Minnesota Twins Rumors
Defense is often a secondary consideration in evaluations of teams' offseason moves, but it's an important one. ESPN's Mark Simon has written about each team's offseason from a defensive perspective (American League, National League). In the American League, the Yankees have downgraded at second base with the departure of Robinson Cano, and Brian McCann isn't Chris Stewart's equal at stopping basestealers, says Simon. Jacoby Ellsbury should help in the outfield, however. The Athletics, meanwhile, should benefit from the additions of Craig Gentry and Nick Punto.
In the National League, the Marlins' infield defense should take a step backward after the additions of Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal and Casey McGehee. The Cardinals, meanwhile, figure to have upgraded with the additions of Peter Bourjos and Mark Ellis, and with Matt Carpenter moving from second base to third. Here are more notes from throughout the big leagues.
- The Twins could be a surprisingly strong team in 2014, ESPN's Christina Kahrl argues. Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes should improve the rotation, she says, if only because the Twins' starters struggled so much last year. Also, Joe Mauer's move to first could spare the toll on his body and create more playing time for Josmil Pinto, who could make an impact on offense. Miguel Sano, who hit 35 home runs in the minor leagues in 2013, could make his debut as well.
- The Twins have not offered Johan Santana a contract, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com tweets. Santana does have offers in hand from other teams. The Twins are still interested in Santana, however. The former Cy Young winner will likely receive a minor-league deal.
In this week's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Orioles owe it to their fans to take a shot at a championship by bolstering the roster. The O's moved Jim Johnson to save on his expected $10MM salary for 2014 but the nixing of Grant Balfour's deal leaves them without a proven closer. The Orioles, with a few fixes, could be exciting and fun to watch, but they need more if they want to win it all. More from this week's column..
- Cafardo cautions not to sleep on the Red Sox in the Masahiro Tanaka hunt and one AL scout says it’s the perfect time for the Red Sox to strike. “They have veteran pitchers in the final year or two years remaining on their deals,” he said. “They’ll be clearing out a lot of payroll soon. I know they feel they have good young pitching on the horizon, but Tanaka should be a very good No. 2 or No. 3 starter on any staff. I would think with their emphasis on pitching, they would get into it.” The Yankees, Cubs, Rangers, and Dodgers figure to be the most aggressive and the Angels, Phillies, Royals, and Blue Jays are expected to get into it.
- Will the Red Sox's experience with Daisuke Matsuzaka scare them off of Tanaka? “I don’t think that can enter their thinking. I’m sure they would have gone after Yu Darvish in retrospect,” said one National League GM.
- Cafardo recently spoke with a few GMs who feel the Yankees may wind up with Ubaldo Jimenez, even if they land Tanaka. “He had an excellent second half, has great stuff, and he has the type of personality that would fit New York,” one GM said. “He doesn’t let things get to him. He’s good at shrugging off things and turning the page.” If the Yankees ink both pitchers, it's pretty difficult to see them staying under the $189MM mark.
- Nelson Cruz is the best available free agent among position players, but his demand of four years at $75MM has turned off teams. While other PED guys such as Jhonny Peralta have cashed in, teams are worried that Cruz, who more relies on his power is of greater concern for teams who worry that being off the stuff could hurt his power numbers.
- John Lackey’s name has come up consistently this winter, but the Red Sox aren’t motivated to deal him. That could change, but the club is enthused about his $500K option for 2015.
- It'll be interesting to see if the Yankees can move Ichiro Suzuki given their crowded outfield. The Giants remain a possibility, Cafardo writes.
- The Dodgers could still trade from their outfield surplus. When it comes to Matt Kemp, of course, teams want to see how he rebounds from shoulder and ankle surgeries.
- With Brian McCann aboard and Francisco Cervelli as backup, Yankees catcher Austin Romine is very much available.
