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Minnesota Twins Rumors
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.
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.
Most of the meat left on the free agent bone belongs to the pitching segment of the market. Indeed, five of the seven players who I listed this morning as intriguing free agents were right-handed pitchers.
Here’s the latest on some arms from around the league:
- There was more cloudy news out of Venezuela regarding Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt, as his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that he will not attempt to pitch again in the winter league. (Twitter links.) Santana may still aim to take a mound for scouts, but any such plans are “unclear” at this point.
- The Angels are still not interested in chasing James Shields, even if his price may have dropped somewhat, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
- For their part, the Twins have no intentions of going after free agent righties John Axford and Alexi Ogando, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. As he notes, the market has several attractive right-handed relief arms, though it is not clear whether Minnesota has any interest in adding to its pen. Both Axford and Ogando made my list of interesting players to watch. I consider the pair to be among the remaining free agents who could either break out or break down in 2015.
Members of the White Sox are excited about GM Rick Hahn’s high-profile offseason, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. “They were busy, worked hard and instilled confidence in the guys that were here,” says Adam Eaton. “It kind of credits (us) that ‘This is a good base, this is the time to stretch it.’” For a 73-89 team, the 2014 White Sox had a lot go right, including excellent performances from starters Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, along with an exceptional rookie season from Jose Abreu and good contributions from Eaton and Alexei Ramirez. Now they’ve added Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke to that talent base. “You go from not expecting anything or not knowing what to expect to now you expect quite a bit and expect success,” says Eaton. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- The Twins believed they had completed two trades that ultimately fell through this offseason, as the players they wanted were traded to other teams, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN reports (Twitter links). Wolfson says he wondered if those trades might have involved Jeremy Hellickson (who went to the Diamondbacks) or J.A. Happ (who headed to the Mariners), but was told no in both cases.
- New Cubs manager Joe Maddon traveled to Puerto Rico to see Javier Baez play winter ball, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes, citing a report from the Puerto Rican paper El Nuevo Dia. “He’s trying way too hard,” says Maddon. “I want him to back off. The last thing I want him to do is try to impress me tonight. … I said, ‘Hit a couple singles and, above all, I want to see you smile.’” The 22-year-old Baez’s underwhelming 2014 debut (.169/.227/.324 in 229 plate appearances) was understandable given his youth, although he’ll probably have to improve his strikeout rate before he can make an impact in the big leagues. He’ll compete for a spot in the Cubs’ infield in Spring Training.
With the 2014 free agent class thinning out behind James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rafael Soriano, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff takes a look ahead at the 2015 free agent market. Davidoff predicts David Price will sign the richest contract of the class – if he doesn’t ink an extension first. He also predicts Matt Wieters will sneak his way into a big contract while Justin Upton could be seriously hurt by his move to San Diego.
- If Orioles Executive VP Dan Duquette does join the Blue Jays, Baltimore should receive one or two good prospects, opines John Lott of the National Post. However, Lott also figures first round pick Jeff Hoffman is too steep a price. Historically, executives have not cost much in player talent to acquire. Randy Winn represents the best such return, with most trades featuring minor leaguers who barely sniff the majors. Baseball should enforce stiffer costs to front office poaching in Lott’s opinion. Personally, I imagine a punitive but purely financial cost would be the fairest way to approach the problem.
- From the Orioles perspective, the club needs to definitively decide Duquette’s future before their upcoming FanFest, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Both Duquette and owner Peter Angelos do “things at [their] own pace,” so the situation could linger. For what it’s worth, the White Sox diffused the rumors quickly when Ken Williams was in the spotlight. That tells me the Orioles are genuinely open to dealing Duquette.
- With the signing of Geovany Soto, White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers has competition, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Flowers is still penciled in as the starter behind the dish, but the club has plenty of depth with Soto, George Kottaras, Rob Brantly, and Adrian Nieto. GM Rick Hahn mentioned Kottaras as a potential platoon partner for Flowers.
- Alex Meyer, the Twins fourth best prospect and 27th overall per MLB.com, figures to compete to become the club’s fifth starter, reports Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Candidates for the back of the rotation include Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, and Trevor May. Given that he still has options, he’ll have to seriously impress to beat out his veteran counterparts and May.
Here are the latest players to avoid arbitration:
- The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque have agreed to a one-year, $1.725MM deal, reports Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. Additionally, Alburquerque will earn $12.5K if he makes 75 appearances, per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The Tigers filed at $1.375MM while Alburquerque asked for $2.05MM. The reported deal is just north of the $1.712MM midpoint. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $1.7MM payout. A Super Two player, this was Alburquerque’s second spin through arbitration. The 28-year-old is club controlled for two more seasons after posting a 2.51 ERA, 9.89 K/9, and 3.30 BB/9 in 57.1 innings in 2014.
- Lefty reliever Brian Duensing and the Twins have agreed to terms for one year and $2.7MM, Phil Ervin of FOX Sports North tweets. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected that Duensing would make $2.5MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, Duensing’s camp proposed a $3.1MM salary and the Twins countered with $2.4MM, so $2.7MM is near the midpoint but a bit closer to the Twins’ side. Duensing is the last of the Twins’ six arbitration-eligible players to agree to terms. He posted a 3.31 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings last season.
It’s still unclear where James Shields will wind up, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tracks Shields’ hard-to-read market, guessing at nine potential destinations for the free agent righty. Topping the list is the Cardinals, who showed some interest in Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and likely have room for Shields in their budget. Still, much about the Shields market remains uncertain, without much reported action from traditionally heavy-spending teams, leaving teams like the Marlins, Astros and Padres near the top of Heyman’s list of possible destinations. Here’s more from around baseball.
