Minnesota Twins Rumors
Here are a couple of bullets relating to the American League Central:
- Consensus top-five overall prospect Miguel Sano of the Twins is headed for an MRI after suffering an injury to his throwing elbow. His agent, Rob Plummer, tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he fears the worst -- a torn UCL -- although he makes clear that nothing is yet known for certain. Rehab is always an option, though club and player had already considered Tommy John surgery after Sano strained the ligament over the winter. The health of Sano's elbow could have quite a significant impact on his future value, not just due to possible delays in his development, but because some already believe he will not be able to man the hot corner at the MLB level.
- Though Justin Masterson said yesterday that he thinks he'll ultimately reach agreement to extend his stay with the Indians, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com says that may be hard to reach in reality. A GM told Gammons that the two top starters most likely to be truly available on the open market are Masterson and James Shields. Looking ahead to the potential payday he could land, suggests Gammons, Masterson may be forced to choose between playing in Cleveland and earning market value.
- The GM that Gammons spoke thought it likely that Max Scherzer would stay with the Tigers. But while the club has reached massive extensions with superstars like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, negotiating a new pact with Scherzer will be most difficult of all, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In large part, says Heyman, that fact is driven not only by Scherzer's skyrocketing value, but also his own "cool business stance" towards his next new deal. Detroit has played its part by agreeing to a record arbitration raise with Scherzer and clearing space for a new deal through several big offseason deals. But Heyman says that the reigning AL Cy Young winner has his sights set on matching -- or even exceeding -- the kinds of guarantees achieved by Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander in recent years.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet interviewed Royals GM Dayton Moore about the team's playoff hopes, his offseason moves and the difficulty of making trades. Asked about the tough decision to part with Wil Myers, Moore said the focus in trades has to be on what is acquired rather than what is given up: "If you focus on what you’re losing, you’ll never make a deal. You’ll be paralyzed. You have to focus on what you’re getting in return and that’s what we focused on."
More items pertaining to the Royals and the AL Central...
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick also looks at the Royals' high expectations, talking about the team's acquisition of Shields and the heavy emphasis placed on defense. Moore makes it clear to the club's scouts that he wants players with the discipline to focus for nine innings and the ability to continue to prioritize defense even in the midst of slumps at the plate. Shields and manager Ned Yost both spoke about this emphasis. Crasnick also discussed the turnaround of some of the team's young hitters with last year's interim hitting coach and Hall of Famer George Brett.
- Phil Hughes tells Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that he's enjoying his transition to a new team after a "nightmare" season with the Yankees in 2013. Hughes, who has become fast friends with Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, says he enjoys the laid-back atmosphere. Now sporting a beard, Hughes feels that back pain that cost him most of Spring Training last season likely contributed to his struggles. Minnesota, of course, gambled on Hughes' youth and pedigree by signing him to a three-year, $24MM deal this offseason that was far larger than most had expected for the 27-year-old.
- Chris Iott of MLive.com answered reader questions and offered his take on the chances of Max Scherzer inking an extension prior to Opening Day. Iott pegs the chances of a long-term deal for the 2013 Cy Young winner at about 10 percent, noting that he simply can't envision it realistically happening.
- Also of note from Iott is that the Tigers are fully committed to using Drew Smyly as a starter. Iott writes that the club won't be making any last-minute additions of a veteran starter and expect the left-handed Smyly to be in their rotation for a long time.
- Iott also spoke with manager Brad Ausmus about trade acquisition Robbie Ray. Detroit's new skipper told him that Ray, acquired from the Nationals in the Doug Fister trade, has a deceptive delivery that allows his fastball to play up a couple of miles per hour. Ausmus anticipates Ray getting a lot of foul balls on fastballs up in the zone, believing that hitters will have a tough time keeping up with the pitch.
- The Tigers announced that non-roster invitee Eduardo Sanchez suffered an olecranon stress fracture of his right elbow and will miss an extended period of time. The former Cardinals setup man inked a minor league deal with Detroit in January and was vying for a spot in their bullpen.
- Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Indians know Trevor Bauer probably isn't ready for the Majors, which is what prompted their late signing of Aaron Harang to serve as depth. Bauer has altered his delivery somewhat and got mixed results in yesterday's game against the Reds.
