Minnesota Twins Rumors
The latest out of the AL East as today's Winter Meetings news heats up...
- ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that the Rays are interested in Mitch Moreland of the Rangers and notes that a swap of Moreland and Matt Joyce is a possibility. That scenario hasn't gained much traction to this point, however, according to Stark (Twitter links).
- MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli was among the reporters to speak with Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and she reports that the O's aren't interested in Raul Ibanez but do have some interest in Gavin Floyd (Twitter link).
- Top Yankees prospects such as Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams have seen their stock fall precipitously in the past year, diminishing New York's ability to make trades, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. One Cubs official told Sherman, "The Yankees have no upper-level talent," when asked about potential trades between the two clubs.
- Also from Sherman's piece, right-hander Tommy Kahnle and lefty Fred Lewis are candidates to be selected in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Kahnle was among the Yankees' most sought-after players in July trade talks but was left off the 40-man roster.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke with A.J. Pierzynski, who told him that the Twins offered him a two-year deal to return to Minnesota, but he couldn't pass up on the opportunity to play for the Red Sox (Twitter link).
- Joh Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with a high-ranking Yankees official who told him there haven't been any discussions between the Yanks and Giants about New York's outfielders at the Winter Meetings (Twitter link).
11:16pm: The Tigers are viewed as the frontrunners for Davis, a source tells Nicholson-Smith (Twitter link).
10:32pm: Davis is indeed getting close to a contract agreement, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith hears from a source (Twitter link). It's not clear yet whether it will be with the Twins or another team.
9:46pm: Minnesota is in the mix for Davis, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. According to Wolfson, the Twins are willing to commit multiple years to Davis, which should make the team a strong suitor for his services.
9:09pm: If Davis does sign within the next couple days, as Duquette predicted, it doesn't sound like it will be with the O's. Kubatko hears that Baltimore isn't in on Davis (Twitter link).
7:23pm: We haven't heard many rumors on Rajai Davis so far this offseason, but Orioles GM Dan Duquette said today that he expects the outfielder to sign a contract within the next day or two, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link).
It's not clear yet if Duquette came away with that impression after speaking to Davis' agent, or whether the O's themselves are seriously in the mix for Davis. It's worth noting though that Duquette also indicated today that he believed his team would add at least one player within the next couple days.
Davis, 33, hasn't played in an everyday role for the Blue Jays over the last three seasons, but has seen enough action to rack up nearly 1,200 plate appearances, recording a .252/.299/.369 slash line. The speedster has also added 125 stolen bases over that period.
Since the Jays' season ended, reports on Davis have suggested that he'll likely leave Toronto and that he'll be seeking a starting role. An everyday job seems unlikely given Davis' struggles against right-handed pitching, but he'd make a solid fourth outfielder, a role which should give him the opportunity to earn plenty of at-bats, if his last few years in Toronto have been any indication.
Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz continues to draw heavy interest from Major League teams, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Some teams like Diaz, who can't sign until Feb. 19 due to falsifying his age last offseason, as a second baseman. Passan reports that Braves, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays and Cardinals as teams who have been heavily represented at Diaz's most recent showcases in Mexico (Twitter links). Some more links from around the league...
- Jeff Francoeur, who recently underwent LASIK surgery, is seeking a job as a backup outfielder, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Frenchy will also abandon his use of a 35-ounce bat in 2013 -- a weight only utilized by Orioles slugger Chris Davis.
- Felix Pie is nearing an agreement with Korea's Hanwah Eagles, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Pie hasn't seen much big-league action in the last two years, recording just 31 plate appearances in 27 games with the Pirates in 2013.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Royals' offer to Carlos Beltran was slightly less than the Yankees' three-year, $45MM offer but would technically have paid Beltran more due to the tax differences between Missouri and New York.
- The Dodgers have not been involved in negotiations with Omar Infante, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- As they search for starting pitching help, the Orioles will be open to multiyear contracts rather than just one-year deals, GM Dan Duquette confirmed today (Twitter link via Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com).
- The Twins pursued a catcher before the market dried up, but had no interest in going to three years for any of the free agents they targeted, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Minnesota "made that clear from the start," according to Berardino.
- Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along word, in a translated tweet, that Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda has expressed interest in playing in MLB, perhaps as soon as 2015.
Luke Adams contributed to this post.
Let's round up a handful of afternoon updates on AL Central teams....
- While the Tigers are talking to free agents, GM Dave Dombrowski says the team isn't involved with the "big, big ones," according to MLB.com's Jason Beck (via Twitter).
- According to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian (Twitter link), the Indians are in the market for a No. 3 catcher, and could even look to add a backup if they feel like Carlos Santana would be better off exclusively playing at first base and DH.
- The Royals appear to be one of the teams in pursuit of Omar Infante, who could sign soon, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. However, asked about potential interest in Infante, Royals GM Dayton Moore replied that the club was very pleased with the job Emilio Bonifacio did in Kansas City in 2013 (Twitter link via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune).