- New Red Sox staring pitcher Rick Porcello is not yet ready to discuss an extension, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. “I just got here and met the guys last night so I think it’s premature for that,” says Porcello. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody, get to know the staff and the guys.” Mastrodonato notes that the Red Sox would also probably like to get to know Porcello a bit better before signing him long-term. With a year remaining before free agency and youth on his side, the 26-year-old Porcello stands to cash in if he has a 2015 season similar to his 2014, when he had a 3.43 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and a stingy 1.8 BB/9 in 204 2/3 innings.
- GM Terry Ryan says that although the Twins aren’t planning to have top prospect Byron Buxton break camp with the team, Buxton could make his big-league debut at some point during the season, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Buxton only recently turned 21, has only a few plate appearances in the high minors, and missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, so such an aggressive promotion schedule would be unusual for most players, particularly given the Twins’ typically cautious approach. Buxton has exceptional tools, however, and MLB.com currently rates him the top overall prospect in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point this season.
Though Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt briefly stalled when he experienced some shoulder discomfort, it appears he’s back on course, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the former Cy Young winner will throw a bullpen session today and is tentatively scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the Venezuelan Winter League finals next week. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that the Twins will be scouting each of those showings, though his sense is that a return to his former stomping grounds isn’t in the cards for Santana.
More on the Twins and their division…
- Right-hander Phil Hughes told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he was excited to sign a long-term extension with the Twins in December due to the high level of comfort that he felt in his first year with the club. Hughes implied that he entered the offseason hoping to work out a longer deal and was clearly able to do that, signing for an additional three years and $42MM on Dec. 22. However, Hughes noted that he wouldn’t have signed if he didn’t think the team was close to contending in the near future. Minnesota’s enviable farm system and their willingness to spend on veterans, demonstrated by signing Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this winter, were both factors in Hughes’ decision as well.
- The Indians are showing a great deal of interest in Nolan Reimold, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Cleveland is trying to sign the former Oriole to a minor league deal, Kubtako notes, though he adds that the Orioles remain in the mix as well. Reimold, 31, has battled significant injuries over the past few seasons but does own a solid .251/.324/.439 batting line in 1134 big league plate appearances.
- Nick Swisher struggled through the worst season of his career last year with the Indians, though many of his struggles were likely attributable to knee problems that plagued him all season. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees in August, explained to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince that his knees were so bad that he literally could not walk to the bathroom at night (Twitter links). He admitted to Castrovince that he wished he’d had the operations sooner, but wanted to play through the pain due to the investment that the Indians made in him. Cleveland inked the Ohio native to a four-year, $56MM pact two offseasons ago.
- At their annual Sox Fest event earlier today, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that bullpen depth and another utility infielder to use versus left-handed pitching were the two primary items remaining on his offseason wishlist (Twitter link). Hahn also said that minor league signee Geovany Soto has a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, so long as he can show that he is healthy (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).
The Twins announced that they have avoided arbitration with outfielder Jordan Schafer by agreeing to a one-year, $1.55MM contract. A look at MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows that Schafer and his representatives at Relativity Baseball had filed at $1.7MM, while the team countered with a $1.4MM offer. His $1.55MM settlement is the exact midpoint of those two figures and just $50K north of the $1.5MM projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
The 28-year-old Schafer impressed the Twins following an August waiver claim and earned himself a spot on the 2015 roster. In 147 plate appearances with Minnesota, the former top prospect batted .285/.345/.362 with 15 stolen bases in 20 tries. Overall, Schafer batted .238/.310/.305 with 30 steals in in 240 PAs between the Twins and Braves.
Though he’s never drawn particularly strong defensive marks for his work in center field, Schafer has been average or slightly better in the outfield corners and can handle center field if needed (he has a lifetime UZR/150 of -5.4 in center).
Schafer’s most likely role in 2015 appears to be that of a fourth outfielder, but he will compete for a starting job with another former top prospect that has struggled to establish himself in the Majors: Aaron Hicks. MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger wrote two weeks ago that the center field job in Minneapolis will be “up for grabs” in Spring Training, as Danny Santana, who filled in at the position in a strong rookie season, will return to his natural position of shortstop in 2015.
Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…
- As far as Corey Kluber knows, his representatives haven’t had any talks with the Indians about an extension, the Cy Young Award winner told reporters (including Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group). “That’s not my job to worry about that,” Kluber said. “My job is to go out there and pitch. I have agents that can handle that stuff for me when the time comes. My job is to get prepared to play this season.” Kluber is one of the game’s best bargains, as he’ll pitch the 2015 season on a near-league minimum salary, though he’ll be in line for a large raise when he is arbitration-eligible next winter. Cleveland has him under team control through the 2018 campaign.
- The Twins were granted a fourth option year on Oswaldo Arcia, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, so they’re in no danger of losing the outfielder on the waiver wire if he can’t find a place on the Major League roster. Eduardo Nunez and Jordan Schafer are the only out-of-options players on the Minnesota roster.
- Tigers assistant GM Al Avila told Mlive.com’s James Schmehl that the club had interest in Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas and discussed the Tigers’ pursuit of the two high-profile Cuban free agents. Detroit checked in on Tomas though the club only had a moderate interest. “We liked him a little bit, but I’d say not to the same degree as Castillo,” Avila said. “We liked him. But, unlike Castillo, where we got involved in negotiations, we didn’t with Tomas. We didn’t see him as a fit.” While the Tigers progressed to the talking stages with Castillo, however, his price tag escalated beyond the team’s comfort zone.
- For more Detroit baseball news, check out this collection of Tigers Notes from earlier today.