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Minnesota Twins Rumors
The Brewers fell to the Reds today by a score of 5-3, thereby officially eliminating the club from the postseason despite having spent 150 days in first place in the NL Central this season. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy notes, Milwaukee’s collapse makes the Brewers the first team since divisional play began in 1969 to spend that much time in first place but miss the postseason (Twitter link).
Here are some notes from Milwaukee and elsewhere in the game’s central divisions …
- Ryan Braun could at least theoretically be moved from the outfield to plug the Brewers‘ hole at first base, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Manager Ron Roenicke said that the team had discussed that possibility, but indicated that it was a hypothetical discussion that did not seem likely to go anywhere. If Braun stays in the outfield, the team will both need to find a new first bagger (both Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay are free agents) and will face a more difficult decision whether to tender a contract to Gerardo Parra. As McCalvy notes, there are currently three possibilities already on the club’s 40-man roster in Matt Clark, Hunter Morris, and Jason Rogers. Otherwise, Milwaukee could turn to a free agent market that does appear to have a decent number of lumbering slugger types available.
- Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez will soon meet with his agent, Paul Kinzer, to discuss his strategic options, writes McCalvy. Ramirez says that he has yet to seriously consider his future, though generally would like to stay with Milwaukee and is not sure he is interested in committing to multiple years. If he does decide to test the open market, Ramirez would need to turn down a $14MM mutual option (if it is offered in lieu of a $4MM buyout). Though his production is down somewhat this year, the 36-year-old remains a solid regular and would draw plenty of attention on the open market.
- After a rain delay put a premature end to the last start of the season for Phil Hughes of the Twins, the club offered him a chance to make a relief appearance this weekend to notch the last out needed to trigger a $500K contract bonus, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (links to Twitter). Even more remarkable than that offer, perhaps, is the fact that Hughes declined, saying that he “owe[s] too much to the organization over the next two years to risk getting hurt.” (GM Terry Ryan said that it was not possible simply to give Hughes the cash, since the CBA would require a completely restructured contract, though Hughes also shot down that idea as setting a “bad precedent.”) Needless to say, this interesting tale puts a shine on an already gleaming turnaround year for Hughes.
- The emergence of Hector Rondon as the Cubs‘ closer this year makes him an easy choice to keep the role next year, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Rondon, 26, took a big step forward in 2014, striking out nearly nine batters per nine (against 2.2 BB/9) while registering a 2.49 ERA. If he continues to rack up the saves — he sits at 27 on the year — Rondon will set himself up for a nice payday when he reaches arbitration eligibility after next season. His continued presence at the back of the pen — bolstered by Pedro Strop and Neil Ramirez, both of whom have had strong campaigns — could keep the Cubs out of the free agent market for late-inning arms.
Phil Hughes‘ excellent season with the Twins has been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season for Minnesota, and his final start on Wednesday had plenty of significance. Hughes whiffed five hitters and walked none, giving him an 11.63-to-1 K/BB ratio on the season — a new Major League record. However, it rained in Minneapolis for a little over an hour after the eighth inning, causing Hughes’ start to end even though he had thrown just 96 pitches. That caused Hughes to fall an unthinkable one out shy of a $500K bonus — an incentive he would have triggered upon reaching 210 innings. As Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com tweeted after the game, manager Ron Gardenhire said Hughes will not pitch in relief this weekend in order to reach the $500K bonus — meaning that poor weather (Hughes also had a Sept. 13 start rained out) will likely cost him half a million dollars. Hughes told Bollinger that he was very aware of what he needed to do Wednesday in order to secure his final contractual incentive but took the terrible luck in stride, saying, “Some things aren’t meant to be.” Hughes did earn $250K worth of bonuses for reaching both 180 and 195 innings, bringing his 2014 salary to $8.5MM.
More from the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Chris Iott of MLive.com that the Tigers had scouts on hand to see Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic this past Sunday, but he wouldn’t tip his hand as to whether or not his club was scheduling a private workout with the slugger. The Rangers and Phillies have both had private workouts with Tomas, who was the subject of MLBTR’s first Free Agent Profile of the upcoming offseason. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Tomas for seven years and $105MM — a contract that would be a record-setter in terms of total guarantee and average annual value for a Cuban player.
- While the White Sox figure to add to their bullpen this offseason, Jake Petricka has carved out a role as future member of the group, writes Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. The 26-year-old Petricka has seen time in the closer’s role this season, converting 14 of 18 save opportunities and pitching to a 2.88 ERA in 72 innings. While he doesn’t have an elite strikeout rate (6.9 K/9), his 63.9 percent ground-ball rate ranks fifth among qualified relievers. Fellow right-hander Zach Putnam — he of a 1.98 ERA in 54 2/3 innings — also figures to be a bullpen cog for the South Siders going forward, Kane notes.
