Minnesota Twins Rumors
The White Sox are off to a solid start to the season with a 7-6 record, and they've already won more games against the division-rival Indians than they did in 2013, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Hayes spoke with Indians GM Chris Antonetti about his division rivals, and Antonetti said he's not surprised to see the Sox looking like an improved club. "Unfortunately for us, I thought [White Sox GM Rick Hahn] and his staff had an exceptional offseason," Antonetti told Hayes. "They’ve positioned themselves not only better for the short term but also for the long term as well and that’s a challenging thing to do. ... I thought they made a number of tremendous moves that will not only help them this year but for years to come, unfortunately to our detriment."
Here's more about the White Sox and the rest of the AL Central...
- The White Sox' largest move of the offseason, financially speaking, was the signing of Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68MM contract. CSN Chicago's David Kaplan spoke to former Sox GM and current executive vice president Kenny Williams about the Abreu signing. Williams said he initially told Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf that he thought Abreu was worth a four-year, $40MM investment, to which Reinsdorf replied, "Why not $50MM?" Williams said he's 100 percent confident in Abreu as well as Reinsdorf and Hahn, who closed the $68MM deal (Twitter link).
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at yesterday's $35MM extension for Jedd Gyorko and examines what that means for the Twins' chances of locking up Brian Dozier. The Twins and Dozier's agent, Damon Lapa, had extension talks this spring that didn't progress beyond the exploratory phase, Berardino writes. He notes that while Gyorko's bat has been superior to Dozier's thus far, Dozier trumps Gyorko in defense, baserunning and overall wins above replacement.
- In the latest edition of his "Hey Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out that the Indians are in a familiar situation with Asdrubal Cabrera. Though the club had an affordable option on Omar Vizquel back in 2004, they made no indication of wanting to pick it up and instead let Vizquel walk to make room for Jhonny Peralta. In 2010, the team traded Peralta to the Tigers without showing much interest in retaining him, due to Cabrera's presence in the minors. Now, with Cabrera five-and-a-half months from free agency and Francisco Lindor looming, there's been little to no talk of Cabrera's Cleveland tenure lasting beyond 2014. The bigger question, says Hoynes, is whether or not Cabrera will play well enough to merit a qualifying offer. Given his struggles at the plate over the past year, that seems unlikely at this time.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule...
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family -- they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school -- but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. ... The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.
It was on this day in 2009 that Mark Fidrych died at age 54 as the result of a freak truck repair accident. Fidrych burst onto the scene as a Tigers rookie in 1976, posting a 2.34 ERA over 250 1/3 innings, starting the All-Star Game for the American League and capturing the AL Rookie Of The Year Award in the process. His pitching aside, "The Bird" was even better known for his unique personality and quirky mound habits (such as talking to the ball or personally smoothing out cleat marks on the mound), as well as appearing on perhaps the greatest cover in Sports Illustrated history. Though Fidrych's career was short, baseball fans will never forget one of the game's great characters. The MLBTR staff extends our condolences to Fidrych's family and friends on this anniversary of his passing.
Here's the latest from around the AL Central...
- Joaquin Benoit and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski both had nothing but good things to say about the veteran reliever's tenure in Motown, but the Tigers didn't make Benoit a contract offer last winter. Dombrowski tells John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press that “When it came down to it, we had Joe Nathan over Joaquin as a closer, and that’s the direction we decided to pursue. We kept a pulse of his free-agent situation all winter long. But it just looked like he was going to (cost) a little more than we wanted to pay for a set-up guy." Benoit ended up signing a two-year, $15.5MM deal with the Padres.
- Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting well but could be the victim of a roster crunch, so a reader asked Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (as part of a mailbag piece) if the Indians could possibly deal the third baseman. Hoynes believes it's generally too early for teams to be exploring the trade market, barring an injury, and Chisenhall is still an unproven commodity at the Major League level. Since Chisenhall is 25 years old and only a couple of years removed from being regarded as the Tribe's top prospect, I'd think Cleveland would need a big return to consider moving Chisenhall, even though Carlos Santana has seemingly taken over at third base.