- Johan Santana is getting closer to making a decision on a minor league deal with a team. There’s been some speculation about the Twins since Santana still resides in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins have spring training. A small-market team such as the Astros could also have some interest.
Add the Twins to the list of teams that have interest in Masahiro Tanaka, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter). Wolfson does, however, quote a Twins official who says Tanaka's posting is a "long process" and it's "difficult to know where it stands."
The Twins have already spent heavily on pitching this offseason, signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to multiyear deals and re-signing Mike Pelfrey. Even the Nolasco move was uncharacteristically splashy for them, so it would be very surprising if they managed to outbid teams like the Yankees and Dodgers for Tanaka.
Nonetheless, Tanaka would, obviously, be an attractive target for Minnesota. He's relatively young and he wouldn't require the loss of a draft pick, and the rotation still arguably represents an area of need even after the Nolasco and Hughes additions. The Twins also continue to be connected to free-agent starter Bronson Arroyo.
The free agent pitching market is largely on hold due to the pending decision on whether Masahiro Tanaka will be posted. One of the starters left in a holding pattern is veteran Bronson Arroyo, who tells ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that he's anxiously waiting for his phone to ring with a strong opportunity.
While it was previously rumored that the Reds offered him a one-year deal, Arroyo says that never happened. Arroyo, 37 in February, also denies that he was ever close to an agreement with the Twins. However, Crasnick notes that the Reds could still ultimately be in the mix for him and we heard earlier today that the Twins have maintained dialogue with the free agent hurler.
Minnesota's interest in Arroyo has been known for some time, but they've already committed about $84MM to Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey this offseason. The Reds, meanwhile, need pitching depth, but they could be wary of the price tag on one of baseball's most durable pitchers. Arroyo is the only pitcher in baseball to make at least 32 starts per year from 2005 through 2013.
Many scouts and evaluators think Arroyo would be better served pitching in the National League than the American, but his performance in hitter-friendly Great American Park has made him confident that he can survive anywhere. Arroyo would prefer the East Coast to the West Coast, but he says that's not a deal-breaker by any means.
"There's no point in me really thinking about where my perfect place is, because I don't know who's interested," Arroyo told Crasnick. "It's like going to a party and the whole premise is to find a wife. There are ten girls there, and three of them are smoking hot, but they don't even look in your direction twice, so there's no point in going after them. Then maybe somebody else comes along who didn't seem so attractive at first, and you like what she's saying and you think, 'Hey, maybe this is the one.' That's the way I see it. I can't pick and choose teams. They have to choose me, and I realize it could take a long time for them to get where they need to be. I've been fine, but if it's January 15th and I'm still spinning my wheels, I'll probably change my tune."
MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports that the Royals were voted by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) to have the best medical staff in Major League Baseball. Said general manager Dayton Moore: "We're extremely proud of [head athletic trainer] Nick Kenney and our medical team. They are very gifted people, who are very skilled at what they do. ... This is a terrific honor for our entire organization." Elsewhere in the American League Central division...
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN spoke with a Twins official (Twitter link) and asked if Mark Reynolds was a realistic option for the team. Wolfson's source told him that Reynolds is realistic if the Twins decide they want him, but there's currently no consensus among Twins brass on "marginal players."
- The Twins have maintained a dialogue with Bronson Arroyo's agent even after re-signing Mike Pelfrey and inking right-handers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, Wolfson tweeted yesterday. Korean right-hander Suk-Min Yoon also remains on their radar, but he's a lower priority, a team source told Wolfson.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer doesn't think that the Indians are done adding third base depth despite the presence of Lonnie Chisenhall and the offseason addition of David Adams. Hoynes reminds that the Indians were linked to Kevin Youkilis and has already been linked to Wilson Betemit.
Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league...