- Twins GM Terry Ryan says his team is keeping an eye on available catchers, but admits the free agent market dried up very quickly, tweets Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com.
10:36am: Bross has received calls from 15 teams regarding Arroyo but hasn't received a formal offer at this time, according to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (Twitter link).
10:31am: The Twins will also meet with Bross to discuss Arroyo today, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).
The Pirates have some uncertainty in their rotation given A.J. Burnett's pending decision on retirement or returning to baseball. Arroyo would fill the need of a veteran starter for the Bucs, though he'd likely command a sizable two-year deal at the least, which could prevent the Pirates from becoming too interested, given their tight budget.
Arroyo, who will be 37 in February, posted a 3.79 ERA with 5.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 44.4 percent ground-ball rate in 202 innings this past season. With the exception of a 199-inning campaign in 2011, Arroyo has pitched at least 200 innings each season dating back to 2005. An Arroyo signing would be a departure from the low-cost, high-upside moves the Pirates have made to bolster their rotations in recent years, such as acquiring Burnett from the Yankees (with New York footing most of the bill) and signing Francisco Liriano to a low-cost two-year deal.
Here's the latest news from both the NL and AL Central divisions...
- The Brandon Phillips trade rumors may have temporarily stopped, though Reds president/CEO Bob Castellini left the door slightly open when talking to reporters today (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon and the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay). "Brandon is part of the team, boys," Castellini said. "Walt [GM Walt Jocketty] was just exploring. You have to understand what he's up against. He's got to look around. Brandon Phillips is an integral part of this franchise....But you never say never."
- The Cubs and John Axford share a mutual interest in each other, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports. Axford would get a chance to compete for the Cubs' closing job, though the right-hander seemingly has plenty of opportunities around the league, with a reported 14 teams checking in following his non-tender from the Cardinals.
- The Cubs and Royals are two of the teams who have shown interest in Joba Chamberlain, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets. No signing seems to be imminent for either team, however. Chamberlain is another relief arm who has drawn significant attention on the open market, as he may be seen as a reclamation candidate after some tough seasons with the Yankees.
- The Twins have spoken to John Buck's agent, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, and a source tells Berardino that Buck is Minnesota's top target amongst available catchers. It isn't clear how interested in the Twins are, however, given that Josmil Pinto is still the club's preferred choice to take over the everyday catching job now that Joe Mauer has been moved to first base.
- Carl Pavano talked with Berardino about his comeback attempt from a freak snow-shoveling accident that left him with a ruptured spleen and sidelined the veteran righty for the entire 2013 season. Pavano said the Twins haven't contacted him about a return: "I haven't really talked to them. I don't know if that would be a good fit anyway. I think we're in different places. They need those younger guys in their rotation."
Milwaukee's trade of Norichika Aoki to the Royals makes sense for the Brewers and for Aoki himself, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy writes. Khris Davis' emergence late last season means there won't be room for Aoki as a full-time player now that Ryan Braun's suspension is over, as the Brewers will go with an outfield of Davis, Carlos Gomez and Braun. Aoki's path to playing time will be clearer in Kansas City. "Everybody was on board with it," says Aoki's agent, Nez Balelo. "[Kansas City] was the best viable option. He’s going to love it there because he will get an opportunity to lead off and play every day." Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Royals infielder Christian Colon has switched agents from Scott Boras to Excel Sports, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.
- The Royals and Angels might make good trade partners, with the Angels sending second baseman Howie Kendrick to Kansas City in return for young pitching, the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna tweets.
- Phil Hughes was surprised to receive a three-year, $24MM deal from the Twins, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. "Obviously the season I had was a disaster," says Hughes. "Coming into this thing, I was kind of expecting to just rebuild my value with a good year next year somewhere." The Mariners and Angels were among the other teams who bid for Hughes, but the Twins' offer of three guaranteed years won out.
- Now that the White Sox have signed Jose Dariel Abreu and re-signed Paul Konerko, there's less playing time available for Adam Dunn, writes CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes. It appears Konerko and Dunn will platoon, with Konerko starting at designated hitter against lefties. Dunn hit .226/.327/.459 against righties last year, compared to .197/.296/.385 against lefties.
5:05pm: Berardino reports that Hughes' contract contains a limited no-trade clause that allows Hughes to block trades to three teams (via Twitter). Nolasco received a similar clause.
2:31pm: Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Hughes will earn $8MM in each year of the contract. Also, in each season of the contract, Hughes will earn $250K for reaching 180 and and 195 innings pitched, as well as an additional $500K for reaching the 210-inning threshold (Twitter links).
2:10pm: The Twins made it clear late in the 2013 season that they planned to spend on free agent pitching this offseason, and they've now done so by issuing the two largest free agent contracts in franchise history. Minnesota announced Ricky Nolasco's four-year, $49MM contract earlier in the week, and on Thursday they announced the signing of Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24MM pact. Hughes, a client of CAA Sports' Nez Balelo, can reportedly earn an additional $1MM worth of incentives in each year of the deal.
