JANUARY 11: Tepesch would earn $1MM if he makes the MLB roster, while Vogelsong’s deal has a lower base rate with greater incentives, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter).
Berardino provides details on the Vogelsong’s contract, too. He’d earn at a $1MM base rate if he cracks the roster. In terms of incentives, he could take home up to $2.5MM if he earns and keeps a rotation spot for most of the year (30 starts), or as much as $1MM if he’s a stalwart in the pen (55 appearances, available in $200K increments). Though Vogelsong can opt out just before the start of the season, he won’t have any later opt-out opportunities if he ends up opening the year in the minors.
JANUARY 10: The Twins have agreed to minor league contracts with right-handers Ryan Vogelsong and Nick Tepesch, reports Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Both players will receive invitations to Major League Spring Training, Miller adds. Paul Roberts of WEEU radio in Reading, Pa. was the first to report that Vogelsong had reached a deal with Minnesota (Twitter link).
The 39-year-old Vogelsong struggled to a 4.81 ERA with the Pirates last year and missed a significant portion of the season after being struck in the face by a fastball during an at-bat against the Rockies. Vogelsong’s career looked to be in serious jeopardy, and he underwent surgery and spent two-plus months on the disabled list due the facial fractures he suffered in that incident. However, he was able to return to the diamond and make a dozen starts for the Pirates down the stretch.
While Vogelsong’s past two seasons have been somewhat discouraging (4.72 ERA in 217 1/3 innings), he was a key member of the Giants’ pitching staff in 2011-12 and turned in a very solid effort as recently as 2014 in San Francisco (4.00 ERA in 184 2/3 frames). Vogelsong’s best years in the Majors have all come in his second stint as a Major Leaguer; after being knocked around for several years and battling injuries early in his career, Vogelsong spent three seasons pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball before an unexpected resurgence with the 2011 Giants. Since returning to the U.S., he’s turned in 875 innings with a 3.98 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9/.
As for Tepesch, he’s a familiar commodity for first-year Twins GM Thad Levine. The 28-year-old broke into the Majors with the 2013 Rangers and made 39 starts for Texas from 2013-14 (plus three relief appearances). In that time, Tepesch logged a 4.56 ERA with 5.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and roughly league-average ground-ball tendencies. Shoulder issues prevented Tepesch from pitching in 2015 and ultimately led to surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome — the same surgical procedure that Twins righty Phil Hughes underwent this past summer. Tepesch split the 2016 season between the Triple-A affiliates for the Rangers, A’s, Royals and Dodgers, and he also tallied four big league innings for L.A. His Triple-A work resulted in a solid, if unspectacular 3.96 ERA with 4.8 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9.
Both Vogelsong and Tepesch will compete for jobs either in the Twins’ rotation (which seems unlikely) or possibly as a long man out of the bullpen. Minnesota currently projects to have Ervin Santana, Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Hughes as locks for the 2017 rotation (assuming Santana isn’t traded and Hughes is healthy). Candidates for the fifth spot include top prospect Jose Berrios, who struggled tremendously in his brief MLB look last year, as well as left-hander Adalberto Mejia and right-handers Tyler Duffey and Trevor May. Minnesota could also still strike up a trade that alters its rotation outlook as well; Brian Dozier has been the most talked-about trade candidate in recent weeks and could net the team an MLB-ready arm such as the Dodgers’ Jose De Leon. Alternatively, it stands to reason that Santana could draw interest from teams seeking veteran starters, which would obviously alter the rotation composition in Minnesota.