- Indians right-hander Trey Haley has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Columbus, the team announced. Haley was designated for assignment last week in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for new closer John Axford.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the Brewers have released right-hander Cody Scarpetta (Twitter link). Baseball America ranked Scarpetta as Milwaukee's No. 4 prospect at one point and ranked his curveball best among Brewers farmhands from 2008-11. Scarpetta, now 25, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and struggled to a 7.15 ERA in 34 innings upon his return in 2013.
- The Twins announced that they've outrighted outfielder Darin Mastroianni to Triple-A Rochester. The 28-year-old was a solid fourth outfielder for the Twins in 2012 with outstanding defense and baserunning contributions, but an ankle injury limited him to 73 plate appearances in 2013. Mastroianni followed up a .250/.328/.350 showing in 2012 with a .185/.229/.215 effort in 2013.
- Right-hander Chance Ruffin has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma, the Mariners announced. Ruffin was designated for assignment last week in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Franklin Gutierrez, who re-signed with Seattle on a one-year deal.
- The Brewers have outrighted right-hander Michael Olmsted off their 40-man roster, according to senior director of media relations Mike Vassallo (on Twitter). The 26-year-old whiffed 60 batters in 59 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013 but also walked 43 hitters en route to a 5.88 ERA.
- Right-hander Rhiner Cruz has been outrighted from the Astros' 40-man roster, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Houston selected Cruz out of the Mets organization with the first overall pick of the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old posted a 3.38 ERA in 21 1/3 innings in 2013 but walked more hitters (11) than he struck out (10) in that time.
- The Dodgers have signed right-hander Juan Abreu to a minor league contract, according to the team's transactions page. Now 28 years old, Abreu's only Major League experience came with the Astros in 2011 when he allowed two runs with 12 strikeouts against three walks in 6 2/3 innings of relief. The Dominican native has a 4.30 ERA with 11.5 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 in 106 2/3 career innings at the Triple-A level.
The Twins have been uncharacteristically aggressive on the free agent market this offseason, and they continued the trend by officially announcing the signing of Mike Pelfrey to a two-year, $11MM contract today. Pelfrey can reportedly earn $3.5MM in performance bonuses.
The Twins have been linked frequently with 29-year-old this offseason. Though he posted a 5.19 ERA for Minnesota in 2013, it's perhaps a positive that Pelfrey managed 152 2/3 innings in returning from Tommy John surgery. ERA estimators also suggest he may have been the victim of some bad luck. SIERA projected a 4.63 ERA, while xFIP suggested Pelfrey was in line for a 4.54 mark, and FIP pegged him at 3.99.
The Twins have spent heavily on pitching this offseason, signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, but were rumored to be targeting further rotation help. GM Terry Ryan's push to revamp the rotation was no doubt brought on by the 5.26 ERA Twins starters coughed up in 2013, good for last in the majors. The 871 total innings the Twins got from their rotation in 2013 was also worst among big league teams.
While Pelfrey lacks the impact potential of Nolasco and Hughes, he's a good bet to provide innings. Prior to undergoing Tommy John in 2012, the 6'7", 250-pound right-hander was the picture of durability. He averaged 196 frames with the Mets from 2008 to 2011, posting a 4.27 ERA over that span. In 1,049 career big league innings, Pelfrey owns a 4.48 ERA and a 47.8 pecent ground-ball rate. If Pelfrey can improve on last season's 43.2 percent ground-ball rate and inch closer to his career mark, it should bode well for the right-hander. Minnesota deploys a strong defensive tandem up the middle in the form of Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon.