- Sam Fuld could be an interesting pickup for the Twins, 1500ESPN.com's Derek Wetmore opines, as he would add depth to a Minnesota team that is thin on outfield options. The Athletics designated Fuld for assignment yesterday.
There was more bad injury news out of Oakland, as top Athletics prospect Addison Russell has torn his right hamstring and will be down for at least a month, according to a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Though Russell was not necessarily expected to contribute much at the MLB level this year -- he had started his age-20 season at Double-A -- a prolonged absence will certainly be unwelcome news for an Athletics club that could hypothetically look to Russell for a late-season boost or audition for 2015. Here are a few more stray notes from the day:
- There is a sense that the free agent market for Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales could be thawing, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Multiple clubs have gone to scout the pair, says Heyman, and Morales in particular seems to be drawing increased activity. Heyman cites the Orioles, Mariners, and Brewers as teams thought to have interest, with the Pirates also a potential landing spot.
- Free agent starter Freddy Garcia has been throwing to Drew and Morales, Heyman adds. Though Garcia has received minor league offers since being cut loose by the Braves, he is holding out in hopes of signing straight into a MLB role.
- The Twins will be among the teams with the most cash to spend through international bonus pools and the amateur draft. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN provides some updates on the club's current direction (Twitter links). Minnesota still has several hundred thousand dollars of uncommitted international cash to work with, and has narrowed its options for the 5th overall pick to eight players (most of whom are pitchers).
- As expected, Braves reliever Cory Gearrin will have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2014 season, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported yesterday (via Twitter). The 27-year-old was a useful arm last year, throwing 31 innings of 3.77 ERA ball after notching 20 innings at a 1.80 ERA clip in 2012. Though the club has already filled in for Gearrin in the immediate term, his loss takes another depth piece away from an organization that has suffered more than its share of recent pitching injuries.
- One reason that Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro may have cleared waivers is simply that he stood to be paid nearly twice the league minimum salary. "Once you go to spring training, you’ve spent almost all the money you’re going to spend," a general manager told Olney. "There aren’t many teams with a lot of extra money lying around."
- That same fact has a bearing on the situations of compensation free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. Olney polled executives around the league, finding that none were willing to pay either player at the qualifying offer rate of $14.1MM. The highest figure he heard was $10MM to $12MM AAV for Drew and a $8MM to $10MM rate for Morales on a multi-year deal, with most respondents landing well shy of those amounts. There were many other concerns raised as well, ranging from those players' injury histories to questions about their commitment to a new team (e.g., would they play through a late-season injury?) and worry about "the layoff and need for a modified spring training."
- Turning to the podcast, Olney spoke with Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who said that the team left its playoff run determined to return with focus. Instead, Huntington said that his concern entering the spring was how to keep positive energy flowing after the front office was criticized for its quiet offseason. Huntington said that the team wanted to do more, but that there "wasn't the right move out there" and he felt the organization needed to continue to "stretch when it's appropriate, stay disciplined when it's appropriate." Looking ahead, the GM said that, "if need be we can go outside because of the depth of our player development system."
- Huntington also discussed his team's well-publicized use of defensive shifts, saying that it is all about "maximizing our chances to put balls in play and turn them into outs" and indicating that much of the work is in shading out of the standard alignment. The approach for each situation is developed through what he calls a "multi-tiered process" within the organization.
- Olney also chatted with newly extended Twins closer Glen Perkins, who is under team control through 2018. Perkins said that he made clear to his agent as far back as his first extension that he was happy to take a deal and stay in town rather than "pric[ing] myself out" of the organization. The lefty says that maximizing money is not the most important thing, and saw value in the possibility of a World Series run with his hometown club while providing for his family's future when he had the chance. He kicked things off by suggesting a new deal to his agent, with a deal coming together quickly thereafter.
- Asked for his opinion on the idea of players accepting so-called team-friendly deals, Perkins said that the chances of upside are met (and often exceeded) by the possibility of "blowing your arm out." It becomes somewhat easier to take on risk as a player's earnings rise throughout their career, Perkins noted, but looking for "a little more" is tough when "you're always one pitch away." His ultimate advice to players is hard to disagree with: "get yours while you can."
