After dropping three straight games to the Dodgers and falling below .500 for the first time since April, the Twins are now fielding offers on their shorter-term assets, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (on Twitter). That includes right-hander Ervin Santana and newly acquired lefty Jaime Garcia. They’re also getting hits on closer Brandon Kintzler and second baseman Brian Dozier, Feinsand adds. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi suggested yesterday that the Twins would be open to such moves if their struggles continued.
[Related: Minnesota Twins depth chart]
The 34-year-old Santana paced the Majors in ERA for a full calendar year, working to a 1.75 ERA from June 1, 2016 to June 1, 2017. However, Santana’s peripheral numbers never came close to supporting that aesthetically pleasing figure, and he’s regressed substantially over the past couple of months. That said, he’s still as durable veteran with quality results that has averaged nearly 6 2/3 innings per start this year. He’s also averaged 6.9 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 with a 42.8 percent ground-ball rate and is still averaging a respectable 92.7 mph on his heater.
Santana is earning $13.5MM in 2017 and is controlled through 2018 at the same rate. His contract also includes a $14MM club/vesting option for the 2019 season ($1MM buyout) that’ll automatically kick in if he throws 400 innings between now and the completion of the 2018 campaign (with at least 200 frames next year).
Dozier was the focus of rumors all offseason, primarily drawing connections to the Dodgers, but he ultimately remained in Minnesota. He’s predictably seen his power regress after last year’s 42-homer campaign, but he’s still on pace to approach 30 homers and is hitting a solid .249/.334/.441 with 16 homers, 21 doubles and two triples on the year. He’s earning a highly affordable $6MM in 2017 (with about $2.1MM of that sum remaining) and will make $9MM in 2018 before hitting free agency upon completion of his age-31 season.
Kintzler has gone from minor league signee to closer in short order since joining the Twins, and while he doesn’t miss many bats, he’s a ground-ball machine with strong control. Set to turn 33 years old the day after the non-waiver deadline, Kintzler is earning $2.9MM this season and has averaged 5.6 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 with a 58.7 percent ground-ball rate since joining the Twins in 2016. That’s led to a 3.01 ERA in 98 2/3 innings. Most clubs probably view the impending free agent as more of a setup option, but his strong results against lefties and hard sinker would fit well on a number of teams looking for short-term ’pen help.
The inclusion of Garcia likely causes some to raise an eyebrow, as the Twins gave up a prospect to acquire him just three days ago. Minnesota, though, also took on the entirety of Garcia’s contract as well as $200K of what the Braves still owed catcher Anthony Recker. In doing so, the Twins minimized their own cost of acquiring him and also created the possibility of flipping him for a greater return. Garcia reportedly drew interest from roughly a half-dozen teams before he went to the Twins, and if Minnesota is willing to pay the remaining ~$4.5MM on Garcia’s deal, he could conceivably be flipped for a superior prospect to the one the Twins surrendered (Huascar Ynoa). In essence, that would be akin to buying a better prospect. Garcia, a free agent at season’s end, is set to make his first start for the Twins tomorrow in Oakland.
Of course, the mention of Oakland makes it worth reminding that the situation is likely fluid. The Twins drew a tough schedule coming out of the break and have already faced baseball’s two best teams, the Astros and Dodgers. Their next six games are against the rebuilding Athletics and Padres, so a quick rebound in Oakland could cause new chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine to pump the brakes a bit.
The Twins’ presence near the top of the AL Central was a surprising development for most, and comments from Levine and Falvey all summer have suggested that the team wouldn’t deviate from its long-term focus by mortgaging significant pieces of its future. Seeing what offers materialize for veteran players likely wasn’t the route the club hoped to take this summer after a hot start, but the Twins also never separated themselves from in the division by a wide enough margin to fully rule out the possibility.