Between Pelfrey, Nolasco and Hughes, the Twins have now committed $84MM to three pitchers this winter. Those three will join Kevin Correia in the rotation, with Kyle Gibson, Vance Worley, Scott Diamond and Samuel Deduno fighting for the fifth and final spot. However, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com tweets that the team hasn't ruled out acquiring another starter. The Twins "definitely" still have money to spend, according to Wolfson.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Brett Tomko, who impressed with his pitching in a recent stint in the Dominican Republic, is working out in California and plans to audition for clubs in late January, a source tells MLBTR's Zach Links. The veteran is healthy and hitting 90-92 mph on the gun with his fastball to go along with a solid changeup and cutter. Tomko is seeking a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league spring training. If he doesn't make the 25-man roster out of the gate, he's willing to go to Triple-A as an insurance policy to either start or pitch out of the bullpen. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- If you've ever wondered how salaries work for non-Japanese players in Japanese baseball, NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman has a handy chart. Former top MLB players like Andruw Jones and new Rakuten Golden Eagle Kevin Youkilis have salaries that top $3MM. Former MLB regulars who weren't stars, like Casey McGehee and Nyjer Morgan, tend to make in the $1MM-$3MM range, while good Triple-A players and fringe big-leaguers like John Bowker and Fred Lewis make between $400K and $1MM.
- The Rockies deserve a B- grade for their offseason so far, opines Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post (on Sulia). Renck notes that the Rockies haven't acquired a catcher like Carlos Ruiz (who ended up re-signing with the Phillies). He also suggests the Rockies ought to also try to add another starting pitcher. Juan Nicasio, Jordan Lyles and Christian Friedrich are currently their main fifth-starter possibilities behind Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood.
- The Twins have "checked in" on free-agent infielder Justin Turner, although their level of interest is unclear, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson tweets. Wolfson notes that Turner is connected to Twins special assistant Wayne Krivsky, who drafted Turner in 2006, when Krivsky was the GM of the Reds.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Starlin Castro claims that stress related to an ongoing legal dispute in the Dominican Republic has affected his on-field performance for the Cubs, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. A coach at a baseball school in the Dominican is suing Castro, contending that a contract the shortstop's father signed when Castro was an amateur entitles the academy to a portion of his Major League earnings. The affair has had a "direct impact on his duties as a professional ballplayer, leading to one of his worst-ever statistical performances," Castro's countersuit states. While the 23-year-old played in 161 games last season, 2013 saw him slump to a .245/.284/.347 line. The 2014 season will be the second of the seven-year, $60MM deal Castro signed inked with the Cubs in 2012. Here's more from around baseball's Central divisions:
- Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer thinks the Indians can still add a couple of players to their roster, but they'll come via trades or minor league signings.
- A Twins official tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter) that he doesn't see the club getting in on free agent bats Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz. Minnesota has money to spend but the draft pick compensation that is required to sign them is an issue.
- Longtime Brewer Corey Hart took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to thank the city for its support, Big League Stew's Mark Townsend notes. Hart is headed to Seattle after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Mariners that reportedly guarantees him $6MM.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
SATURDAY: Colabello has rejected an offer to play in South Korea, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. A source with direct knowledge of the situation says Colabello turned down a "significant offer" from a Korean team that wasn't the LG Twins. The slugger could have earned nearly $1MM in 2014 under the offer, while the Twins would have received a comparable buyout. "Things are always subject to change, but Chris made it clear he wants to help the Minnesota Twins," said Brian Charles of Big League Management Co., who represents Colabello.
FRIDAY: Berardino now indicates that the Twins are asking for "possibly upwards of $1MM."
FRIDAY: The Twins could send 1B/OF Chris Colabello to play in Korea, Berardino notes (citing a Korean news report). The Twins are reportedly in discussions with the LG Twins (and that's not a typo) to transfer Colabello's contract, which could net them up to $1MM. Such a move would free a 40-man roster space for the (Minnesota) Twins, who need one to accomodate the impending signing of catcher Kurt Suzuki. The Twins could only send Colabello abroad with his permission.
Colabello, 30, hit .194/.287/.344 in 181 plate appearances in his big-league debut in 2013, but he also hit 24 home runs in Triple-A, posting a .352/.427/.639 line in 391 plate appearances there. Colabello has a total of 50 home runs between the minors and the Majors since the Twins signed him out of independent ball prior to the 2012 season.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.