Today is the five-year anniversary of the tragic death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, and Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports provides a worthy tribute to a player who the game lost too soon. We join many others in honoring his memory.
Here are a few notes from the American League:
- The Twins' decision to acquire shortstop Eduardo Nunez from the Yankees was done with the goal of scoring more runs, reports John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Indeed, the club has indicated that it would be aggressive with early-season moves if it felt change would be beneficial. Though manager Ron Gardenhire says that he "love[s]" current starter Pedro Florimon, he added that "we've got to have offense" and said that Florimon has to get better at making solid contact. (He has two hits and two walks against seven strikeouts in 23 plate appearances to date.) Minnesota will apparently continue to make moves as opportunities arise, rather than giving its in-house options lengthy leashes. "(When) we left spring training we weren't done looking," Gardenhire said. "We were waiting for teams, all the way to the end, to start sending people out. We're ready. We're ready."
- One positive force early on for the Twins has been Chris Colabello, who the club tried to ship out to Korea during the offseason. Instead, he rolled the dice on breaking camp and did so, and now sports an OPS north of 1.000 through his first 29 plate appearances. As Parker Hageman writes for Twins Daily, this latest unlikely twist is not the first in Colabello's remarkable career arc. The piece is well worth a read: it includes plenty of great quotes from the key players in his tale and provides some color for many of the "minor moves" type coverage found here at MLBTR. As club GM Terry Ryan explains, it all started with Colabello's grinding in the independent leagues: "Of course [Colabello] continued to put up number after number, year after year, and was worth a look. ... Ok, this guy deserves an invite to minor league spring training. He got down there, he was pretty good. He started in Double-A and never really had an off-week."
- The Athletics' ownership group seems not to have any present intentions to put the club on the market, but would draw intense interest if it did, according to a report from Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. According to Kawakami, a variety of would-be buyers -- including the co-owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors -- are attracted by the team's current profitability and the possibility of guiding the team to a new ballpark in the midst of a thriving baseball economy. This does not necessarily mean that a move of the franchise would be in order; Kawakami reports that most of the groups with potential interest would be looking to keep the ballclub in Oakland (assuming a new stadium can be procured).
For some late night reading, I recommend this piece from Eric Nusbaum for Sports Illustrated, which provides an interesting profile of Cuba's fledgling sabermetric community. Here are some notes from around the league to round out the day:
- Pablo Sandoval and the Giants remain far apart in their discussions on a possible extension for the pending free agent, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The third baseman is asking for a five-year contract to forego the right to hit the open market, where he would be one of the most attractive players available.
- The Rays' recent extension of shortstop Yunel Escobar looks to be a win for the team, writes Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs. Given Escobar's history of being traded and signed for values that seem to be beneath his skill set, Klaassen wonders whether Tampa's ability to incorporate players with a reputation for clubhouse problems was a factor in Escobar's decision to approach the team about a new deal.
- Two injury situations arose in tonight's Rays-Royals game that will be worth keeping an eye on in the coming days. First, Tampa starter Matt Moore left the game after experiencing elbow soreness in his pitching elbow. While initial reports have been positive, he will take an MRI tomorrow, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets. Later, Kansas City second baseman Omar Infante was struck on the chin by a pitch from Heath Bell. He is being examined to determine if he suffered a break, and the team also is concerned that he may have had a concussion, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). While it is still too early to speculate as to the impact of these up-in-the-air situations, any significant time missed by either player would obviously require some roster scrambling for their respective teams.
- Twins president Dave St. Peter confirmed today that the club was aggressive on the free agent market beyond the signings that it completed, reports Derek Wetmore of 1500ESPN.com. St. Peter said that the club made "significant offer[s]" to Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, A.J. Pierzynski, and Rajai Davis before those players signed elsewhere. "We offered more money to certain guys who chose to go elsewhere," said St. Peter. "It is what it is, but as the season progresses and we can do something that we think is a good baseball decision, the money will be there to allocate." Addressing the team's recent run of poor performance, St. Peter said it was not just about payroll. "At the end of the day, it's about making better baseball decisions," he said, "and obviously we haven't made enough good ones here over the last three or four years relative to certain trades and the way drafts have panned out."