TODAY: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com provides a list of the other clubs who sent representatives to watch Santana: the Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates, and Rangers. Scouts in attendance told Heyman that Santana still needs to build his arm strength back up, but looked to be in great shape and threw as expected given his point on the recovery curve.
YESTERDAY, 5:40pm: The Orioles were among the teams to see Santana, tweets Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The club could be interested in bringing him in on a minor league deal, says Encina.
3:26pm: Throwing in Fort Myers today, rehabbing starter Johan Santana showed his current form to seven teams, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Santana mostly threw in the high-70s, topping out at just 81 mph, though he did flash his usually phenomenal change.
Though those numbers sound less than promising, the workout comes very early on in the process for Santana to regain strength on the mound following a second shoulder surgery, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Indeed, a mid-season return has always been the early target for Santana. Agent Peter Greenberg said there is no "firm date," with Santana committed to "tak[ing] it conservatively this time" and "not rushing things."
Per the above two reports, both the Yankees and Twins were among the teams with scouts in attendance.
Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker provides an interesting breakdown of the payrolls of Japanese clubs. The Yomiuri Giants lead the way with a USD-equivalent tab of about $45.45MM, which includes all players on the club's 70-man roster. Just 91 players league-wide make the equivalent of over $1MM, says Newman, with powerful catcher Shinnosuke Abe leading the way with a $6MM annual draw. Among foreign players, Andruw Jones of Rakuten has the highest salary at $3.8MM. Here are some more notes from the evening:
- Free agent outfielder Derrick Robinson underwent shoulder surgery today and is expected to miss most (if not all) of the coming season, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 26-year-old saw his first taste of MLB action last year, putting up a .255/.322/.323 line in 216 plate appearances for the Reds.
- Chone Figgins had to go back to square one to earn an opportunity with the Dodgers, writes Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times. The 36-year-old said that his showcase was "like a high school workout," except that he wrapped it up by telling the attending scouts to "tell your bosses you have a player who played in the big leagues and can still play."
- Twins middle infielder Brian Dozier says he would be interested in talking extension, if approached, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Nothing yet, but I'd be dumb not to even listen," said Dozier. "It's up to those guys. We'd be open to anything." Dozier had a breakout year in 2013, putting up a .244/.312/.414 line in 623 plate appearances and performing well enough defensively and on the basepaths to register 3.8 rWAR and 3.9 fWAR. Dozier hit 18 long balls in his first full-time year, despite having never reached double-digits at any professional level. The 26-year-old is set to reach arbitration eligibility in 2016.
- Though a new deal for a player like Dozier would certainly be a surprise at this point in his career, his defensive flexibility makes him a reasonable risk since he will remain worthy of a roster spot even if he loses a starting role. (Dozier played 83 games at shortstop in 2012.) And (as MLBTR's Steve Adams noted to me), Dozier's early propensity for counting stats could provide some impetus for a deal, since he may draw a relatively sizeable arbitration salary when he qualifies. Indeed, as Braves senior advisor John Hart recently noted, less-prominent players could increasingly be targeted by teams looking for new ways to derive value.
Though he's yet to officially retire, 43-year-old slugger Jim Thome would like to be a big league manager at some point, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thome, who took a position in the White Sox' front office last summer, told Van Schouwen: "I want to look at what the next phase is for me getting back on the field, competing at a high level. There is a side to me that wants to manage someday and prepare myself for it if that opportunity came calling." More out of the AL Central as Spring Training picks up steam...
- Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that one conversation three years ago changed Glen Perkins' future with the team entirely. The bad blood between Perkins and his hometown Twins was well documented, as he had been weighing a grievance against Minnesota regarding his service time. Perkins approached pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire and simply told them he had no desire to play elsewhere. Anderson tells Souhan: "He came to me right here and said, ‘Can I talk to you? I was born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire life in Minnesota, I want to be a Twin. I want to be a better teammate, I want to be a better pitcher, don’t give up on me.’" Perkins, a 2013 All-Star, has developed into one of the game's best closers since that time.