- Though he was only drafted three and a half months ago, Brandon Finnegan has emerged as a bullpen weapon for the Royals, and assistant GM J.J. Picollo tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the team won’t rule out Finnegan breaking camp with the team in 2015. The team’s ultimate vision is to use Finnegan as a starter, so it’s more likely that he begins next year at Double-A or Triple-A, McCullough notes. Still, the team plans to replace James Shields internally, writes McCullough, and Picollo refused to put any hard limitations on Finnegan’s trajectory: “I don’t think it’s out of the question that he would start (the season) in the major leagues. … I’m not saying it’s what we’re going to do. But he’ll be given an opportunity to win a job on the team.”
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe suffered a fractured left forearm today, as LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reports on Twitter. That will end the 28-year-old’s season, but not before he posted a solid .258/.326/.423 slash over 520 plate appearances. Presumably, he will return to full strength in time for the spring — after taking his second pass through the arbitration process.
Here’s the latest out of Minnesota:
- As things stand in today’s game, starter Phil Hughes has gone eight innings on 96 pitches and stands just one out away from reaching 210 innings on the year — which would trigger a third and final $500K incentive payment. But, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets, a rain delay is now threatening to complicate Hughes’s bid to finish his excellent season with a complete game and a healthy bonus payout.
- GM Terry Ryan told reporters that he hopes to stay at the helm of the Twins next year, as ESPN.com reports. Ryan said he is doing well eight months after his cancer diagnosis, and feels physically capable of doing the job. He will sit down after the season with owner Jim Pohlad, as usual, to discuss his future. All reports have indicated that Ryan is expected to return.
- Meanwhile, manager Ron Gardenhire said today that he, too, hopes to be back in 2015, as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports. “Why wouldn’t you want to be here? This is as good as it gets,” said Gardenhire. “But I’m all for whatever’s best for the organization, too.” For his part, Ryan has said that a decision on Gardenhire’s future has yet to be reached, but will be forthcoming quickly after the season ends.
- The Twins have a talented group of young Latin American players, but lack Spanish-speaking coaches to serve as mentors, writes Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune. As the flow of Latin talent to the club’s MLB roster increases, says Reusse, it is incumbent upon Minnesota’s leadership to create an environment that will get the most out of those players.
A 2015 postseason appearance for the Yankees will likely hinge on improvements from costly middle-of-the-order hitters like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Barring a surprise, last year’s big spending leaves the club with few options to add significant run production to its lineup, explains Sherman.
Here’s more from the American League:
- Rays outfielder Matt Joyce says that he believes he will be dealt in the offseason, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The 30-year-old is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility after earning $3.7MM this season. “I think there’s a good chance [of a trade], just knowing the organization and how they operate and how many young guys that they have in the outfield and coming up through the system,” said Joyce. The left-handed hitting outfielder owns a .252/.348/.379 slash over 477 plate appearances this year, continuing a trend of declining power numbers since he broke into the league.
- The top offseason priority for the Twins will be the rotation, GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Of course, that seemed to be the case last year, when the team made significant commitments to free agent hurlers Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey. Only Hughes has been a hit, though he does look to be a legitimate bargain.
- For the Astros, meanwhile, the bullpen figures to receive the most attention this winter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. GM Jeff Luhnow said that the club might have seen a significant jump had two of its expected pen pieces — Matt Albers and Jesse Crain — been able to contribute more innings. Looking forward, he said that the team has no choice but to take its chances adding relief arms. “We’ve reflected on our process last year and made some improvements and we feel good about that,” said Luhnow. “It’s always a risk with relievers because there’s a lot of variables year to year, but we feel good we’ll identify the right guys and go after them, and hopefully get a good roll of the dice this time in terms of the health side of the equation.”
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes looks at six teams that badly need some fixing this offseason. The list starts with the Braves, who have been held back in part by B.J. Upton‘s five-year, $75MM deal. The Rangers also need some serious help in the form of two starting pitchers, a right-handed power bat, and possibly a catcher. The Phillies are in the toughest spot of all, Cafardo writes, as they are overloaded with older players on bad contracts. Here are some of the highlights from today’s column..
- As teams start putting together lists of pitchers who could be had in trade this offseason, Jeremy Hellickson’s name has been surfacing. One AL team believes that the Rays could make another Wil Myers-Jake Odorizzi for James Shields-Wade Davis type of deal centering around Hellickson, who is still just 27 and inexpensive.
- It looks more and more like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will return next season. A Twins executive said he would be “surprised” if Gardenhire didn’t come back based on his young team playing hard and having fun playing the spoiler role down the stretch.