The Twins have acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez from the Yankees in exchange for left-hander Miguel Sulbaran, tweets Twins director of baseball communications Dustin Morse. Nunez has been assigned to Triple-A Rochester.
The 26-year-old Nunez is a career .267/.313/.379 hitter in 827 Major League plate appearances and batted .260/.307/.372 last season. Once considered a potential heir to Derek Jeter, Nunez has failed to distinguish himself offensively or defensively in the Major Leagues. Though he's never graded out well defensively, metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 gave Nunez staggeringly bad reviews in 2013, pegging him at -28 runs and -40.7, respectively, in a small sample of 608 1/3 innings at shortstop.
Infield depth isn't the Twins' strong suit at this point, with light-hitting Pedro Florimon filling the role of everyday shortstop while prospect Danny Santana continues to develop in the minors. However, while Nunez's bat could be an improvement over Florimon, the aforementioned defensive woes don't make him a clear upgrade; Florimon is regarded as an excellent defender at shortstop. He could potentially find his way to the big league roster in the event of an injury to Florimon or utility infielder Eduardo Escobar.
The 20-year-old Sulbaran was acquired from the Dodgers last July in exchange for Drew Butera. He didn't crack Baseball America's list of Top 30 Twins prospects, nor did he appear on the MLB.com's Top 20 list of Twins prospects. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that Sulbaran showed up to camp this spring overweight, which presumably didn't do much for his standing with the team. Sulbaran has a career 3.15 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 239 2/3 minor league innings.
Today's minor moves:
- 24-year-old righty Nick Struck has signed on with the Dodgers, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned. The Cubs released their 2012 minor league pitcher of the year last week. Strcuk briefly reached Triple-A in his age-21 season, then put up a solid campaign in 2012 (3.18 ERA in 155 2/3 innings) at Double-A. He earned a quick promotion back to the Iowa Cubs last year, but allowed 6.17 earned runs per nine in his 109 1/3 frames.
- Catcher Chris Gimenez has elected free agency rather than taking an outright assignment from the Rangers, the club announced. The 31-year-old was designated for assignment on Tuesday after just a few days with the team. The Rays are interested in signing him to serve as minor league depth, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently reported.
- Righty Justin Fitzgerald has agreed to a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter). Fitzgerald made it to the Triple-A level for the first time last year, but had a tough go of things. His 5.61 ERA in 77 innings was the worst of his career.
- 27-year-old outfielder Evan Bigley, formerly a Twins prospect, has signed with the independent league St. Paul Saints, tweets Mike Beradino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. A tenth-round pick out of Dallas Baptist back in 2008, Bigley never made the leap from Double-A to Triple-A and became a minor league free agent this year.
- The DFA limbo line has thinned considerably in recent days, as MLBTR's DFA Tracker shows. Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro is a fairly intriguing name, and will see resolution of his situation by Monday. Frank Herrmann, Colt Hynes, and Preston Guilmet of the Indians are all due to learn their fates on Tuesday. Then come a series of players with interesting histories and a decent amount of big league experience: Eduardo Nunez (Yankees), Hector Noesi (Mariners), and Jeremy Jeffress (Blue Jays). Another player was just added to the rolls when the Royals designated Pedro Ciriaco this morning.
SATURDAY: Diamond has accepted his outright assignment, tweets LaVelle E. Neal III.
THURSDAY: Diamond has cleared outright waivers, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That leaves him with 48 hours to elect free agency or instead take a Triple-A assignment with the Twins.
WEDNESDAY: The Twins have placed pitcher Scott Diamond on waivers, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Diamond did pitch particularly well in spring training (5.29 ERA with 13 strikeouts and ten walks in 17 innings) and did not make the Twins' rotation. He was out of options.
Diamond, 27, was one of many Twins starting pitchers to struggle in 2013 -- he posted a 5.43 ERA with 3.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 131 innings before being demoted to Triple-A Rochester in August. Diamond has a career 4.43 ERA with 4.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 343 big-league innings.