- The Twins have signed 18-year-old Australian first baseman Jack Barrie to a six-figure bonus, according to a report from Australian news outlet SBS. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN confirmed that it's a six-figure deal and adds that the team still has money left in its 2013-14 international free agent budget after the signing (Twitter link).
- In the latest edition of his "Hey, Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells one reader that he would be "stunned" if the Indians made a late play for Ervin Santana. Though Cleveland's name has been connected to the former Angels and Royals hurler, Hoynes says that the team values its first-round pick too highly to make such a move.
- Jhonny Peralta was planning on appealing his suspension last season in order to remain with his teammates through the playoff push, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. However, when the club acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox, Peralta says he "knew [he] had to take [his] suspension." Nightengale spoke with GM Dave Dombrowski, who told him: "We talked to his agent (Seth Levinson, at the time) and we knew he was thinking of appealing. There was a time I was thinking he was going to appeal. And at that point, we wouldn't have made a trade. But my gut told me the closer we got to the (trade) deadline, and talked to them, he wasn't going to appeal."
MLBPA chief Tony Clark addressed today the situation of Ben Wetzler, the Phillies' draft choice who was recently suspended by the NCAA for having an agent present while he negotiated with the club, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. "What we're doing in the short-term is trying to make sure we understand exactly what happened and what led to what happened with that young man in college," said Clark. "Rest assured it's a concern, it's something that we're paying attention to, but outside what's been bantered about through the media, we don't know much else at this point." For their part, the Phillies have yet to offer any comment other than acknowledging that they "did participate in the NCAA investigation." One agent tells Nicholson-Smith that, if the team did report Wetzler's use of an agent, "it was extremely short-sighted and impulsive on the part of the team."
Here are a few more links to round out the evening:
- The Rockies have recently made contact with free agent starter Ervin Santana, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. The team's interest may be dependent upon the status of Jhoulys Chacin, whose shoulder issues are still being assessed. A Rockies official denied interest in Santana, however, reports MLB.com's Thomas Harding.
- Though the Dodgers needed a roster spot to make room for new signee Erisbel Arruebarrena, the club elected to designate Justin Sellers for assignment rather than putting Chad Billingsley on the 60-day DL, writes Chris Gabel for MLB.com. That constitutes something of a vote of confidence in Billingsley's ability to return from Tommy John rehab in a relatively short time frame. The 29-year-old is entering the final year of a three-year, $35MM pact, with the club holding a $14MM option ($3MM buyout) on his 2015 season.
- While Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has reportedly shed some pounds, the club is nevertheless reportedly less than happy with his athletic form, reports Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. If that translates to an underwhelming start to camp, Kernan implies, there could be increasing impetus to sign Stephen Drew. "I would not be surprised if we signed Drew," an official said, "but at the same time, I don't expect it to happen."
- Across town, the Yankees are keeping tabs on reliever Joel Hanrahan after inking another rehabbing former closer in Andrew Bailey, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. As Martino explains, interest in arms like Bailey and Hanrahan shows that the club has some concern with its pen depth.
- The Twins are a very unlikely landing spot for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Diaz is looking to land a deal like the five-year, $25MM contract given Arruebarrena, says Wolfson, but Minnesota does not believe he is as good as his countrymate.
It is not often that things line up quite so cleanly as this, but after a roller-coaster offseason, three of the market's top starters all landed quite similar overall guarantees. It would be too much, perhaps, to argue that the market valued them identically; after all, each signed at different points in an always-changing market, agreed to various terms that impact the overall value of their contracts, and had differing situations with regard to qualifying offers. Nevertheless, it seems fair to suggest that Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez were each valued in rough proportion to one another.
Yet each pitcher brings a very different set of risks and benefits to their new deals. (Player name links are to MLBTR's Free Agent profile series; deal links are to reported signing, which includes contract details.)
Ricky Nolasco (age 31; received four years, $49MM from Twins) -- Nolasco is durable and solid, having made at least 31 starts in each of the last three regular seasons while consistently maintaining a walk rate hovering just above 2.0 BB/9. While his overall results have been less than stellar, Nolasco has tended to post much better ratings by advanced metrics than ERA, and finally saw the results to match last year. Has he been unlucky, or does he just give up a lot of solid contact? Either way, Minnesota has put its money into a pitcher who has about as good a record of durability as could be hoped.
