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Nick Blackburn Rumors
The Twins wrapped up their organizational meetings late last week, and Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com has the highlights. Mackey writes that the Twins' front office officials are embarrassed by the past two seasons, and that the majority of the team's offseason budget will be spent on starting pitching.
Mackey goes on to say that while the Twins' goal is to add three starters to what was a dreadful rotation in 2012, the team hasn't necessarily ruled out pursuing top arms like Zack Greinke. It's more likely that they'll pursue a handful of solid starters that can be counted on for quality starts and to spare the bullpen, however.
Of players on the current roster, only Scott Diamond will be penciled in for a rotation spot in 2013. The Twins are hopeful that Nick Blackburn will rediscover himself to provide some form of value next season, but his $5.5MM salary won't guarantee that he earns a chance. Blackburn was removed from the 40-man roster earlier this season.
In addition to free agency, trades will very much be in play for general manager Terry Ryan. Mackey writes that no one, aside from Joe Mauer (who has a full no-trade clause), will be off limits on the trade market.
The Twins also aren't convinced that Trevor Plouffe, who cracked 24 homers in 2012, is the answer at third base, but it sounds like that situation has taken a backseat to improving the rotation.
Only the Rockies had a worse collective ERA than the 5.40 mark posted by Twins' starters this season. According to Fangraphs, the Twins' rotation was worth a meager 3.1 wins above replacement — easily the worst mark in all of baseball. Diamond was the team's lone bright spot, as the 25-year-old broke out with a 3.54 ERA in 173 innings.
In addition to Greinke, the free agent market includes names like Anibal Sanchez, Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum and Ryan Dempster. Jake Peavy and Dan Haren are also expected to become free agents after their options are declined. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently featured the Twins in his Offseason Outlook series.
The Twins announced that they outrighted right-hander Nick Blackburn and infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka off of the 40-man roster. Blackburn has been outrighted to Triple-A Rochester and Nishioka, who had previously joined the Triple-A team, will remain in Rochester.
Blackburn, 30, has a 7.39 ERA with 3.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 98 2/3 innings over the course of 19 starts this year. He's under contract for $5.5MM in 2013, the last season of the four-year, $14MM extension he signed following his respectable 2008-09 seasons. Nishioka, 28, has spent most of the 2012 season at Triple-A, where he has a .252/.311/.313 batting line in 380 plate appearances. He's under contract for $3MM in 2013. The Twins have 2014 options for both Blackburn and Nishioka.
The Minnesota Twins have signed Nick Blackburn to a four-year, $14MM contract that includes an $8MM club option for 2014, according to a team press release. Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says Blackburn will earn $750K this year, $3MM in 2011, $4.75MM in '12, and $5.5MM in '13. The extension is very similar to Scott Baker's.
Blackburn's first two full seasons in the Twins' rotation have been remarkably similar, with the right-hander posting an 11-11 record over 33 starts in both 2008 and 2009. His peripherals remained consistent as well, including a sparkling 1.8 BB/9 over the two seasons, along with a less impressive 4.4 K/9. The 28-year-old is one of many Twins pitchers who performed markedly better at home than on the road. He had a 3.57 career home ERA in the Metrodome era, and a 4.64 ERA in other stadiums.
The contract buys out all of Blackburn's arbitration-eligible seasons, with the Twins holding the $8MM option for his first potential season of free agency. Based on the righty's numbers to date, $14MM for the next four years looks like a reasonable price for the Twins. Blackburn's performance in those four seasons will dictate whether the Twins would be wise to invest another $8MM on him in 2014, at age 32.
The press release notes that the Twins also renewed the contracts of 20 other players, locking up each of the 40 players on their current roster for the coming season.