- Even with Alex Rodriguez coming back, Cafardo sees the Yankees as a possibility for Hanley Ramirez if the Dodgers don’t retain him.
- The Red Sox haven’t committed to bringing David Ross back next season but it doesn’t appear he’ll have to worry about finding a job. A few teams have privately discussed Ross as a backup/mentor. If Boston moves on from Ross, there aren’t many clear-cut alternatives on the open market.
- Red Sox vice president of player personnel Allard Baird had a very good interview for the Diamondbacks‘ vacant GM job, but Tony La Russa is still leaning towards Dave Stewart or Gary LaRocque, according to a source. Baird, of course, was the GM of the Royals from 2000-06.
- Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield is beginning to receive more interest as a managerial candidate. Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned more often for openings, Cafardo writes.
Several MLB clubs have dabbled with neurological training in a bid to improve their hitters’ pitch recognition, as Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal writes. The Red Sox, Cubs, and Rays have already initiated programs, but more could be on the way. As Boston GM Ben Cherington explains, the purpose of taking this approach is to help young batters develop a stronger mental connection between seeing a pitch and deciding whether or not to swing. Quick reactions — physical and mental — are all the more important given rising fastball velocities around the league. One mark of that: at least 52 minor league hurlers have been clocked at or above 100 mph this year, according to the count of Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper.
Here are a few notes of interest from around the league:
- Twins center fielder Jordan Schafer has had an up and down time since becoming a professional, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Most recently, he was claimed by Minnesota over the summer after he failed to live up to a solid 2013 campaign with the Braves. The speedy 28-year-old has put up excellent numbers in his new home: a .298/.365/.386 slash with 15 stolen bases over 131 plate appearances. He will be eligible for arbitration for the second time after the year.
- As the Giants welcome back Michael Morse from injury, other developments could limit his playing time over the last few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs to come, as Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports. With Brandon Belt returning to the fold and Gregor Blanco having performed well in Morse’s stead, a regular spot may no longer be available. Though Morse rebounded from a mid-year swoon with a strong August, his defensive shortcomings have become more of an issue, according to Baggarly. Morse remains a difficult player to peg as a pending free agent: the 32-year-old has a productive .280/.338/.477 line with 16 home runs over 480 plate appearances, but defensive metrics paint a rough image of his contribution in the field.
- The Reds are still contemplating whether Cuban free agent signee Raisel Iglesias will take the mound competitively over the winter in Puerto Rico, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Iglesias, a 24-year-old righty, has been working on strength and conditioning since inking a seven-year, $27MM deal with Cincinnati, and only just began long-tossing. He is under reserve with the Santurce Cangrejeros, and would throw for that club if he does play winter ball.
Phil Hughes of the Twins has capped off one of the game’s best turnarounds by topping 200 innings on the year after today’s outing. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes on Twitter, Hughes picked up a $250K bonus after passing the 195 IP threshold. Needless to say, Minnesota is thrilled that it not only landed Hughes, who just turned 28, but that it did so on a three-year deal that promises him just $24MM in total. As Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register observes (Twitter link), Hughes has struck out 181 batters while issuing a mere 16 walks this year, meaning that he owns an absurd 11.3 K/BB ratio. That is a historically significant mark, and one that would surely have made the righty one of the offseason’s most interesting free agents had he elected to take a one-year pillow contract last year.
- You can count the Yankees among the teams taking a hard look at Yasmani Tomas, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Of course, they will be far from the only team doing so. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez provides an interesting look at the much-hyped young slugger, who is preparing for an important showcase on Sunday. “It was really difficult to leave Cuba,” said Tomas (translation from Spanish via Sanchez). “It is for all of us who do it. But it’s difficult there with the way the security is and how they control the players. I made an important decision to fulfill my dream and see if I was at the level of major league players. Here I am, and now I go forward.”
- Rangers hurler Colby Lewis says that he was told “maybe” when he asked club GM Jon Daniels about the possibility of a return next year, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star -Telegram reports on Twitter. The 35-year-old righty has only a 5.12 ERA over 158 1/3 innings this year, but then again he had been out since July of 2012 with various injury issues. Lewis owns a 4.33 FIP and has notched 7.0 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 on the season, making him a potentially appealing option for teams looking for a solid innings-eater.
- Twins closer Glen Perkins will be shut down for the rest of the year but ultimately received good news on his left arm, GM Terry Ryan told reporters including Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Perkins will use a strength and conditioning program to deal with a forearm strain and nerve irritation, and is expected to be at full strength for the spring.
- The Orioles are nearing finalization of a deal with Cuban hurler Lazaro Leyva, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Leyva has reportedly agreed to terms on a $725K deal to join the Baltimore organization.