RISK: disconnect between advanced metrics and results
Matt Garza (age 30; received four years, $50MM from Brewers) -- Garza has been consistently above-average ... when healthy. Striking out batters consistenly in the range of about eight per nine, and holding down walks to less than three per nine since maturing as a pitcher, Garza's results are hard to argue with. (He has not ended a season with an ERA above 4.00 since his rookie year.) But a string of injuries held him to 103 2/3 innings in 2012 and 155 1/3 in 2012. If healthy, there is every reason to believe that Garza will continue to be an excellent (albeit not dominant) starter, but therein lies the rub.
BENEFIT: reliably above-average performance
Ubaldo Jimenez (age 30; received four years, $50MM from Orioles) -- Unlike either of the previous two hurlers, Jimenez has at times been amongst the most dominant starters in the game. He has been an unquestioned ace over complete seasons (earlier in his career, with Colorado) and parts of seasons (the second half of last year, with Cleveland). In between, however, Jimenez has posted some genuinely unsightly stat lines. While his 2011 campaign may have taken a downturn due to some bad luck, he was terrible in most respects over the entirety of 2012, as he lost both his control and his ability to register strikeouts. Like Nolasco, Jimenez has been supremely durable. But if his new club can count on at least 180 innings, of what quality will they be? Jimenez showed flashes of both good and bad last year, and it remains to be seen which side defines his tenure in Baltimore. [Note: Orioles also gave up a first-round draft choice to sign Jimenez.]
BENEFIT: durability, upside
So, MLBTR readers: putting aside the particulars of their new teams' situations, which of these three similarly-priced investments do you think was money best spent?
White Sox great Frank Thomas will appear as a studio baseball analyst this season for Los Angeles-based Fox Sports 1, The Associated Press reports. While Thomas has done pregame and postgame analysis locally in Chicago for the last three years, he describes the new position as "more a call to the big leagues." The slugger also offered his thoughts on how deciding not to use PEDs may have impacted his career. "I probably lost another two MVPs. I lost probably another 150 home runs or so, if you think about it," Thomas assessed. Here's more late-night central notes:
- The Twins made Matt Garza a three-year, $42MM offer this offseason and were willing to add a fourth year as a vesting option, a club source tells 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick was the first to report the terms (via Twitter).
- Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals is scheduled for an examination of his throwing shoulder after experiencing pain this week, The Associated Press reports. GM John Mozeliak confirmed the development means Garcia is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season. The starter went down for surgery in May after doctors discovered a labrum tear in his left shoulder.
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has ranked the ten best and worst transactions of the offseason. The number one spot on both lists goes to the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Nationals and returned Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ian Krol to the Tigers. Cameron argues that the deal is "the most lopsided trade we've seen in years," and notes that many observers are at a loss to understand it from Detroit's perspective. While the return for Fister certainly seems light, I tried to make some sense of the swap back in December, writing that the deal was a part (albeit a questionable one) of a massive overhaul of the club's future commitments that saved as much as $150MM in down-the-line salary while maintaining most of its present on-field quality.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski endeavored to explain the trade from his perspective in an interesting interview with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He made clear that the team decided to deal one of its veterans for a good, young arm. "You can see that young pitching right now is very difficult to acquire," said Dombrowski. "We had a list of about 15 pitchers that we would consider in various deals. [Ray] was one of the 15. The other 14 people said no. And [the Nationals] said no at first." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed that the club was hesitant to part with Ray, even with Fister being dangled, saying that was "why the trade took 2 1/2 weeks to consummate."
- Dombrowski rejected the claims made by other executives that they had not known of Fister's availability, saying instead that he encountered a hesitant market. "That couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "We had our list of around 15 guys. We went to every one of those clubs: 'Would you trade this guy? Would you trade that guy?' And none of them would trade one." When the deal started to take shape, Dombrowski said he decided to grab Ray while he could. "We thought: Do we make this deal now, which we like? Or do we wait and see what else becomes available? But then does Washington do something else? Does [the trade] end up not taking place?" As I wrote at the time, the timing of things seemed to play an important role in how the deal came together; indeed, the Tigers went on to sign Joe Nathan the very next day, adding a two-year commitment at slightly more than Fister figures to earn in that stretch.
