception appears to be that Garcia can handily outperform the just-designated Dayan Viciedo, but Weinberg cautions that we shouldn’t readily accept that as fact. Garcia’s stats to date tell a similar tale to that of Viciedo — modest on-base percentage with some power and below-average base-running and defensive skills. While Garcia’s track record is clearly smaller, the two are excellent statistical comps even when looking at their production through the age of 23. Weinberg notes that scouts have long questioned whether or not Garcia would be able to resist bad pitches and make enough contact to succeed, and the assumption that he will outperform Viciedo is based largely on perceived ceiling as opposed to likely outcomes.
  • Newly-designated White Sox slugger Dayan Viciedo should generate plenty of interest, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The American League West offers the best matches, Morosi argues, with the Mariners, Athletics, and Rangers all potentially making sense as landing spots.
  • Despite some apparent suggestions, the Twins are not interested in free agent second baseman Rickie Weeks, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. That is not terribly surprising, given that the right-handed-hitting Weeks does not play short and would presumably have needed to serve as a backup to two right-handed hitters in Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe.
  • Ichiro Suzuki‘s representatives (who he shares with Twins skipper Paul Molitor) tried to generate interest in the veteran from Minnesota, but the club never saw a fit, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. As Berardino explains, Ichiro and Molitor — both incredible pure hitters — share an interesting relationship.

Pitching Notes: Shields, Albers, Cotts, Gee

In his latest piece on the market for James Shields, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at the most recent significant contracts for starting pitchers of age 33 or older and points out that history is not on Shields’ side. MLBTR took a similar look at Shields in Spring Training of last year, noting that recent history suggested it’d be difficult to find a team willing to guarantee his age-37 season. Rosenthal notes that executives to whom he has spoken cite Shields’ age, innings backlog, declining strikeout rate and shaky postseason track record as negatives. At this point, Rosenthal feels a four-year deal worth less than $20MM annually is likely.

A few more pitching notes from around the league…

  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Twins were informed yesterday of a Feb. 10 showcase for right-hander Matt Albers in Houston (Twitter link). All teams are invited to watch Albers throw, of course, and Wolfson does note that the Twins are open to adding a bullpen arm. A shoulder injury limited Albers to just eight appearances with the Astros in 2014, but he does have a pristine 2.63 ERA over his past 133 1/3 big league innings (three seasons’ worth of work).
  • While it’s been previously written that the Rangers expect Neal Cotts to sign elsewhere, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram now reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers have been officially informed that the 34-year-old lefty will sign with a different team this offseason. Cotts wasn’t able to replicate his exceptional 1.11 ERA from his 2013 comeback, but he did post a 4.32 ERA with solid peripheral stats in 2014 (8.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 3.58 FIP, 3.41 SIERA).
  • The Mets still aren’t close to trading Dillon Gee, tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, nor are they close to dealing any of their other potentially available starters (presumably referring to Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon). However, as DiComo notes, that type of situation can change quickly in the three weeks leading up to Spring Training, and of course, a deal could always be negotiated in Spring Training as well.