Though right-hander Kyle Gibson at one point looked like a clear non-tender candidate for the Twins this offseason, his revitalized performance in the season’s second half makes it look far likelier that he’ll return. The 29-year-old former first-rounder limped to a ghastly 6.29 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and a 51.1 percent ground-ball rate through the season’s first half and was even optioned to Triple-A Rochester back in May. However, he’s logged a brilliant 2.83 ERA with 7.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent grounder rate in 54 innings across his past nine outings.
Asked by 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson on his latest podcast if Gibson would be tendered a contract this winter (audio link, with Levine joining around the 27-minute mark and discussing Gibson at 37 minutes), Levine replied: “Starting pitching — and quality starting pitching — is at a premium. … Depth is tantamount. We are aspirational of being a playoff-relevant team moving forward. Those types of teams need to have a wealth of starting pitching options, and I think Kyle Gibson has established himself as very much a part of that equation moving forward for the Minnesota Twins.” Gibson is earning $2.9MM in 2017, and while there’s still of course time for things to change, it sounds like he’ll be retained and earn a slight raise on that figure for the 2018 campaign.
More from the AL Central…
- Indians slugger Carlos Santana admits to Zack Meisel of The Athletic that he put a significant amount of pressure on himself early this season as he entered a contract year. Santana struggled badly through the first 10 weeks or so of the 2017 campaign, but he credits first-year teammate Edwin Encarnacion — who had a tumultuous free-agent experience himself last winter — for getting his mind into a better place and turning his season around at the plate. “He told me to keep playing baseball and enjoy the (season) and play hard every day and don’t think about it,” says Santana. “He is a good influence for me and my mind.” Meisel notes that Santana hopes to remain in Cleveland — FanRag’s Jon Heyman wrote the same yesterday, as he has at various points this year — though the Indians will have some tough roster decisions to make with relatively limited finances. (A second deep playoff run, of course, wouldn’t hurt their financial outlook.)
- Jason Kipnis is expected to start in center field for the Indians as soon as this Sunday, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Bradley Zimmer’s season-ending injury created an opening, and it was reported earlier this week that Kipnis would get a look there in his place. A center fielder in his college days, Kipnis isn’t exactly unfamiliar with the position, though it’s been seven years since Cleveland moved him to second base. Manager Terry Francona tells Hoynes that the training staff has to sign off on the decision still, though he adds that it’d be a surprise if they didn’t, given how healthy Kipnis has looked recently as he nears the end of his rehab from a hamstring injury.
- Jose Abreu has made it clear that he hopes to remain with the White Sox even amid the team’s rebuild, writes MLB.com’s Phil Rogers. Chicago values his leadership and productive bat, Rogers notes, and he wonders if the team would make a four- or five-year offer to Abreu to keep him around this offseason. There’s no indication that there have been any actual extension negotiations between the two sides, though Rogers suggests that both Abreu and Avisail Garcia could make sense as longer-term pieces in Chicago.
- Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star took an excellent look at the remarkable late blooming of Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield. As Dodd points out, Merrifield is one of just seven players in the past 50 years to debut after his 27th birthday and compile five wins above replacement in his first two seasons. The others on that list were all established stars in other countries before coming to the United States (e.g. Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Abreu, Hideki Matsui). Dodd tracks Merrifield’s minor league career, noting that he was passed on entirely in the Rule 5 Draft along the way. It’s a must-read column that is rife with quotes from GM Dayton Moore, Merrifield’s coaches from his amateur days, several of Merrifield’s teammates and, of course, Merrifield himself. Now 28 years old, Merrifield has broken out with a .285/.324/.463 batting line, 17 homers, 29 steals and quality defense at second base — likely cementing himself in the Royals’ lineup for the 2018 season and beyond.