- The groundwork for the Orioles' signing of Ubaldo Jimenez was laid at the Winter Meetings when the starter and his agent met with new pitching coach Dave Wallace, executive VP Dan Duquette, and others, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. "Right there, I knew," said Jimenez. "They're really humble, really down-to-earth guys, and I knew it was going to be special to be in this organization. RIght there, I was like, 'Pretty much, this is the team I want to be with.' It's going to be a big part of my future for me and my family. The city is great and they have a competitive team. Those guys in the clubhouse look like they are great guys." Jimenez backed up his expressions of commitment by revealing that he would move his whole family -- including his parents and sister -- to Baltimore, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
- Though he is heartened by the club's moves and remains happy in Baltimore, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy says that he has heard nothing about an extension beyond what has been reported publicly, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. "Even after FanFest, I thought something was going to happen right away because I think you guys were asking Dan [Duquette]," said Hardy. "He came up to me and said something about how we're going to start talking extension, but really nothing has happened. I don't know. Maybe they were waiting to do some of these other moves or something." Hardy, who could test the market next year, says that he is still interested in a new deal: "If they come to me with an extension, we'll definitely be open with trying to work that out."
- Meanwhile, righty Kevin Correia of the Twins says that he would be interested in continuing to pitch in Minnesota when his two-year, $10MM deal expires after the season, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. But, said Correia, he has not had any talks about an extension to date. "They had a pretty busy offseason with the pitching staff, so we haven't really talked," he said. "I enjoy playing here. We talked to the effect of how my experience was here, how I enjoyed the team and the coaching staff and everything, but that's about as far as we've gotten." Correia, 33, does not offer much upside but delivered solid results for the Twins last year, logging 185 1/3 innings of 4.18 ERA ball. Of course, as Berardino notes, with three new starters under contract and several prospect arms expected to reach the bigs in short order, the veteran may not fit into the club's plans after this year and could become a mid-season trade piece.
WEDNESDAY: Willingham himself confirmed his desire to remain with the Twins to Berardino today: "I do love playing in Minnesota," Willingham said. "I would love to stay here for another year or so." Willingham went on to say that he "would never" approach a front office about an extension but would "obviously" be up for it if the Twins approached him. The veteran slugger added that he respects the people in the organization from top to bottom and doesn't feel they're far from winning, adding that his wife and children "love" Minnesota (All links to Berardino's Twitter).
MONDAY: The Twins have finished 66-96 in both of Josh Willingham's seasons with the Twins, but despite the team's lack of success, agent Matt Sosnick tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his client "loves" Minnesota and "would be happy to finish his career in Minnesota." However, the Twins haven't engaged in extension talks with Willingham, who hopes to play through 2017 if he is healthy, says Sosnick.
Willingham played much of the 2013 season with a knee injury that eventually required arthroscopic surgery in early July. The slugger originally injured his knee on what he described to Berardino at the time of his surgery as an "awkward slide" into second base on his lone steal attempt of the season on April 27 (he was successful). Willingham had hit his fourth homer of the year in that game, boosting his slash line to .254/.397/.542 -- similar numbers to the monster .260/.366/.524 batting line he posted in 2012 with Minnesota. However, following that slide into second base, Willingham batted just .200/.332/.336 on the year.
Willingham, who turns 35 today (Happy birthday, Josh!), is entering the final season of a three-year, $21MM contract. A return to his 2012 form would likely increase the team's interest in keeping him around, but it would also make him a prime trade chip come July if the Twins are unable to turn their fortunes around. Minnesota is likely hopeful that some combination of Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and top prospect Byron Buxton can round out its outfield for years to come (once Buxton is Major League ready), so Willingham's best bet to remain with the club could come as a DH/part-time outfielder.
Should Willingham hit the free agent market next winter, he'll join a group of corner outfielders that includes Michael Cuddyer, Norichika Aoki, Brett Gardner, Torii Hunter and Melky Cabrera, among others.