The Nationals have claimed infielder Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Twins, the club announced. This is the move that necessitated the designation of Eury Perez for assignment, which the team also announced.
Florimon, a switch-hitter, slashed .221/.281/.330 over 446 plate appearances in full season action last year for Minnesota. He swiped 15 bases (caught six times) and hit nine home runs. He was worse at the plate in minimal action this year, though did manage a .257/.328/.389 slash in 314 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Florimon’s calling card, of course, is not his bat but his glove. Depending on one’s preferred defensive metric, Florimon has been anywhere from above average (career 3.8 UZR/150) to outstanding (21 defensive runs saved) in the field.
It is not immediately clear why Washington made a claim on Florimon. He will not, of course, be eligible for the postseason, and the club already has the pennant in hand. On the other hand, the 27-year-old shortstop could conceivably be a utility infield option for the team next year, as he can be controlled for the league minimum. The team has been said in the past to be looking for alternative options at short in the event that an extension cannot be reached with Ian Desmond, but it would seem a stretch to believe that Florimon would figure in those plans.
If Danny Espinosa is traded or non-tendered, a bench spot could conceivably go to a player such as Florimon (who, it is worth noting, has a much better track record hitting against righties). It appears that Florimon also comes with an option remaining, as he was added to the 40-man before the 2012 season but did not spend any time in the minors last year.
Here’s the latest out of the game’s central divisions:
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin denied a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the team had decided to exercise its end of a $14MM mutual option over third baseman Aramis Ramirez for next season. The option, which comes with a $4MM buyout, has yet to be decided on according to Melvin. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports, Melvin expressed surprise at hearing the report and indicated that he had not discussed the option with either team owner Mark Attanasio or Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Ramirez, 36, has had a solid overall campaign and remains an above-average option at the hot corner. Needless to say, Milwaukee’s decision on his option will have important ramifications for the third base market.
- Though the Indians boast an intriguing group of young starters, GM Chris Antonetti said that the team will look to add more arms in the offseason, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. “We’ve seen it first-hand this year,” Antonetti explained. “The five who started the season for us aren’t the same five who are pitching for us right now.” Also on the docket for the fall is an effort to improve the team’s infield defense, said Antonetti. According to Fangraphs’ measurement of defensive value, Cleveland ranks second to last in all of baseball. (Of course, one potentially positive sign is that newly installed shortstop Jose Ramirez has received stellar marks from advanced metrics, quite the opposite of Asdrubal Cabrera, who he replaced after the trade deadline.)
- Twins closer Glen Perkins is set to undergo a “complete look” at his throwing arm, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Fresh off of signing a four-year, extension with just over $14MM in new guarantees before the season, Perkins was strong for much of the year. But things have turned south in the last month, and he has now allowed seven earned runs in his last four outings. Perkins missed time due to neck and shoulder discomfort, and since returning has seen the issue extend to the rest of his arm. “We’re going to give him a test on the left arm, see what’s going on there,” said GM Terry Ryan. “He’s got a little soreness, so we’ll get it looked at. His neck is fine.” Ryan said that the team would wait for an assessment before determining a course of action for the rest of the year, though obviously the future is of greater concern: “[Doctors] are going to give him a complete look, whatever that means. I don’t want to be premature here. If it’s severe, we’ve got issues. If it’s not, then we’ll move forward.”
Eduardo Rodriguez, the pitching prospect the Red Sox acquired from the Orioles for Andrew Miller in July, could end up being a key acquisition, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. “Steal of the trade deadline…I know Miller is doing great in Baltimore, but this kid will make that trade look real bad,” says one evaluator. Rodriguez was dominant for Double-A Portland, posting an 0.96 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings there before being promoted to make his debut for Triple-A Pawtucket Friday in the International League Championship Series. Here’s more from around the American League.
- The Twins‘ rainout on Friday could cost Phil Hughes $500K, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Hughes’ start was delayed until today, and now, in order to pitch the Twins’ last game of the season on September 28, he’ll need to pitch on short rest, since the Twins have a day off on September 18. With 187 2/3 innings so far this season, Hughes could, as a result, miss 210 innings, a total that would earn him a $500K bonus.
- Chris Young‘s former Mets manager is happy the outfielder has found success so far with the Yankees, Mike Vorkunov of NJ.com writes. “He came and we were hoping the best and just had a rough go here, but as I told somebody here, he hit big homers here for us too, big ones,” says Terry Collins. “Just didn’t enough. Happy for him and I hope he makes a contribution over there.” The Mets designated Young for assignment and then released him last month after he hit a disappointing .205/.283/.346 in 287 plate appearances there, and he’s now hit three home runs on three straight days (including one in yesterday’s doubleheader) with the Yankees.