A still-young 27, Hughes appears to have succeeded in translating the promise of his stuff into a larger contract than many projected. While our own Steve Adams' assessment of an $8MM annual salary for Hughes was correct, he predicted a one-year deal that would allow Hughes to hope for a big season in a spacious ballpark (such as Targe Field in Minneapolis) that would allow him to re-enter the market next winter. The two additional years on the contract are surprising, as few, if any, pegged Hughes for a three-year deal. Hughes came within one year of the four-year, $32MM deal that the Royals gave to Jason Vargas, a pitcher with an inferior fastball who's nevertheless been better, more durable and more consistent.
While he's steadily maintained his low-90s velocity since breaking into the big leagues in 2007, Hughes owns a career 4.54 ERA in more than 780 innings. Home runs have always been a problem for the right-hander, as he's averaged almost 1.2 per nine innings for his career. This year, he posted a 1.48 HR/9 en route to a 5.19 ERA in 145 2/3 innings. The Twins no doubt hope that a transition to Target Field, a much more spacious ballpark than Yankee Stadium, will be a panacea for Hughes' longball issues.
Durability is also a concern for Hughes, as he's never reached the 200-inning mark in his career and has just three times surpassed 100 innings. He struggled down the stretch in 2013, posting a 6.32 ERA in the season's second half. Over his career, Hughes has logged DL time for back and shoulder issues.
Coupled with the recent Ricky Nolasco signing, the deal represents something of a change in tactics for the Twins, who haven't typically been big spenders on the free agent market. In fact, as Neal notes in his article, the Nolasco and Hughes deals represent the two largest contracts the club has ever given to outside free agents. The struggles of the 2013 Twins rotation, which ranked last in the majors in ERA and K/9, apparently prompted the team to commit to major upgrades. Like Nolasco, inking Hughes won't require Minnesota to forfeit a draft pick, as the Yankees didn't extend him a qualifying offer.
LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was the first to report the signing and the terms. 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson was the first to report the additional incentives in Hughes' contract (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Hendriks, who turns 25 in February, ranked sixth and seventh on the Baseball America's Top 10 Twins prospects lists from 2010-11. Though he has a solid track record in the minor leagues (3.61 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 in 254 Triple-A innings), he's struggled tremendously in part of three Major League seasons.
Hendriks has pitched for the Twins in each of the past three seasons, totaling 156 innings. However, the Australian hurler has little to show for it, as he's posted a 6.06 ERA with 5.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 40.4 percent ground-ball rate. Home runs have been a persistent problem for Hendriks, who has averaged 1.7 big flies per nine innings in his Major League tenure.
As we work on catching up on things after a busy few days, here's the latest from the AL Central, which has been among the game's busiest divisions of late:
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski made clear today that the trades of Prince Fielder and Doug Fister were connected both to the signing of closer Joe Nathan and the need to lock up major players like Max Scherzer, reports MLB.com's Jason Beck. "A very big part of what we were trying to accomplish [was] to get a closer," said Dombrowski. "And when I say that, sometimes you need some flexibility to make some other things happen, too. We do have some players that are on the verge of being free agents that are pretty big players for us, that you want to create some flexibility there to be in the right spot at various times."
- Dombrowski did, however, downplay the likelihood of a major new signing. "I would think that we would not be involved in the big [names]," said the GM.
In the wake of the Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade, Dombrowski says Nick Castellanos will start at third base with Miguel Cabrera moving back to first, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. The news confirms what had been suspected at the time, and jives with rumors linking Detroit to Shin-Soo Choo. It also confirms the broader market effects of the Fielder-Kinsler swap: that deal increased the amount of cash pegged for corner outfielders.
- Indeed, one such player, Carlos Beltran, is fielding interest from several clubs. He is very unlikely to get more than two years from the Yankees or Red Sox, however, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. It also appears that, if he wants to build up bidding for his services, Beltran may need to wait until Shin-Soo Choo leaves the market. Heyman reports that the Tigers, Reds, and Rangers are all very interested in Choo but also see Beltran as an option. While the Mariners are also involved and could be willing to spend big to lure the 36-year-old to the Pacific Northwest, Heyman indicates that the Royals are still perhaps the odds-on favorite to land Beltran out of the crowded field of suitors.
- After signing on for one more go-round with the White Sox, Paul Konerko plans to hang up his spikes afte 2014, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN.com.
- The Twins' off-season trade talks may have been gummed up by the recent suspension of well-regarded prospect Eddie Rosario, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 22-year-old Rosario cracks the top ten of the Minnesota prospect list, per Baseball America (subscription required, and recommended), which is particularly impressive given the top-end talent ahead of him. With Brian Dozier emerging as an option at second, Rosario had been the most likely prospect to be dangled as trade bait.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told Berardino that he sees free agency as the more likely route to add MLB players at this point, even after picking up Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes on the open market. "I don't want to give up any of our players," Ryan said. "I'm not saying we won't make a trade. We might. But if you're going to get a quality starter, it's going to be difficult."
Zach Links contributed to this post.